A learning assessment technique (LAT) is a three-part integrated structure that helps teachers to first identify significant learning goals, then to implement effectively the kinds of learning activities that help achieve those goals, and finally—and perhaps most importantly—to analyze and report on the learning outcomes that have been achieved from those learning activities.
LATs are correlated to Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning, such that there are about 6–10 techniques for each of the learning dimensions, including techniques to help students learn the foundational knowledge of the subject and help students apply that foundational knowledge to real situations so that it becomes useful and much more meaningful to them.
There are techniques that help students integrate ideas—different realms of knowledge—so that the learning is more powerful. There are techniques to help students recognize the personal and social implications of what they are learning, which is what Dee Fink calls the human dimension. There are techniques to help students care about what they are learning so that they’re willing to put the effort into what they need to learn. And finally, there are techniques to help students become better and more self-directing learners (learning how to learn).
LATs allow you to determine how best to analyze or evaluate learning so you can make changes to improve student learning outcomes. Three examples you might begin with include:
Contemporary issues journal
- The contemporary issues journal
- Digital stories
- The personal learning environment
A contemporary issues journal is designed to promote learning in the integration dimension of the significant learning taxonomy. And that is the dimension that helps students learn how to connect different kinds of information, ideas, and experiences and to transfer these to new situations
beyond their campus.
The contemporary issues journal exercise asks students to focus on the world around them to identify recent events or developments in the news that relate to their coursework. For example, they might see that information through their Facebook feeds. They might see it on their smartphones.
And they are prompted to be looking constantly to see how that information relates to what they learn in class. The contemporary issues journal can help deepen students’ understanding by connecting course material to what they see in the real world. This allows students to find value in the course.
The digital story is designed to address the human dimension of Fink’s learning taxonomy, which aims to help students learn more about themselves and others. The digital story allows students to use computer-based tools, such as video and audio, to share their relevant life experiences as they attempt to connect with an audience about a given issue related to the course. Though the stories can be personal or academic, they always connect course-related themes to the human experience.
Digital stories allow students to create visual representations of their personal networks for learning and provide students with a creative outlet for self-authorship and curating their lived experiences within the context of the course. They help students gain a more complete view of their own place in the world and within the course.
Personal learning environment
The personal learning environment is intended to help students achieve the “learning how to learn” dimension of the significant learning taxonomy, which is intended to help students continue to be independent and become more self-directed learners. The personal learning environment asks students to create a visual representation of people in their personal networks as digital resources that they can access for the specific intent of learning.
LATs are generally easy to implement structures that will help you identify learning goals, implement effective learning activities, and analyze and report on learning outcomes. Try using LATs in your class today.
Reference: Barkley, E. (2009). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for faculty.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Adapted from the Magna Online Seminar Learning Assessment Techniques: How to Integrate New Activities That Gauge What and How Well Students Learn. It also appears in the book Active Learning: A Practical Guide for College Faculty.