Guide To Teaching and Learning

Thinking About Assessments

Thinking about Assessments

The next step in backward design is to think about how students will demonstrate that they’ve achieved the learning outcomes and how you will know whether students have accomplished the desired learning and at the levels that you want.  Assignments both help students learn and can be used to assess student learning. Keep this in mind as you plan course assignments: Is the purpose of the assignment to aid students in achieving the course learning goals, to demonstrate what they have learned, or both? Align your assignments and assessments with the course learning goals rather than peripheral aspects of the course. There will be other considerations in finalizing assessments as well:

  • Consider how different formats and technologies can allow you to assess different learning goals.
  • Gauge the workload of each unit and the class as a whole. Remember that most students are taking several other courses. In addition to formal, graded assignments, student learning can be assessed through less formal means, such as response papers, class discussions, and more. Frequent informal, low- and no-stakes assessments have been demonstrated to be a significant aid to learning.
  • Space assignments and assessments throughout the semester so that students have adequate time to complete them.
  • Consider allowing students to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways: some might be visually adept, others prefer working with words, some are auditory. Are there different ways different students might show you what they’ve learned?
  • Determine your grading system and weight the assignments appropriately.
  • Consider using grading rubrics and sharing them with your students. This is both a transparent teaching practice and allows students to clearly see what they will be evaluated and how. It also allows them to evaluate themselves and takes the mystery out of your grading.

You can find more guidance on creating an assessment plan and creating grading rubrics and in the University’s Assessment of Student Learning resources for faculty.

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