How Faculty Fellow Sora Rosen Assesses Baseline Knowledge

The Teaching Spotlight series regularly highlights exemplary reflections written by our faculty fellows in the Reflective Teaching Fellowship. Each week, fellows develop self-reflections as members of an online community of practice, selecting Tags from across four Themes that are best aligned with the evidence they include in their weekly reflections. Exemplary reflections demonstrate use of evidence-based instructional practices (also known as Tags). Fellows featured in this series have chosen to make their reflections public. 

Exemplar: Baseline Knowledge

  • Fellow: Sora Rosen

  • When: Fall 2018

  • Class: Human Development

  • Modality: Face to Face

  • Institution: Towson University, Maryland

Baseline Knowledge as an Evidence-Based Instructional Practice

The Baseline Knowledge Tag encourages Faculty Guild fellows to consider different ways to evaluate what students know at the beginning of the course, course segment or day’s lesson in order to create a baseline of student knowledge that can be compared against what students know at the end of the course, course segment or day’s lesson. 

A focus on evidence-based instruction asks us to provide evidence. What strategies have we used to assess our baseline knowledge of our students’ comprehension? Did fellows include evidence of those actions in their self-reflection, sharing their good work with their peers and facilitator?

Sora proved collecting data on baseline knowledge need not be conventional (or boring)! She got her students up and moving and engaged with other classmates through the use of an interactive true-or-false exercise. “The true and false statements presented at the beginning of class served as a vehicle for informal assessment of prior background knowledge,” said Rosen, a practicing psychologist and psychology professor. “Through this approach, I not only gained information on my students’ baseline knowledge of the topic at hand—emerging adulthood—but also got them active in their own learning.” 

Sora assessed baseline knowledge using a creative method:

  1. She created an interactive activity with true-or-false answers to assess students’ initial comprehension of the subject matter.

  2. She divided her class into small groups and encouraged them to engage with one another and other groups.  

  3. She used the data she collected from each group to guide the rest of her lesson as well as assess students' progress at the end of the lesson.

“The goal of the lesson was for students to learn about the developmental stage of emerging adulthood,” said Rosen, who allowed her students to share their responses to the questions and defend or support their position. “This led to a more rigorous discussion within the class and served as the post-assessment of student learning and proved to be a great window into my students' current knowledge about the topic.”

Consider: How can we evaluate our students in unconventional ways? What strategies do I use to assess baseline knowledge in my classroom? Tweet your response and make sure to tag @FacultyGuild and include #teachingsuccessmovement.