Learning Objectives Based Assessment FAQ

What is Learning Objectives Based Assessment (LOBA)?

LOBA is a different grading philosophy.  It is based on several principles:

(1) Student grades should be a reflection of how proficient a student is at the important skills and concepts from the class and not an arbitrary sum of nameless points.

(2) If what we are teaching them is truly important, the student should be allowed to reassess on a particular concept or skill until they have mastered it.

(3)  Learning should direct assessment and not the reverse.  Don’t teach to the test, test to what you teach.

(4)  Students should be focused on mastering the material and not accumulating points.

How does LOBA work?

Each course has a list of core learning objectives (called C-level learning objectives) and more advanced A-level learning objectives.  A student’s grade is determined by how many learning objectives a student has demonstrated proficiency in.  Each learning objective will be assessed at least twice in class, but students are allowed to be reassessed outside of class as often as they need to, until they have mastered the particular skill.

How do you assess proficiency?

Proficiency can be assessed the same way you assessed students under a points-based system, with quizzes, tests, papers, and projects.  One difference is each particular question has anywhere from one to many learning objectives associated with it.  Since students can reassess on a particular learning objective, they have an incentive to use the assessment to study for reassessment.  In this way the assessment becomes part of the learning process and students will read your comments and try to figure out what they did wrong.

You can also get more creative with assessment, using impromptu oral exams, demonstrations, or anything else you can dream up to assess how well a student understands a particular topic.

Do students see the same questions on the reassessment?

No, the reassessment consists of different but related questions.

Don’t you have to write a lot of problems then?

Yup, but once you’ve created a few questions for each learning objective you can change numbers and wording to create an infinite number of seemingly different problems.

How often can students ask for reassessment?  What are the limits on reassessment?

I have placed limits on reassessment to keep me sane and to prevent students from waiting until the end of the term.  Students must give me 48 hours notice so I have time to put together a reassessment.  Learning objectives from each chapter are broken into two groups and students can only assess on one set each day.  Students can only reassess on Mondays, Tuesday s, or Fridays.  Finally, a student must reassess within three weeks of the previous assessment on a particular set of learning objectives.  If they fail in that attempt, they can reassess again as long as it is within the next three weeks.  The goal of this last limit is to prevent students from waiting until the last few weeks of the term to churn through all learning objectives.

Isn’t this a lot of grading?

Yes and no.  You do end up grading quite a few assessments, but since you are looking for proficiency on particular skills rather than awarding ½ points, you can usually breeze through an assessment quickly, giving you much more time to make useful comments you know the students have a strong incentive to read.

How well does it work?

Great!  Although a few students struggled, most students rose to the challenge and actually mastered the material.  Students actually went back to material they didn’t understand right away and took the time to master it since they knew they were accountable for it.  More students came to me asking how to solve problems they got wrong on assessments.  Most importantly, students under LOBA had clearly mastering the material at a much higher level than most students under points-based grading systems in previous terms.

(editors note:  Changed LOBG to LOBA 5/25/2012)

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4 Responses to Learning Objectives Based Assessment FAQ

  1. david says:

    I love the clarity of this — very much in line with a Grant Wiggins UBD approach. Could you be more specific about what you mean by “a student’s grade is determined by how many learning objectives a student has demonstrated proficiency in.” I’m assuming that you are teaching in a setting in which you ultimately have to issue a one grade per student per grading period…

  2. david says:

    ah! I see answers to my qns in your other LOBG posts…

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