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Assessment methods

Selecting assessment methods - making assessment fit-for-purpose
(This should be read in conjunction with the Steps in assessment design decisions guidelines)

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 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

Expected students
attributes

Ways to assess

Thinking critically and making judgements

Development of arguments, reflection, judgement, evaluation

Essay-variants: articles and reviews

Reports

Simulations

Solving problems / developing plan

Identify problems, define problems, analyse data, review, design experiments, plan, apply information

Group work

Work-based

Objective tests: short answer

Essay-variants: articles and reviews

Essay-variants: briefing / policy papers

Simulations

Performing procedures and demonstrating techniques

Take readings, use equipment, follow procedures and protocols

Lab notebooks and reports

Performance

Demonstrate knowledge and understanding

Recall, describe, report, identify, recognise, recount ++

Oral presentations

Objective tests: mcqs & short answer

Reflection: journals & (b)logs

Concept maps

Reports

Manage / develop self

Work cooperatively and independently, be self-directed, mange time and tasks

Reflection: journals & (b)logs

Group work

Patchwork

Designing, creating, performing

Design, create, perform ++

Oral presentations

Performance

Assessing and managing information

Information search, retrieval, investigate, interpret, evaluate information

Annotated bibliographies

Concept maps

Essay-variants: research proposal

Posters

Communicating

Written, oral and visual

Essay-variants: all

Oral presentations

Group work

Posters

Concept maps

after Nightingale et al, 1996