Formative and Summative Assessment in Agricultural Engineering and Technology Courses
Engineering education is undergoing a transformation with a shift in focus to student outcomes. While many efforts to assess student outcomes have been at the curriculum level, assessment must also be done at the course level since this is where much learning and instruction takes place. Multiple summative and formative assessments were employed in a two-year study of student perceptions of their learning and the instructional methods in two related agricultural engineering and agricultural technology courses at Iowa State University. The goal of these efforts was to better understand how students learn so that instructional methods can be changed to better promote learning. Formative assessment tools included a weekly e-mail feedback journal and a midterm electronic survey using WebCT. Summative assessment tools included focus groups and end-of-term student evaluations of instruction (SEI). Based on the e-mail journals and the midterm survey, several adjustments were made to the courses during the course terms; such as bringing more real-world examples into the classroom, providing more example problems in the class, and providing review based on students’ electronic questions. The focus groups and SEI were used to better understand the effectiveness of these formative assessment tools and the relationship between student learning and instruction.