When you develop assessments, regardless of delivery mode (on campus or online), it is essential to ensure that they support students to meet academic integrity requirements while addressing the following key principles (which reflect those included in the Assessment Policy):
(based on Boud, 2010; Houston, 2018)
Assessment must demonstrate achievement of learning outcomes (LOs) at course and topic levels. Learning outcomes must therefore be identified before assessment is designed. Once what is being assessed (i.e. which LOs) is clear, how to assess can be determined. You need to carefully consider the type of learning the student is engaged in. Are students acquiring knowledge, collaborating, investigating a problem or solution to it, practising a skill or producing an artefact of some kind, or something else? The way they are assessed will change depending not only on the learning outcome but also the type of learning (see table on pages 4 and 5 of the Tip sheet – Designing assessment) involved to achieve it. The following three elements of assessments reinforce and are integral to learning: determining whether students have met learning outcomes; supporting the type of learning; and allowing students opportunities to reflect on their progress through feedback.
Feedback is essential to learning as it helps students understand what they have and have not done to meet the LOs. It should include an indication of how well they have met the LOs and what they need to do to improve. Students need to receive feedback in a timely manner (2-3 weeks after submission of the assessment and prior to the next being submitted, especially where assessments are scaffolded) so they can act on the feedback to improve their learning. Quality and timely feedback that enhances learning and sustains or encourages motivation:
(Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, 2006, pp. 207-214)
Ideally, the skills and practices students are exposed to through their learning and assessment will be useful to them in other areas of their university experience or when they join the workforce. Authentic assessments which determine whether the learning outcomes have been met are valid and reliable if they support students’ development of topic-related knowledge and/or skills while emulating activities encountered elsewhere. Reliability and consistency also require all markers to draw conclusions about students’ work in similar ways, a process supported through moderation. The use of well-designed rubrics supports reliable and consistent assessment.
Assessment is integral to course and topic design
This key principle is achieved by linking your assessments to the learning outcomes of your topic and the material you present to students.
Assessment tasks should be timed in relation to learning experiences and the time required for students to complete the set tasks.
Based on the work of Biggs (2005); other similar images exist elsewhere
To be well prepared for their assessments, students need to know well in advance what the assessment will cover and when they are due. Assessment information should be available to students via the Statement of Assessment Methods (SAM, which is a binding document) and FLO site by week 1 of the semester. The FLO site should clearly communicate assessment due dates while providing details of what is being assessed, instructions on how to complete the assessment (what students need to do) and, ideally, the rubric (so students know how their work will be judged).
Assessments should always reflect the learning and skills students have completed in the topic or that you can be certain they have coming into the topic, which means you have tested for these skills, provided access to supporting resources (such as the Student Learning Centre and Library) and/or scaffolded them into your teaching. Assessments should never require students to develop skills or content they have not been taught. It should never advantage or disadvantage one student over others, and all students must be able to access all the resources they require to complete it. Consideration should also be given to the timing of assessments, so they do not clash with due dates in other topics.
The amount of assessment will be shaped by the students’ learning needs and the LOs, as well as the need to grade students. Consideration needs to be given to what students can complete in the time they are given, and the time allowed to mark and return assessments (with useful feedback). Ensure the time allowed is enough for students to effectively demonstrate their learning without being excessive for the unit weighting of the topic. Ensure assessment tasks are appropriately weighted for the work required, and in relation to the overall structure and workload for both the topic and overall course.
Ensuring assessments are fair, equitable, appropriate to the LOs and set at the right time and level for students to address the LOs requires continual monitoring and reflection. Asking colleagues and academic developers for feedback and having SAMs and assessment rubrics reviewed by them will help ensure the quality of assessments. Regular formal quality assurance checks via Teaching Program Directors (TPDs) and Deans (Education) are also required to ensure assessments are continually monitored for improvement. The Educational Quality Team will support you with the approval process when changes are required.
Biggs, J. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university what the student does (4th ed. ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education.
Boud, D. and Associates (2010). Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
Laurillard, D. (2012) Teaching as Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology, New York: Routledge.
Miles, C., & Foggett, K. (2019) Authentic assessment for active learning, presentation at Blackboard Academic Adoption Day
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