Assessment is important for course design and the learning process, helping to achieve constructive alignment. Effective assessment provides both a measure of learning as well as a motivation and mechanism for learning.
Assessment should be designed so that it can provide assurance that a student has achieved the course learning outcomes. Once you have chosen the right assessment type for your course, you need to write clear and cohesive instructions, develop the performance criteria and marking requirements, and establish a feedback process. These elements are discussed below.
As you develop your assessment, you should familiarise yourself with Lincoln University’s policies and procedures related to assessment including, but not limited to:
Assessment design considerations
When designing the assessment in your course, you need to consider the course learning outcomes that you are assessing to ensure there is constructive alignment. This helps to ensure your assessment is valid. Good assessment should also be fair, transparent, reliable, feasible and have educational impact. The use of authentic assessment helps students to develop work-ready skills as well as helping maintain academic integrity and reduce the possibilities for cheating.
Authentic assessment can include the use of scenario-based questions which require learners to apply what they have learned to realistic situations. These types of questions often test knowledge better than simple questions and can be used with different assessment formats including multiple-choice questions.
Also think about the number of assessment items you have, the sequencing of the assessment items and the scheduling of the assessment items. For each assessment item, consider whether the assessment will be formative or summative, and the assessment type (eg written assignment, project, test). Other considerations include the use of:
Including group assessment in your course is beneficial for both students and teachers, providing an opportunity for teachers to help students develop work-ready skills including:
- Confidence working in diverse teams
- Productive collaboration
- Project planning
Group assessments should be used to assess some of these skills, as they are not necessarily able to be developed in individual assessment. When using group assessment remember to assess the learning related to these skills and not just the content.
If you are including group assessment, it is important to create a balance between group assessment and individual assessment. Suggested approaches include:
- Having a mix of assessment that is individual and group-based
- Including an individual component to your group assessment item
- Incorporating a peer assessment of group member contributions
Self-assessment provides an opportunity for students to reflect on and analyse their own learning from the assessment task. A predetermined marking rubric can be used. Any self-assigned mark should not form part of the course grade, however, assigning grades for participating in self-assessment could be part of the course grade.
Peer assessment is beneficial for students increasing time on task and helping them develop critical thinking, analysis, communication and feedback skills while also developing independence as a learner. It can also help reduce marking workload for academic staff. Peer assessment can be undertaken by one or more students in the course using a predetermined marking rubric. The peer-assigned mark can contribute to the overall course grade for the student being assessed, and grades can also be assigned to students for completing the peer assessment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a move to online submissions of all assessment items. It is important to note that effective online assessment is rarely a matter of transposing existing assessment items into an online context – effective online assessment is primarily informed by pedagogical considerations, with technical factors being important but secondary to the process. If online assessment items are designed effectively, they can be reusable and scalable, thus requiring little more effort to administer to a large class of several hundred students than to a small class of fewer than 20 students.
Invigilation is useful for providing assurance that the assessment is completed by the student. Invigilation is often a requirement of professional body or industry accreditation but can be used in all courses. Invigilation is typically used for scheduled timed assessments such as tests and final examinations.
Contact the Exams Office to discuss your invigilation needs.
Synchronous assessment, or scheduled timed assessment, is often referred to as a quiz, test, or final examination. Take-home exams are a form of non-invigilated scheduled timed assessment that typically lasts for 48-72 hours.
During a scheduled timed assessment, students may be able to access other material such as their study notes or textbook (open book), they may have restrictions on what material can be accessed (restricted open book), or they may not be able to access any other material (closed book). When deciding, consider the learning outcome you are trying to assess and the benefits to students of having an open book versus closed book assessment. In an online assessment environment, there is a tendency to allow open book due to the difficulties in determining what material students are accessing. Open book assessment questions are often framed differently to closed book assessment questions, and there are expectations of higher quality student work.
If a piece of assessment in your course is the only piece of assessment that assesses a particular course learning outcome, you may choose to make the assessment item mandatory. It is important to have a process for managing students who do not, for whatever reason, complete mandatory assessment as there is an implication on student grades. Refer to the current Examiners’ Meeting Manual for guidance on course grades when there is mandatory assessment.
If a piece of assessment in your course is the only piece of assessment that assesses a particular course learning outcome, you may choose to set a sub-minimum mark for the assessment item. If used, sub-minimums are typically set for final pieces of assessment such as final examinations or projects rather than for earlier items of assessment. Achieving the sub-minimum is a mandatory component of the course and there is an implication on student grades. Refer to the current Examiners’ Meeting Manual for guidance on course grades when there is mandatory assessment.
When developing the assessment, consideration should be given to how the assessment minimises the potential for plagiarism – both deliberate and inadvertent. Assessment should be interesting and challenging for students. The assessment name as well as the assessment instructions needs to be clear and specific. Instructions should be made available to students as early as possible – ideally at the start of the course.
Key information to include in the instructions is:
- What is the purpose of the assessment? Who is the intended audience?
- Be clear and cohesive and guide students. Be mindful of the instruction words (eg describe, explain, identify) you are using and that they align with your performance criteria standards.
- What format is required?
- What are the referencing requirements?
- Due date and time, and penalties for late submission
- Individual or group assessment. If group, what size groups and how is group membership determined
- Process for submission, eg upload pdf file to dropbox on Akoraka | Learn course page
- Appropriate format and presentation, eg font style and size, line spacing, page length, title page, appendices
- Special instructions, eg use of APA 7th referencing style
For example: Assessment 1 should be submitted online on the Akoraka | Learn course page prior to the due date and time noted below. Uploading Assessment 1 also submits your assessment to Turnitin – plagiarism detection software. The report generated by Turnitin will be useful for reviewing your referencing and thus all students are able to submit their Assessment 1 early, review the Turnitin report and make any necessary changes before submitting the final copy of their assessment for marking.
- State the contribution to the course grade
- Show the marks allocated to each component (including format and referencing)
- Ideally, include the full marking rubric
- For scheduled timed assessment, an indication of the distribution of marks across questions and between different sections (if applicable) is sufficient.
Assessment types and formats
Assessment types include:
- Descriptive – provide information of facts related to learning content
- Analytical – unpack and organise information in multiple sources
- Reflective – reflect on personal experiences, opinions, events and learning
- Persuasive – present one or more perspective(s) on a topic to persuade others
- Creative – create original, imaginary responses to narratives
- Responsive – respond to hypothetical situations or scenarios; often taking on a vocational role
- Design-based – design or plan a new text, resource or solution
- Engagement-based – engage in learning opportunities (eg attend group meetings, contribute to group discussions)
Each assessment type has several possible assessment formats, and it is important to be specific in your choice of format and assessment name to avoid confusion. This article by Michael D. Sankey provides examples of some of the assessment formats that can be used to assess student learning. It is not an exhaustive list and other assessment formats can, and are, used in Lincoln University courses.
Akoraka | Learn has several activities that can be used for different assessment formats. Many of the Akoraka | Learn activities can be used for group assessment, however some are more suited than others. For more guidance on using Akoraka | Learn for assessment see Ākona te Akoraka | Learn about Learn. Other teaching tools can also be used for assessment.
Performance criteria and marking rubrics
All assessment tasks should be designed and marked against criteria that is linked to the course learning outcomes.
One approach to use to help identify your performance criteria is to think about the best and worst student work and identify the specific characteristics that made it that way – eg clarity, originality, organisation, formatting, use of evidence.
It is important to clearly articulate to students prior to submission the performance criteria for each assessment item. This will help to avoid unnecessary confusion about expectations, set the standard for students to meet, motivate students to improve their performance, enable students to self-assess and review their work as they complete the assessment, and help you to clarify your assessment instructions. At a minimum, the criterion, the expected qualities and the marks allocated should be specified. However, the best approach is to provide students with the full marking rubric.
A marking rubric describes, for each performance criterion, the expected qualities and characteristics at different levels of performance. Cells in the marking rubric should contain a description of the characteristics expected at that level and the marks allocated. This provides students with clarity about the expected depth and breadth of the knowledge and skills to be demonstrated.
If you are using a team of markers, a marking rubric should be used. The lead marker should discuss the marking rubric with the marking team, prior to the marking, to reach agreement on the interpretation of the characteristics for each level of performance. It is also important that the lead marker undertake a moderation exercise by independently assessing a sample of assessments and discussing the outcome with the appointed marker, and by comparing a sample of the first items assessed with the last items assessed.
There are many formats for marking rubrics – ask your students for feedback on your marking rubric.
Moderation is a process whereby another party reviews assessment activities for, inter alia, appropriateness of content consistent with learning outcomes, levels, clarity of assessment instructions, marking criteria, marking guidelines or marking rubrics.
Moderators are responsible for assessing whether the proposed assessment item is:
- consistent with the assessed learning outcomes, at the level of the course.
- achievable in the context of the assessment event
- unambiguous and clearly conveys what is required in the response.
Moderation may be performed internally (within the University) or externally (by parties external to the University). Internal moderation must be undertaken on all assessments worth 10% or more of the course grade prior to the assessment becoming available to students. Smaller assessments may also be moderated, and this may be required depending on the Faculty/Division or programme of study that your course contributes to. External moderation is a form of benchmarking involving an outside party, sometimes required for the University’s accreditation. External moderation may be undertaken after the assessment task has been completed and may also include a review of student work and marking.
Feedback is a mechanism for informing students of how well they have demonstrated competence in the performance criteria. Feedback should assist students with their learning and help them improve their performance. To do so, feedback needs to be more than whether the answer was correct or incorrect – explain what the correct answer is and why, or redirect students to where they can find the correct answer.
Feedback can be provided through the marks allocated, the marking rubric, provision of model answers, markers comments on individual student work and overall feedback to all students in the course. The nature of feedback will depend on the assessment task, its timing and its weighting. Feedback is often provided in written format, but you could use audio or video to share your thoughts with your students.
It is important to try to provide feedback on all pieces of in-term assessment in such a way that it facilitates student learning. Try to provide feedback as soon as possible, normally within three weeks of the date of submission, so that it can be of use for subsequent assessment items both in your course and in other courses.