Designing assessment for the course.
Once you have finalised your course learning objectives, you will need to decide how students will provide evidence that they have achieved those learning objectives, both individually and collectively. Your students’ best opportunity to apply and demonstrate what they have learned is through their assessment. Therefore it is important that the assessment you set for your students aligns with your course learning objectives.
Victoria University of Wellington’s Assessment Handbook states that assessment has three purposes:
- To foster student learning: Assessment tasks allow students to identify what is expected of them in relation to the learning objectives. A strong and explicit link between the objectives and assessment performance better enables students to see the purpose of the course and to develop self-efficacy in achieving that purpose. Feedback on performance makes an essential contribution to improving performance.
- To assess student achievement: Assessment is the way of determining whether a student has achieved the objectives of a course to a satisfactory standard. Assessment at one level can provide assurance that a student is ready to progress to the next.
- To provide evidence of the quality of programmes: Comprehensive and effective assessment is a vehicle which demonstrates that relevant knowledge and skills are addressed in aggregate across a programme and gives assurance that students are acquiring the knowledge and skills. This contributes to the reputation of the University’s programmes and serves the requirements of professional accreditation.
Assessment at Victoria University of Wellington is governed by six principles:
- Validity: Assessment should be fit for purpose. Assessment tasks should therefore be appropriate for the level, content and learning objectives of the course and the graduate attributes of the programme and university. A valid task will be one that measures what it purports to assess.
- Reliability: Assessment should provide an accurate and consistent measure of student performance. This involves both consistency in marking and the authenticity of student work.
- Fairness and inclusivity: Assessment tasks should provide every student with an equitable opportunity to demonstrate their learning. Tasks should not discriminate against students on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability or political affiliation.
- Contribution to learning: Assessment should be recognised as a learning activity. Assessment tasks should contribute to the development of skills and knowledge that can be applied within the course as well as in other contexts.
- Manageability: Assessment tasks should be reasonable and practicable in terms of time and resources for both students and staff.
- Transparency: The intention and practice of assessment should be clearly described to students and to other staff teaching in a course so that its benefits, purposes and procedures are understood by all parties, in the spirit of a teaching and learning partnership.
Aligning Assessment and Course Learning Objectives
It has been widely established that, for many students, assessment drives learning and defines what they will focus on in a subject (Ramsden, 2003, Biggs and Tang, 2011).
To achieve their purpose and goals, it is important that assessment tasks allow students to provide evidence that they have achieved your stated Course Learning Objectives (CLOs). It is also important that students understand how specific assessment tasks support their learning, and that specific assessment tasks allow you to provide feedback to students about where they are achieving the CLOs, and where they need to do more work.
Mapping assessment tasks with CLOs can be useful for ensuring that student work will test the specific CLOs you have set. It can also act as a reflective tool for thinking about how the assessment is providing evidence of student learning, including learning aspects of the Graduate Profile. This Key Learning Objective Map may be helpful for organising and articulating your thoughts, for yourself, your colleagues in related courses, and of course, your students.
Creating assessment rubrics
One way of ensuring that your students can see how well they are achieving the Course Learning Objectives through their assessment tasks is to provide a rubric, which explains what constitutes different levels of performance in different areas of the task. Assessment rubrics are an important aspect of criteria-referenced assessment, in which students receive grades according to how well they perform against a set of expected outcomes, rather than being ranked against their class mates and awarded grades accordingly (normative assessment). Carnegie Mellon Eberly Centre for Teaching Excellence: Creating and using rubrics. A straightforward explanation of the role of assessment rubrics, and some useful examples for different types of assessment.
- Assessment Handbook
- CAD Guidelines: Assessment for Learning 2013
- Academic integrity, plagiarism and Turnitin resources
- Developing multiple choice and other objective style questions
- University of Melbourne Guide to Student Peer Review
- Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange (ASKe)—Collection of leaflets focusing on a piece of assessment-related research. Each leaflet clearly states how that research can be applied to teaching practice in three easy steps. Developed by ASKe, a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) based at Oxford Brookes University Business School, Oxford Brookes University, UK