Selecting assessment methods - making assessment fit-for-purpose
(This should be read in conjunction with the Steps in assessment design decisions guidelinesLink opens in a new window)
Provided that students are sufficiently supported in becoming familiar with each assessment method, using a wider range of assessment can enhance student learning and ensure that students are assessed across a range of abilities, which gives everyone some opportunities to play to their strengths. A well-developed course-level assessment strategy can ensure that the range of assessment conducted over the duration of a course provides suitable opportunities for all students to gradually develop and demonstrate a full range of knowledge, skills, competences and graduate attributes.
Colleagues might rely on a small range of familiar, traditional assessment methods. Whilst each assessment method has its own merit, making use of only a very restricted range of methods is unlikely to promote and support the development of all the intended learning outcomes of a module or a programme. At the same time, a holistic approach to assessment design that cumulatively satisfies all of the required conditions can be helpful in avoiding over-assessment, thus increasing manageability for both staff and students (Brown and Race, 2012).
Your choice of assessment methods and tasks is likely to be informed by a broad range of factors, such as:
- the intended learning outcomes
- the level of study
- the characteristics of the students
- the students' prior experience of assessment
- the students' understanding of academic integrity
- the availability of resources
- the disciplinary context
- the professional standards requirements
- the context of the module and its relationship to the wider programme
- the delivery mode of the module
- the pedagogical approach (for example, a case-based pedagogy would be unlikely to be highly dependent on assessment by exam).
Adopting a more strategic and holistic approach to the selection and design of assessment can require that you devote some time to exploring suitable assessment methods, consider their benefits and feasibility, and coordinate this process with colleagues across a course or programme.
The ideas given in this section of the site offer an introduction to a range of assessment methods. This is not an exhaustive list, rather it is intended as a starting point from which to adapt and develop ideas and approaches relevant to your own discipline and context. Indeed, before you explore potential methods, it might be useful to reflect on the following questions:
- What are the learning outcomes that you are going to assess?
- Which existing modes of assessment promote the desired learning outcomes? Which do not?
- To what extent are current assessment methods challenging, authentic and holistic?
- What kind of skill and knowledge are being demonstrated in each assessment task?
- Are all learning outcomes equally important?
- Does the weighting of each assessment task reflect the importance of the related intended learning outcomes?
- How will your class size influence your choice of assessment?
- How will resource constraints influence your choice of assessment?
- What technologies can you use to support the assessment?
As a guide, you might find the following table helps you think about which of the methods listed on the site might be worth considering for tour module and students.
Selecting assessment methods on the basis of intended learning outcomes
Intended learning outcomes
Ways to assess
Thinking critically and making judgements
Development of arguments, reflection, judgement, evaluation
Solving problems / developing plan
Identify problems, define problems, analyse data, review, design experiments, plan, apply information
Performing procedures and demonstrating techniques
Take readings, use equipment, follow procedures and protocols
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding
Recall, describe, report, identify, recognise, recount ++
Manage / develop self
Work cooperatively and independently, be self-directed, mange time and tasks
Designing, creating, performing
Design, create, perform ++
Assessing and managing information
Information search, retrieval, investigate, interpret, evaluate information
Written, oral and visual
after Nightingale et al, 1996
Assessment Toolkit University of New South Wales https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/assessment-toolkit