Design for learning — Design assessments

Design assessments

Assessments are intended to measure knowledge acquisition, performance and capability development and should be aligned with intended learning outcomes. There are two types of assessment:

  • Formative assessments – conducted at specific intervals throughout a course to give students feedback on their performance and to give instructors information on how students are learning.
  • Summative assessments – conducted at the end of a unit or course for the purpose of assigning a grade.

 

Assessment design principles

Assessments should be designed in a way that is clear to the learner and supports their progression. The University recommends nine principles of assessment design:

  1. Assessment is learning-oriented through tasks which require the understanding, analysis, synthesis and/or creation of new information, concepts, and/or creative works
  2. Assessment design is coherent and supports learning progression within courses and across programmes.
  3. Assessment tasks are demonstrably aligned with course-level learning outcomes, and programme and University-level Graduate Profiles.
  4. Assessment is reliable and valid, and is carried out in a manner that is inclusive and equitable.
  5. Assessment practices are consistent and transparent, and assessment details are available to students in a timely manner.
  6. Feedback is timely and provides meaningful guidance to support independent learning.
  7. Assessment design and practices support academic integrity.
  8. Professional development opportunities and guidance related to the design, implementation and moderation of assessment are available to staff.
  9. Assessment is manageable and quality assured.

 

Assessment types

The following should be considered with principles of assessment in mind.

Essays and reports

Essays and reports allow students to demonstrate key academic skills such as research, analysis, and argumentation. The following can help students progressively develop these skills.

  • Set clear expectations – give clear instruction around what you expect to see in the essay/report and how it will be marked. This could include guidance on the depth of engagement with literature, formatting and referencing. See Marking Guides and Rubrics.
  • Minimise plagiarism – communicate expectations around academic integrity early and frequently throughout the course. Ensure that plagiarism checkers (such as Turnitin) are included in submission processes where appropriate.
  • Provide opportunity for feedback – provide a method for students to submit a draft essay/report for feedback or encourage them to review their own drafts against rubrics. Students learn how to engage with marking criteria and evaluate their work to identify improvements.
  • Provide exemplars – provide opportunities for students to review and critique the quality of exemplar essays/reports. This helps students identify the qualities of good or poor academic writing. See Academic Writing at Auckland.
  • Offer choices – provide a choice of questions to answer, submission methods and/or media, to cater for student diversity.
Exams and tests

Exams often assess knowledge recall and understanding, but it is more meaningful to test higher-order thinking skills.

  • Use question stems – open-ended questions are more likely to generate higher-order thinking such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Refer to this list of question stems for ideas.
  • Carefully craft multi-choice questions – these require careful planning to ensure that they adequately assess knowledge. Take note of the following points:
    • Avoid ‘All of the above’ and ‘None of the above’.
    • Avoid double negatives.
    • Use a consistent format and tone when presenting options. Students may work through a process of elimination as longer descriptions may be a clue to the correct answer.
    • Refer to the guidelines on crafting multi-choice questions.
  • Use simple language – questions should be designed to test conceptual understanding, not comprehension.
  • Consider time on task – as exams and tests are completed under time constraints, carefully consider the time you reasonably expect students to spend on each question.
  • Provide opportunities for practice – students will appreciate practice mock questions where appropriate.
Group assessments

Successful group work is largely contingent on preparation. Familiarise students with optimal group work techniques, how group tasks are set up, and the classroom environment, both physically and digitally.

  • Assess process and product – Students are likely to learn most from group work when you assess the ‘process’ of working in groups and the ‘product’ or outcome that you expect them to produce.
  • Consider how to organise groups – randomised groupings are often the most time-efficient way to arrange groups, though careful consideration should be given to forming effective groups.
  • . For example, consider the skills or capabilities that you would like peers to gain from the experience. Also, neurodiverse students may benefit from being assigned to a group that includes someone they already know.
  • Provide time to build relationships – Provide time for group members to build relationships and establish ways of working – students need to feel comfortable enough to contribute to the assessment. Encourage them to establish their own guidelines on how work will be managed and allocated, and how conflicts may be resolved.

Refer to these guidelines on enhancing experiences of group work.

Peer assessments

Peer assessments are a powerful way for students to learn from each other. Like group assessments, the success of peer assessment is largely contingent on how tasks are set up and the classroom environment, both physically and digitally.

  • Consider how to organise peers – randomised groupings are often the most efficient way to organise peer groups, though careful consideration should be given to this. For example, consider the skills or capabilities that you would like peers to gain from the experience. Also, neurodiverse students may benefit from being assigned to a group that includes someone they already know.
  • Provide time to build relationships – Provide time for peers to build relationships and establish ways of working – success requires trust and rapport, particularly when assessment occurs over a prolonged duration. Encourage them to establish their own guidelines on how work will be managed and allocated, and how conflicts will be resolved.
  • Provide opportunity for feedback – peer assessment should provide the opportunity for feedback. Provide guidance around providing constructive, non-confrontational feedback. Students benefit from opportunities to practice in a guided and supported environment.
Presentations

Presentations can be a great way for students to verbally articulate their knowledge and understanding, though public speaking may not come naturally.

  • Set clear expectations – give clear instruction around what you expect to see in the presentation and how it will be marked. This could include guidance on content, formatting, and presenting.
  • Model expected behaviour – students may base their presentation on your own presentation style so be mindful of some of the behaviour you expect to see and how you practice these in your own teaching.
  • Provide opportunities to practice – provide opportunities for students to practice their presentations with peers.
  • Encourage self-review – encourage students to video themselves and self-review their presentation. Students will learn how to evaluate their own work and identify improvements. This also gets them engaging with marking criteria.

Presentations may also be submitted digitally, such as slides and videos. This allows for broader, more diverse presentation skills than face-to-face presentations.

Self assessments

Self assessment provides opportunities for students to self monitor and improve their performance. These assessments help develop metacognitive abilities that students can use in a number of different contexts.

  • Provide guidance on reflective thinking – self-assessment often requires students to reflect on their own skills and capabilities in order to make judgements about their performance. Provide guidance on reflective thinking and look for ways to model this. For example, include reflective activities throughout the course to build familiarity with reflective thinking.
  • Provide clear and explicit marking criteria – as self assessment requires students to make judgements about themselves, provide clear and explicit marking criteria.
 

References

Davies, W. M. (2009). Groupwork as a form of assessment: Common problems and recommended solutions. Higher Education, 58(4), 563-584.