Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

This is a section of Leaders in Effective and Inclusive STEM: Twenty Years of the Institute for Scientist & Engineer Educators, edited by Scott Seagroves, Austin Barnes, Anne J. Metevier, Jason Porter, & Lisa Hunter. See the introduction for a more complete discussion and outline.

Articles on assessment

Participants in the ISEE PDP used an assessment-driven backward design process, and many participants have continued to use and expand on these assessment ideas. This section has two articles that describe assessment-related work after PDP participation.

Cover page of Developing Inquiry-Based Homework Assignments with Astrobites

Developing Inquiry-Based Homework Assignments with Astrobites


The majority of physics and astronomy undergraduate major classes are structured around problem sets, an approach that does not typically make it possible for students to learn in an inquiry-based manner analogous to how scientists conduct research. One of the reasons professors often do not attempt an inquiry approach is the lack of educational tools needed to facilitate this method of learning. In this work, I describe how Astrobites — a website run by astronomy graduate students with the goal of making the latest research more accessible to undergraduates — is ideally suited to serve as an educational tool that can make problem sets more inquiry-based. I discuss how I designed inquiry-based problem sets that make use of Astrobites for several different astronomy classes that target physics and astronomy majors. I also present strategies for implementing such assignments based on assessment from the students, and provide example problem sets that received good student feedback. These assignments are intended to complement traditional problem sets, thereby inclusively providing an alternate way for students to take interest and engage in their homework for the class.

  • 1 supplemental PDF
Cover page of Using Pre-/Post-Quizzes Intentionally in Curriculum Development and Evaluation

Using Pre-/Post-Quizzes Intentionally in Curriculum Development and Evaluation


Developing the final summative assessment of a course at the start of curriculum development is an implementation of “backward design,” whereby learning objectives are identified first and the curriculum is engineered end-to-beginning to achieve them. We trained in backward design through the Professional Development Program (PDP) and adapted PDP assessment ideas for evaluation of curriculum designs and teaching efficacy. A pre‑/post-quiz is an assessment administered the first and last day of a course; a learner’s scores are used to measure normalized gain: the ratio of what a student learned during a course relative to what they knew entering it. The intentional process of developing a pre‑/post-quiz for every course focuses the educator on the essential understanding desired of the learners exiting the course. The normalized-gain statistics for the course can then be used to evaluate the course’s efficacy, and improvements to the curriculum can be monitored by tracking the normalized gains over time, using the same pre‑/post-quiz. Moreover, an individual instructor may self-evaluate their teaching efficacy by tracking normalized gains from all courses over time. Here we discuss applying the practice of backward curriculum design starting with a custom pre‑/post-quiz and utilizing it for immediate and longitudinal evaluation, focusing primarily on designing an entire undergraduate science course.