Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain and improve performance. (Angelo, T. 1995)

Assessment is part of the process of learning. As Knight (2002) has indicated, timely feedback and sound formative assessment practices are likely to enhance learning more than almost any educational innovation.

To fail to provide criteria and standards of assessment is like sending students on a journey with neither a form of transportation nor a destination while assuring them that the instructor will let them know when they arrive. (Van Gyn & Ford, 2005, p.16).

Van Gyn, G. & Ford, C. (2005). Teaching for Critical Thinking. STLHE Green Guide #6, Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 

Assessment: The collection of information about student learning for the purpose of making judgements about the progress/development of the learner and about learning activities.

Evaluation: Comparing assessment information across time or against some standard to make a judgement or a decision.

Grade: A step or stage in a course or process; a letter, number, or other symbol indicating the relative quality of a student’s work in a course, examination, or special assignment; mark.

Grading: Determines quality.

Formative Assessment: Results are used for feedback (feedforward?) during the learning process rather than just at the end. Students and teachers both need to know how learning is proceeding. Feedback may operate both to improve the learning of individual students and to improve teaching.

Summative Assessment: Results are used to grade students at the end of a unit, or to accredit at the end of a program.

Normative Assessment: Grades that tell us which students performed better than other students. (Rank order)

Criterion Referenced Assessment: Indicates what a student learned and how well. The student’s grade depends on the achievement of the objectives and is independent of any other student’s grade.

Rubrics: Define levels and dimensions of student performance for each assessment. Enable students to target their efforts toward achieving specific levels of performance.

  1. Setting the criteria for assessing the work
  2. Selecting the evidence that would be relevant to submit to judgement against those criteria.
  3. Making a judgement about the extent to which these criteria have been met.

Teacher’s and student’s perspectives on assessment
Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university. McGraw-Hill Education. 

Prior to using an assessment strategy

  1. What instrument will best perform the assessment?
  2. What are the criteria for competence or completion?
  3. What performance scale will be used to evaluate the student?
  4. Why am I using this particular type of assessment?
  5. Why am I assessing the students at this time? (Productive use of time?)
  6. What do I expect to learn about the students as a result of this assessment procedure?
  7. What do I want the students to learn from this assessment activity?
  8. Does this assessment consider the objectives?
  9. Have I adequately prepared my students for this type of assessment procedure?
  10. Have I planned for time to do follow-up activities after the assessment?

After using the assessment strategy

  1. Did the students understand what was asked of them on the assessment?
  2. Do the results indicate that the students were prepared for this type of assessment activity?
  • should encourage learning
  • should provide guidelines on how work can be improved
  • should be constructive and specific
  • should offer two or three points as goals for the next assignment

Ideas for Ensuring Students Read and Take Notice of Feedback

  • Provide qualitative commentary on assignments without adding a grade or mark and ensure that students don’t get a mark until they have read and understood the feedback
  • Incorporate a reward in the next assignment for positively addressing the issues (including a reflective analysis) raised by the feedback on a previous assignment (work that ignores this may receive a lower grade or mark for not taking this criterion into account).
  • Develop progressively weighted coursework assignments (eg 5 per cent, 10 per cent, 15 per cent instead of 10 per cent, 10 per cent, 10 per cent or some other combination) so that there are higher rewards for improving based upon feedback given on earlier pieces of work.
  • Involve students in giving feedback to others on their work.

1. Clarity
Go over the criteria in advance.
Put comments in clear, concise and simple language.

2. Immediacy
Return assignments promptly while the topic is still fresh in the students’ mind.

3. Regularity
Provide feedback, verbal or written, in & out of class regularly, not just on written assignment.

4. Accessibility
Be available to provide further clarification or comment if needed.

5. Individualized
Provide specific as well as general comment.

6. Affirming
Acknowledge both effort and achievement.

7. Future-oriented
Provide suggestions that will enable students to do better on future assignment.

8. Justifiable
Be ready and able to justify the grade that you have give.

9. Educative
Correct mistakes in both content and style.
Provide suggestions for improvements.
Be sure criticism is constructive, not destructive.

10. Be transparent in purpose and criteria

  1. Consider the assessment and evaluation you currently use in your courses & the purposes they achieve. (eg: Why do you assign a term paper? What are the learning outcomes of that term paper? Is it time well spent(too much or too little according to the importance of its learning outcome?)
  2. What elements make up your grading philosophy? (Marks for participation/attendance, do they get to try an assignment or test a second time?)
  3. How can you involve students in the assessment process (self/peer assessment, rubric creation, choosing deadlines, creating test items, etc.)?
  4. Do your assessment methods reward deep learning?
  5. Are you conscious of workload (student and self)?
  6. Are criteria for marks clear? Process for determining grades clear?
  7. Does practice and feedback occur prior to grading?
  • Are your assessments aligned with the learning outcomes? Do they aid students in understanding the core concepts and relationships on your map? Learning outcomes and assessment should drive the selection of instructional strategies, so you may have to revisit the chosen strategies.
  • Are there any learning outcomes for which you have not connected an assessment method or practice? Is this an oversight or a reflection of the relevance of the learning outcome? Is it covered elsewhere? Does it need to be eliminated? Do your learning outcomes need to be revised?
  • Do the assessments and practices fit your instructional context and the resources available to you? Check that the instructional strategies and assessment methods that you have planned actually enable students to practice and get feedback on the tasks they will be graded on.
  • Does the distribution of time and effort (yours and the students) reflect the importance of the learning outcomes and weightings you have assigned?
  • Is there a balance in and variety of assessments and practices across the learning outcomes?
  • Does the weighting of each assessment reflect the relative importance of its learning outcome? 

Designing for Academic Integrity

Although it is impossible to prevent all students from engaging in academic misconduct (in person and online), there are plenty of ways to reduce the chances for it.

Assessment Strategies

Once you have articulated the specific learning outcomes for your course, the next big question will be “How can my students demonstrate that they have achieved the outcome(s)?”

Assessment Resources