Take the time now—while you’re still planning the class—to articulate your criteria for evaluating student performance. Doing so helps you make sure that your session plans focus on the knowledge and skills you expect students to demonstrate. Working from criteria when planning a class sessions helps you to maintain continuity between class activities and the exams—and between session objectives and course objectives. One good way to prepare exams is to write questions while you are teaching the material, rather than waiting until the unit is complete to create the whole exam. If you write down a few potential questions while you work on each session plan, you will approach the exam with a pool of relevant, reasonable questions to draw on. Again, this helps to make sure the exams really test students on the material that you have decided is important for accomplishing course objectives.
Even within the class session itself, you can include some simple checks for understanding to see if your students have met your stated objectives for the day. Finding out whether or not your students have learned what you set out to teach allows you to build on the class session in future sessions, and it helps you adjust your approach if you discover that the objectives are not being met. A simple way to find out what students have learned is to ask questions. Another form of asking questions is having students apply what they learned, perhaps by solving a sample problem or maybe explaining the concept to someone else. You might, for example, present them with the kind of question that will be on the test and have them work in pairs to agree on an answer. Not only does this give you useful feedback, but it also helps the students gauge how much they really understand the material.
A more formal way to assess what students have learned is through a minute paper. At the end of class, ask students to write down answers these two questions:
1) What was the most important thing you learned during this class? And
2) What important question remains unanswered for you?
Minute papers are usually anonymous, but when you collect them, they’ll give you a good sense of whether or not what students think is important is what you thought was important.