Using assessment to improve student learning

22 February 2023

Assessment has several purposes in a course including promoting and enhancing learning, measuring learning, testing students’ competence in achieving the learning outcomes, and informing teaching practices.

Designing effective assessments takes time and there are many elements to consider. Once you have decided on the assessment type and format that best aligns with your course learning outcomes, there are several other aspects to consider including the requirements, instructions, performance criteria, and the feedback process.

Think about the following questions as you design each assessment item:

  1. What do you want students to know and do?
  2. Where/how will students be given opportunities to learn this knowledge and these skills?
  3. How will you know if students have acquired this knowledge and these skills? How can students demonstrate they know and can do what you want them to?

Making assessment instructions available early provides better opportunities for students to manage their workload, seek further guidance from the Examiner, seek guidance from the Learning Advisors in LTL, and review the Turnitin similarity report and make necessary changes. Your assessment instructions should be clear and student-oriented – clarify the underlying question/problem that students need to address and separate this from other information such as helpful hints, format/presentation, referencing, submission requirements, and the performance criteria.

Including the following key elements in your performance criteria will help to clarify requirements for students and improve the marking process:

  • What the task is assessing and what students will be graded on
  • Criteria (how will you know if students have acquired the intended knowledge and skills?)
  • Mark weighting
  • Discrimination between standards of performance
  • Marking rubric or marking guide

Another key aspect of assessment is feedback. Feedback is a continuous dialogue throughout the learning journey and there are ways to make the feedback you provide students more meaningful and effective. Using multiple opportunities for feedback in your course and assessment will improve the student learning journey. Think about including:

  • Explanations of assessment and performance criteria (eg via an assessment walk-through video)
  • Discussions of exemplars of high‐ and low‐quality student work
  • Evaluations of pre‐assessment activities (eg outlines, plans, drafts)
  • Individualised and class feedback when marking assessment
  • Peer‐review and/or self‐evaluation


To find out more about how you can use your assessment to improve student learning, see the useful resources below, contact a member of Teaching Quality (, and book a place in our upcoming assessment workshops:

  • Designing effective marking rubrics: Wednesday 1 March, 10.00 – 11.30 am
  • Marking assessments online: Wednesday 15 March, 9.00 – 10.30 am
  • Giving great feedback: Wednesday 22 March, 11.30 – 1.00 pm


Useful resources:

Assessment page on Te Kete Wānaka

Tip on Giving great feedback on assessment

Past Assessment-related workshops (including Best practice in assessment; Writing clear and cohesive assessment instructions; Assessment walk-through videos; Writing good multiple-choice questions; and Writing good quizzes, tests and exams)

Policy and Procedures related to assessment (including Assessment Policy, Assessment Guidelines, Completing assessments in te reo Maori, and Guidelines for Examiners)