Assessment plays a pivotal role in motivating students to learn, in providing feedback on progress, and in providing measures of achievement. From the students’ perspective, assessment always defines the actual curriculum as it sends messages about the standard and amount of work required, and what aspects of the work covered are most important. It is not just something that happens at the end of the class (summative assessment), but something that happens throughout the learning process, with feedback guiding and informing students (formative assessment).
This concept of engaging students in assessments tasks to help them developer their learning rather than only for measuring their achievement of learning outcomes is considered as assessment as learning.
When students undertake assessment they are actually learning rather than regurgitating content or repeating what the teacher may have said. Instead assessment is used for students to identify gaps in their learning and to help students begin to fill these gaps. Through assessment, students should be able to identify what they have learned, what they need to learn and how to go about finding out what they need to know.
Further, assessment tasks need to be diverse, flexible, and relevant. Students must understand why they are being assessed a particular way and how it relates to their learning. Assessment should be clear for students so that they know what is being assessed and how they are being assessed at the beginning of their class.
Benefits of aligning assessments to learning outcomes
Keeping assessment as learning in mind, you should think about assessment strategies that you have in a class you teach. Do the assessments help your students develop their learning of the intended learning outcomes? Ensuring your assessments are constructively aligned with the rest of your curriculum, helps you to not only measure what you expect your students to be able to do at the end of a class, but also helps guide your students’ learning.
Benefits of assessments aligned with your curriculum:
- Students can see clearly what to focus on, and how to demonstrate their learning during assessment
- Assessment feedback framed around criteria that have been derived from the learning outcomes helps guide students towards what really counts in the class
- Teachers can use learning outcomes when planning learning and assessment activities and tasks. For example, they can map particular activity types to the relevant learning outcomes, and assign grading appropriate to the relative importance of those outcomes
- Teachers can also use the alignment framework when developing assessment criteria and strategies for engaging students in a dialogue about assessment, and when reflecting on the overall effectiveness of the curriculum and their teaching
Technologies for assessment
Various technologies can enhance the experience of assessment for both students and teachers:
- Online assessment submission eliminates the need for students to travel to campus just to submit an assessment on paper, and for teachers to carry assessments to the office, home, or back to the class while marking
- There are many different types of online tools designed to facilitate efficient marking and feedback, such as Turnitin GradeMark, or Review
- Authentic assessment tasks help students develop the skills and knowledge required for when they enter the workforce or pursue the next phase of their studies (eg. using a blog to report information learned to the community)
- Alternative ways of demonstrating learning (eg. students can choose to write a report, video record a presentation, or design a website).
Useful online assessment strategies
- Assessing with blogs
- Assessing with discussion forums
- Assessing with ePortfolios
- Assessing with Wikis
- Group tasks
- Peer assessment
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From Learning to Teach Online by Simon McIntyre, Dr Negin Mirriahi