What should be included in assessments?



Why assessments are important?

It is vital that assessments are aligned with the course's learning objectives to maximize the validity of the instructor’s evaluation of student performance.  The information provided in this article will aid you in making decisions regarding assessments in your course as well as additional assessment related topics that sometimes are overlooked but can improve the quality of your course.


Align assessments with learning objectives 

Assessments need to align with the course learning objectives. The action verb in the objectives drives potential choices for activities and assessments (see graphic below).  For example, if an objective uses the word "describe" or "explain", a possible assessment could be an essay, an open-ended question in a forum or quiz/test.  A non-example would be a multiple choice or True/False question because to describe or explain, the student must be given the opportunity to self-generate a response as opposed to choosing options.

You will notice that in the graphic above, each activity gives the student an opportunity to perform the behavior described in the learning objective.  For example, if you want the students to demonstrate critical thinking skills you might use a case study that affords students the opportunity to solve a problem.  Click here to see more options for assessment based on Bloom's verb wheel. 

Include sequenced, varied, and suited assessments

The course should provide different opportunities for assessment to accommodate for various learning styles. For example, wikis, group presentations, or group papers may be used to promote collaboration. Students may also create their own questionnaire to encourage critical thinking skills.  It is important to note that not all assessments need to be graded, assessments may be used to give feedback or may be optional to advocate additional opportunities for practice.

Provide opportunities for students to track their progress

Students need frequent, relevant, and timely feedback to make learning more effective.  The feedback may come directly from the instructor, such as in writing assignments, or may be embedded in the activities or assessments, such as in self-scoring practice quizzes, or interactive games (see example of a self-scoring practice quiz below).  

Another way to provide students with feedback may come from other classmates through forum participation, group work, or peer-review assignments, such as peer-mark assignments using TurnItIn.  An additional way for students to monitor their progress is using assessments that facilitate the student's self-reflection, such as portfolios with a self-evaluation element, reflection papers, or other self-publishing tools (e.g. blogs, journals, or wikis).

State how assessments are graded

Offer a comprehensive description of the criteria that will be used to evaluate student performance. The information should include the following: 1) the rubrics you use to grade; 2) any criteria you use for grading; and/or 3) an explanation of point distributions (see a rubric example below). The more specific the criteria provided, the more likely student’s work will meet your expectations.  

Rubric Example

Source: Turnitin Example Rubrics. This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Discussion Post Example

For example, if participation is going to be graded in an online environment, be sure to include the number of required posts, the criteria for evaluating originality and responsiveness to classmates' comments, and the grade or credit students can expect for varying levels of contribution.

"Each discussion forum is going to be graded in the following scale: No posting (0 points), Replied (2 points), Answered (4 points), Answered and Replied (6 points).  Note: Late postings will be deducted 1 point."

Include a course grading policy

The course should provide clear information on how the course grades are calculated including points, percentages, and weights for each component (e.g. learning activities, homework, assessments) that will determine the final grade.  The course should include an explanation of the relationship between the letter grades and points or percentages, if both are used. Additionally, the course should incorporate the policy for late assignments, and any point deductions or penalties if applicable.

Tools and Resources

  • Assessment from Texas A&M University Faculty Teaching Resource's Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) presents an overview of assessments, design effective test assessments, use alternate assessments and rubrics, classroom assessment techniques, grading explanations and useful links.
  • Three Main Stages For Assessing Students from Queen's University Centre for Teaching and Learning explains how to establish expectations, select method of assessment, and provide effective feedback.
  • Assessments Tools from Carnegie Mellon's Eberly Center Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation provide suggestions and strategies for assessing student learning and performance.
  • Align Assessments With Objectives from Carnegie Mellon's Eberly Center Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation present examples of types of assessments based on different types of leaning objectives.
  • A Comparison Of Assessment Methods from University of Wollongong -Australia provides an overview of common assessment types presenting its advantages, disadvantages, and some other considerations.Wollongong -Australia provides an overview of common assessment types presenting its advantages, disadvantages, and some other considerations.
  • Assessment Terms from Loyola University Chicago's Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy presents useful definitions for assessing student leaning.Ignatian Pedagogy presents useful definitions for assessing student leaning.