Assessment basics

Before designing an assessment, it is good to think about your objectives for it and how it fits in the course.

Assessment Purposes

Assessment is used for more than just generating grades.  It is used

  • To provide feedback…
    • …to students on their learning
    • …to teachers on student learning
    • …to teachers on their teaching effectiveness
  • As a learning activity for students
  • As a tool to evaluate…
    • …student learning (e.g. assigning grades)
    • …the program (e.g. accreditation)
  • As a tool to motivate students to complete the work
  • As a tool to hold students accountable to the course and/or their team

Type of Feedback

There are different flavours of assessment depending on how the assessment feedback is being used.  This directly relates to the grades (if any) associated with the assessment, and therefore the pressure and motivation felt by students.

  • Diagnostic: assessment of prior learning
    • e.g. a pretest at the beginning of a course or module
    • typically not for marks
  • Formative: assessment used to provide feedback on learning
    • “assessment for learning”
    • may or may not include a grade
    • typically low stakes
  • Summative: used to assess learning
    • “assessment of learning”
    • usually at the end of a course or module
    • may be high stakes
  • Mixed: any combination of the above

Properties of effective assessment

  • Valid: Measures what it is intended to measure
    • The assessment should align with the intended learning outcomes (see Constructive Alginment for more information)
    • The assessment level should match the level of the learning outcome (see Bloom’s Taxonomy).  Consider carefully whether a multiple choice question can assess a high-level learning competency such as synthesis or judgement, and whether an essay or similar written question is needed to evaluate a low-level competency such as recall or comprehension
  • Reliable: The results are consistent and dependable
    • Do different graders evaluate the student work the same way?
    • Are students likely to perform similarly if they retook the assessment in a few days?  Does the assessment depend on students happening to study minor details in the course or broad course themes?
  • Practical: the cost, effort, and time frame are reasonable
    • The assessment needs to be workable for you, for TAs, and for students
  • Authentic: it aligns with the target competency
    • e.g. can we assess teamwork using multiple choice quiz?