Published: April 26, 2018

I have increasingly realized the quality of my assessments of student learning determines the quality of my teaching. If I write a good three-dimensional question, the question directs my teaching. The key is that the question has to be multi-dimensional. What does this mean?

Melanie Cooper’s recent ASSETT-sponsored workshop brought 3-D questions into clear focus. A 3-D question includes an emphasis on essential disciplinary practices, some aspect of a discipline’s “big ideas”, and cross-cutting concepts that form bridges between different disciplines. If I craft a good 3D assessment question, it makes my teaching so much easier because I can use the question as a framework for finding out what students know, and once I know what students know, I can identify a path that achieves the learning objectives. As Melanie Cooper noted, an important aspect of the question is whether it addresses key learning goals. While we were working on developing our understanding of what it means to begin by developing relevant and well-crafted 3D questions, the ASSETT Faculty Fellows—a group of diverse faculty from multiple departments—realized that we all have more-or-less the same set of essential disciplinary practices. We all emphasize the same underlying set of practices, and our realization of this truth makes it clear that we can build robust bridges across units and foster collaborative and cross-disciplinary educational experiences for our students.

One of the values of thinking about multiple dimensions of questions is its focus on multiple dimensions of intelligence. In the lead up to Melanie’s workshop, the Faculty Fellows estimated their own multiple intelligence (Figure 1) and it is clear that our individual intellectual capacities differ, and it is the differences that should be celebrates and make CU such a rich environment. At the same time, there was overlap and axes of variation sufficient for finding common ground despite differences in disciplinary focus.


Figure 1. Picture of the estimates of the multiple intelligences of ASSETT Faculty Fellows. Each labeled axis is a different type of intelligence, a theory championed by Howard Gardner. Each individual is represented as an irregular octagon. The different shapes are indicative of differences in intelligence among individuals.