Cleveland State University
Teaching Assistant Handbook

College of Graduate Studies


Assessment is an area in which many new instructors struggle. Teachers must be able to rely on collected data, usually through assessment, to guide their future lessons. Formative assessments, those conducted as a part of each lesson plan, should be implemented on a daily basis. Summative assessments, those conducted at the end of a unit to indicate student mastery, should be implemented when students have successfully navigated the summative assessments. Instructors use formative assessments as an indicator of students' learning the material as well as the effectiveness of the teaching before moving on to the summative assessment. Although some instructors assume the word "assessment" refers to a test or quiz, there are many other methods for collecting relevant data that indicate mastery.

Assessments should always be tied to your desired learning outcomes for students. It is important to always clearly state these outcomes on the course syllabus and verbally to your students. It is difficult for the instructor to judge performance or mastery without clear goals for success, and it is also difficult for students to achieve success if they do not know the goal.

Once the desired outcomes are clear, effective assessment tools can be developed to determine student achievement. A variety of assessments should be used in the course, including papers, tests, assignments, quizzes and exams. Examinations can come in many formats including essay, multiple choice, paper and pencil, online, take-home and in-class.


In addition to creating a syllabus for your course you will need to prepare lesson plans for the lessons you will teach throughout the semester. The components of the lesson plan are very similar to the components of the course syllabus. In fact, the objectives, learning activities, assignments and assessments identified on the syllabus provide the foundation for your lesson plans. Preparing a lesson plan gives you the opportunity to consider a variety of teaching strategies and innovative learning experiences that can be used throughout the semester. The first step in developing a lesson is considering your goals and objectives for the lesson. The time devoted to preparing a lesson plan will make your teaching much easier and more effective. Successful lesson planning results in classes that run more smoothly and are more productive for the instructor and students.


The following lesson plan format was developed by the Office of Field Services in the CEHS at CSU. A template that can be used to prepare your lesson plans is available at

Standard Lesson Plan Format

Title of Lesson:                                                                                                                                                                

Subject Area:                                                                                                       Grade Level:                                   

Date:                                                                                     Period:                

Note:  If you need more space, please use the back or attach an additional sheet and label accordingly.

I.                    Goal/s:  Make one or more broad, general, visionary statement/s (not specific behavioral objectives) that describe your learning goal/s for this lesson. What is it you want students to learn and remember about this lesson – weeks, months and years from now? This is the essence of your lesson. (Discuss the goal of the lesson with the students)

II.                  Relevant Standards/Benchmarks/Indicators: Reference specific standards, benchmarks, indicators from state, district, and professional association documents. Reference your own specific, personal, professional goals for this lesson.

III.                Behavioral Objectives: Write these in bullet point form, using Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Indicate cognitive, affective and/or psychomotor behavioral objectives. Be sure the objectives are observable and measurable. Start your objectives with statements like, “Students will be able to…” Objectives must be measurable so the intern might collect data regarding the effectiveness of the lesson.

IV.                Materials: List the materials that you and your students will use during the lesson (e.g.,

textbooks, overheads, color chalk, etc.)

V.                  Pre-Requisite Knowledge:  List knowledge students will need from previous lesson to

enable them to understand the content of this lesson and/or successfully complete the activity planned.

VI.                Procedures: Identify how you will carry out the following parts of your lesson.


a.       Set Induction – Grab student interest by using motivational strategies, stating expectations, reviewing information, creating scenarios, etc. The purpose of this segment of the lesson is to help students access and use prior knowledge and understand the cognitive framework they will develop.


b.      Development – Explain (1) the content, concepts and/or skills that will be developed during this lesson and (2) the sequence of activities that the students will undertake to engage themselves with the material. Third (3), justify your choice of activities by articulating how they will enhance student learning of the material.


c.       Questioning – List the questions you will ask (either in writing or orally) to clarify student knowledge, extend their understandings, and develop their reasoning. Try to build from concrete to more abstract questioning, helping students to understand concepts and build generalizations. Be sure to ask for reasoning, examples and clarification. Do not hesitate to use higher order questions.


d.      Closure – How will you find a way out of this lesson or activity? Explain how this is a natural closure for this lesson.


e.       Assessment – Summarize the daily and long-term assessment for this lesson. Is it being

used: (a) to assess student knowledge? (b) to motivate students to learn? (c) to evaluate student knowledge? and/or (d) to determine the focus of the next lesson/s or unit? Explain how your assessment will give you the information you are seeking.  List items that could be used as review or test items. These items should connect with the learning goals(s) and specific objectives. How does this assessment method ensure the students have learned the material and not guessed?

VII.              Follow up:  What will take place during subsequent lessons that extend this lesson? State any homework assignment or other activities that were used to reinforce information or skills developed in this lesson. How will you assess what was learned in the future?

VIII.            Reflective Self-Evaluation:  Ask yourself one or more open-ended and reflective questions. Critically assess the procedures of the lesson and the appropriateness of the materials used. Consider your delivery or “presence” in the classroom and ways to improve these. Is there a tension between what you believe should work “in theory” and how it worked “in practice”? What was the strongest part of the lesson? What would you change? How did the students react to the lesson? Be able to tell one thing you could do to ensure learning.


The length of the test is determined by the amount and degree of content to be covered as well as a strict time limit. Multiple choice, matching, or true-false questions can be answered in a minute or less. Short answer questions can be answered in approximately two minutes. Ten to fifteen minutes may be needed to answer a short response question while thirty minutes or more may be needed for an essay question.


Remember that students need regular feedback. Using a variety of assessments throughout the course assists students with learning and understanding the content. Too many quizzes and exams tend to discourage students. Quizzes given weekly or biweekly should be brief.


The dates of quizzes and exams should be stated on the course syllabus. This allows students to plan their study schedules and benefit from the process of studying for the quiz or exam. "Pop quizzes" are less effective learning devices than tests when the students have had time to study and prepare. Reminders or announcements of exams should be given at least one week ahead of time. It is also helpful to discuss with students the exam's format, including the types of questions and length of the exam.


When written tests are used, some general advice for instructors includes the following:

    1. Compose test items throughout the semester to be sure to include all key concepts presented.

    2. Use a variety of question types.

    3. Test early in the semester to demonstrate your testing style to the students.

    4. Test often to keep students on task, gather multiple grades and give students regular feedback.

    5. Test what you really want students to learn.

    6. Proofread your test for errors.

    7. Include questions to build students' confidence and lessen test anxiety.

    8. Make appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

    9. Bring enough copies.

    10. Ask for help in preparing exams from your supervisor or the instructor, if needed.


Multiple-choice items can be used to test factual recall as well as higher levels of understanding and ability to apply learning. Multiple-choice items can also provide an excellent basis for post-test discussion, especially if the discussion addresses why the incorrect responses were wrong as well as why the correct responses were right.

Suggestions for constructing multiple-choice items include:

    1. Use the stem (first part of the question) to present the problem or question as clearly as possible.

    2. Include as much of the item as possible in the stem so that alternatives can be kept brief.

    3. Keep all alternatives in a similar format (e.g., all phrases, all sentences, etc.).

    4. Be sure that all options are plausible responses to the stem.

    5. Check to see that all choices are grammatically consistent with the stem.

    6. Use "all of the above" and "none of the above" sparingly since these alternatives are often chosen on the basis of incomplete knowledge. Words such as "all," "always," and "never" are likely to signal incorrect options.

    7. Use capital letters (A, B, C, D, E) on tests as responses rather than lower-case letters.

    8. Try to write items with equal numbers of alternatives in order to avoid asking students to continually adjust to a new pattern caused by different numbers.

    9. Phrase the item as a statement rather than a direct question.

    10. Avoid using negatively stated items.

    11. Be sure that there is only one correct response to the stem.

    12. Limit the number of alternatives to five or less.

    13. Randomly distribute correct responses among the alternative positions so that there are no discernible patterns to the answer sequence.

    14. State items so that there is only one interpretation of their meaning and use language that students will understand. Do not make it a test of reading skills unless that is your goal.

Suggestions for constructing multiple-choice items that measure higher-level objectives include:

    1. Present unfamiliar, real-world problems or construct scenarios for the students. Write several items which ask students to apply concepts or theories to the scenario or to evaluate several alternative solutions.

    2. Present quotations from newspapers, journals, or other published sources, pictures, charts, tables, graphs, or other primary source material. Ask students to interpret or evaluate the quotations.


True/false items are usually easy to prepare. Test items are drawn directly from the content. They are easy to score accurately and quickly. True/false items, however, may not give a true estimate of the students' knowledge since half can be answered correctly simply by chance. True/false questions tend to be either extremely easy or extremely difficult. These items do not discriminate between students of varying ability as well as other types of questions do.

Suggestions for constructing true/false items include:

    1. Keep language as simple and clear as possible.

    2. Avoid using verbatim sentences from the textbook.

    3. Avoid the use of negatives in the statements.

    4. Avoid ambiguous and trick items.

    5. Avoid words such as all, always, never, and only since they tip students off to the correct answers.


Matching items are generally brief and especially suitable for who, what, when, and where questions. They are used to have students discriminate among and apply concepts. Matching items are easy to score accurately and quickly. The drawbacks of matching items are that they are difficult to use to measure learning beyond recognition of basic factual knowledge, they are usually poor for diagnosing student strengths and weaknesses, and students may use processes of elimination to guess answers to items they do not know.

Suggestions for constructing matching items include:

    1. Supply directions that clearly state the basis for the matching, indicating whether or not a response can be used more than once, and stating where the answer should be placed.

    2. Avoid giving grammatical clues to the correct response (e.g., using a/an, singular/plural verb forms).

    3. Arrange items in the response column in some logical order (alphabetical, numerical, chronological) so that students can find them easily.

    4. Avoid breaking a set of items (stems and responses) over two pages.

    5. Use no more than 15 items in one set.

    6. Provide more responses than stems to make process-of-elimination or guessing less effective.

    7. Use capital letters for the responses rather than lower-case letters.


Completion items are useful in assessing recall of factual information when a specific word or phrase is important to know. They eliminate guessing that is possible on limited-choice items since they require a definite response rather than simple recognition of the correct answer. Completion items, however, tend to test only rote, repetitive responses. They are more difficult to score than forced-choice items and scoring often must be done by the test writer since more than one answer may have to be considered correct.

Suggestions for constructing completion items include:

    1. Use original questions rather than taking questions directly from the text.

    2. Use vocabulary and phrasing that comes from the text or class presentations.

    3. Provide clear directions as to what amount of variation will be accepted in the answers.

    4. Avoid using a long quote with multiple blanks to complete.

    5. Avoid providing grammatical clues to the correct answer.


Essay and short answer items encourage students to demonstrate achievement of higher level objectives such as analysis and critical thinking, and invite expression of originality, creativity, and divergent thinking. These items offer students the opportunity to use their own judgment, writing styles, and vocabularies. They are less time consuming to prepare than any other item type. Tests consisting only of essay or short answer items evaluate a limited sampling of content learning due to the time required for students to respond. The main disadvantage is that essay items are difficult and time consuming to score and may be subject to biased or unreliable scoring.

Suggestions for constructing essay questions include:
    1. Make essay questions comprehensive rather than focused on small units of content.

    2. Provide clear directions as to the expectations for the content of the response.

    3. Use a grading rubric to limit bias in grading. 4. Allow students an appropriate amount of time. 5. Give students guidelines on how much time to use on each question. 6. State the desired length and format of the response, such as full sentences, phrases, or outlines. 7. Inform students of the proportional value of each item in comparison to the total grade. 8. Require students to demonstrate understanding of the content by asking them to provide supporting evidence for claims and assertions in their responses. 9. Decide in advance how much writing skill will count in the evaluation of the response.


Student learning can be assessed through written assignments such as short reflective exercises, collaborative projects, or traditional research papers. Written assignments can assess higher-order critical thinking skills, such as evaluation and synthesis. Writing is not only an important skill for students to learn, but it is also a great method for them to learn the course material more fully and deeply.


Some suggestions for administering exams are:

    • Arrive early and distribute exams at the designated time.
    • Be sure the test directions are precise.
    • Review the instructions for each section of the exam at and ask if students have any questions.
    • Inform students periodically during the exam of the amount of time remaining.
    • Stay in the room during the test and be available to answer questions.
    • Seat students in ways that make cheating difficult.
    • Have the students remove from view any materials which are not to be used during the exam, such as notebooks, texts.
    • Answer student questions during the exam, but be sure your answers don't supply a clue to the correct answer. If a student asks a question about a point which is likely to cause confusion for the class, announce this to the class.


Consult with the instructor of the course to determine your responsibilities for assigning and evaluating student papers, essays and class projects. Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Establish a clear policy regarding the due dates, penalties for late papers, group vs. individual work, etc. on your syllabus. Then stick to the policies you have established.

    2. Provide written rather than oral guidelines. Set aside classroom time to discuss major projects.

    3. Give students a choice of topics on which to work whenever possible.

    4. Establish preliminary steps to completing the project such as preparing an outline or handing in portions of the completed assignment prior to the due date. This helps students keep on schedule and allows you to provide them with positive feedback. Plagiarism also may be prevented.

    5. Spread out the task of reading and evaluating papers over a period of a few days whenever possible. Reading only two or three papers at a sitting may help keep your mind fresh and focused, and you will be better able to fairly evaluate and comment on the students' work.

    6. Provide as much feedback on each assignment as time permits. Students are disappointed to have a paper returned with no comments other than the grade earned. Be sure that criticism is constructive and not derogatory.

    7. Return assignments and tests promptly.


Homework can be a useful learning tool in many disciplines. It gives instructors continued opportunities to assess student progress and encourages students to keep up with the course materials. Check with the course instructor regarding the policies governing regular student homework assignments.


A reminder for submitting grades online will be sent to your department prior to the week of final exams. All final grade reporting is done electronically. Check with your supervisor to determine who will be entering the grades. Make sure to note the deadline for submitting grades.

Be sure that you grade students fairly and objectively. The grading policies for the course must be clearly stated on your syllabus. Secondly, give fair exams and fair assignments. Thirdly, keep accurate and complete records of your students' work.

Some useful ideas on record keeping include:

  • Student grades can be recorded on Blackboard. For assistance go to

  • Keep records for all aspects of the course included in evaluating students, including scores from all exams, homework assignments, attendance and participation.

  • Document strategies you use in averaging individual marks to compute a final course grade.

  • Check your calculations of grades for accuracy.

  • Keep students informed of their grades and progress throughout the semester.

Your grades, class rosters and other course records are official University records and must be available to your course supervisor and the department chairperson at all times.

(*Excerpt from: University Center for the Advancement of Teaching. (2009). Handbook on Teaching @Ohio State, Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University.)


The criteria for evaluating an assignment or paper must be clear and specific. Rubrics can be developed and given to students at the time the paper or project is assigned to inform students of the criteria and point value awarded for the completion of the assignment. Rubrics provide clear expectations and specific feedback to students. A sample rubric for a writing assignment is provided below. Additional rubrics and assistance with creating rubrics are available at the Writing Center (RT Library 124).

RUBRIC FOR SCORING WRITTEN RESPONSES TO READING/S  (Note: Not all readings will require written responses- some may use alternative formats.)

Response #_________________________

Student Name_____________________       /30 pts.





Brief summary of reading’s main points

Not evident or Minimally evident

Overly long and detailed (but present) or present but superficial or did not include all assigned readings

Concise summary of all assigned readings

Thoughtful Analysis

Not evident or minimally evident

Superficial opinions not grounded in text.

May not have addressed all assigned readings.

Thoughtful analysis of all assigned reading. Asked perceptive additional questions.

Writing Style and Coherence

Rambling, confusing or otherwise disorganized writing. Immature or informal vocabulary. Writing does not demonstrate coherence at a college level.

Adequately organized and clear. Style and vocabulary are reasonably mature.

Sophisticated and elegant organization and flow. Writing demonstrates clarity, coherence, and maturity in style. Advanced and varied vocabulary and word choice.

Writing Mechanics (grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, paragraphing, capitalization, etc.)

Writing is full of errors that interfere with clear communication of ideas and knowledge. Sub-par for college level writing.

Writing has some errors but these do not substantially interfere with  clear written communication. Minimally adequate for college level writing.

Writing is relatively free of errors and errors do not interfere with clear written communication. College level writing.

(Created by Dr. Susan Rakow, Dept. Of Curriculum & Foundations, CSU, 2009)

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