Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute has a podcast called, Ask Andrew. He did two on assessment. One was on skills and one on ideas.
One of the thoughts he shared was when we give a grade of "87" what do we even mean by it and what does the student perceive is meant? "You did pretty good!" "You didn't do good enough." "I studied so hard, and all I got was an 87." "I barely studied and I still got an 87."
One of the things I've been frustrated with, as an old dog taking college classes, is the multiple choice quizzes. The way they are set up is to test if I've done the readings, not what I got out of them. So, if as a teacher there is something you want me to at least walk away with, THAT is what you include on the quiz - they are open book quizzes. That will force me to go and read that portion, or put together that idea with the question and the answer. But no, it will most likely be some obscure sentence I have to do a search for. What this tells me as a student is, "We don't trust you." You know what? Yes, sometimes I don't finish the readings. But if you give me a quiz that helps me at least glean the most important aspects, then we ALL win. I try to do better each time. I don't know that quizzes should be used as punishment or "Holy Spirit" conviction.
The sort of question that ought to be on quizzes is one of comprehension - which as was stated can be hard to write, hard to perceive the "proper answer" and then hard to grade. But WORTH IT! For everyone!
The best forms of assessment I have appreciated, even if they were hard, was discussion with the teacher, in which he or she could tell we've interacted with the text, even if we didn't comprehend it! Questions indicate interaction as well.
Having to write on the readings. AFTER discussion, we were given a broad prompt and asked to write a short essay, or journal entries. Another one was after the one week's reading, the NEXT week we would have to submit questions on it and then answer each other's in a discussion. This forced me to "review" and think through the material. Tying a "unit" together. So units would be three weeks long. Again, forcing me to review, revising, and then create connections.
In logic, at the end of the semester we had to find articles and put them in logical format. This was hard, but so worth it. We could really see how much we had learned.
A form of assignment that has been helpful is having three ways in which I was exposed to the ideas of the content. In Bible class it was read the scripture, read a commentary, attend a lecture in which we had to take notes for turning in - this is a good form of accountability! This equipped me to complete the short essay answers for the midterm exams, which was NOT open book.
In Economics it was read an overview of the topics, a summary, and then watch a quick video that touched on the ideas, and THEN read the materials. But this is the class that gave the horrible quizzes. It was also the class that had discussion, questions, and then essays.
Assessments are powerful psychological tools. If used improperly or at the wrong age, or the wrong stage of learning, they can either increase a student's negative self-image, or they can unrealistically puff a child up with pride. The student that says, "I barely studied and I still got an 87" has been deceived into thinking he or she is smarted than they are, and won't have to work hard to "get by" in life. I was the kid. And it has been really hard for me to be a diligent worker in many areas.
Education ought to have some struggle to it, but it has to be the kind that builds up, not tears down.