Is Any Of This Doing Any Good?

by: Elizabeth V. Berkeley

A colleague (whom I respect) said to me, in response to my mention of an interest in assessment, “Americans are the only academics obsessed with assessment”.

Well, as a relatively novice teacher, I want to know if what I’m doing is doing any good. Will my students be better scientists if I offer more pre-lab quizzes? Will they be more turned off to science if I offer more pre-lab quizzes?

Last night at our Shenandoah Valley STEM Collaborative, I led a discussion on the topic of “how to assess student learning?” I asked everyone to read a couple papers and to come prepared to discuss the following questions. The first paper is on applying Bloom’s taxonomy in the biology classroom. The second paper is on applying Bloom’s taxonomy to mathematics. I like using Bloom’s taxonomy, as it gives us a common language to organize our thoughts around learning.

     a) How do you currently assess your students’ learning according to Bloom’s taxonomy?

     b) Can you think of ways to incorporate higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy into your existing curriculum?

One of the key points that resulted from this discussion is that you need to assess at the same level of Bloom’s that you are teaching. Also that these levels need to match the course objective or successful learning will not occur. For example, if you are asking students to memorize a number of word definitions but testing them on how to analyze the concepts that use these definitions, they will not have the skills to do so and will find the class too difficult.

Conversely, if you are assessing student learning by using multiple choice questions but are asking the students to evaluate, synthesize, and create in class, they will not find the class challenging enough.

This may seem obvious to more experienced academics but I find discussing these ideas with more experienced colleagues both useful and reassuring.

I’ll end with this question to you: “How do you know you are effective in your teaching practice?”


1. Alison Crowe, Clarissa Dirks, and Mary Pat Wenderoth. Biology in Bloom: Implementing Bloom’s Taxonomy to Enhance Student Learning in Biology. CBE Life Sci Educ 2008 7:368-381; doi:10.1187/cbe.08-05-0024

2. Shorser, Lindsey. Bloom’s Taxonomy interpreted for Mathematics.

3. Draga Vidakovic, Jean Bevis, and Margo Alexander. Bloom’s Taxonomy in Developing Assessment. Journal of Online Mathematics and Its Applications, 2013.

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