Micro-module
Materials

In brief:

  • Your choice of assessment methods will depend on the type and level of learning outcomes you have defined for your course.
  • By using a variety of assessment methods, you can assess a wider range of skills, give students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways, and get more reliable results.

In order to select the most appropriate assessment methods and learning outcomes, you’ll need to work with clear learning outcomes statements. For help with this, please refer to the module on Learning Outcomes. A well-written learning outcome will often point to varied and appropriate modes of assessment.

Diversify your assessment methods

Instructors often rely on the most commonly used types of assessments, such as exams, essays, quizzes and presentations. While quizzes and exams should certainly have their place in higher education assessment, a heavy reliance on these methods, especially multiple-choice assessment methods, tends to encourage a surface approach to learning1. Students focus on strategies to pass or get a good grade rather than mastering the subject matter and developing competencies. Depending on your discipline, content, and your learning outcomes, other assessment methods might be more suitable.

For example, a Supply Chain Management course with the outcome demonstrate the use of effective written and oral communication, critical thinking, team building and presentation skills as applied to business problems would be well-suited to an authentic assessment that presents students with a contextualized problem (typical in supply chain management work) and requires them to problem solve, communicate with stakeholders etc in a simulation exercise. The use of more authentic-type assessments can better evaluate this outcome and provide the student with valuable feedback to help them develop in this area. As another example, for a learning outcome which states that students should be able to develop mixed media work that demonstrates creative uses of processes, materials, and concepts, a portfolio would be an appropriate way to assess this learning outcome rather than a single exam.

In addition, use the same assessment method, such as high-stakes exams, can repeatedly disadvantage students whose performance is impaired due to test anxiety. By using a variety of assessment methods, you give students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in multiple ways. As the Instructor, you can also get more reliable and comprehensive results. Furthermore, providing a range of assessment methods is key to inclusive teaching and assessment practices2,3, which are highly valued at Concordia University.

Align your assessment with levels of learning

Another important consideration for planning assessment methods is to ensure that your assessment task is appropriate to your learning outcome. The Learning Outcomes module discusses the importance of situating your learning outcomes at the appropriate level of learning. The type of learning you are targeting will dictate the type of assessment your should conduct. For example, if a learning outcome states that the student should be able to summarize the arguments of two different authors, but the assessment task asks them to compare and critique the arguments of those authors, they are assessed at a higher level of learning than what was conveyed as requirement. If you expect students to be able to compare and critique different arguments, it should be made transparent to students in the learning outcome statement.

When you are ready to begin constructing your assessment plan, be sure to use the Course Alignment Table Template you worked with in the Learning Outcomes module. This will ensure you select the appropriate assessment tasks and diversify your assessment methods.

Assessment Selection Tool

Your assessment methods should be based on the type and level of learning you want to evaluate. Class size and discipline area, among other things, may also factor in to your decisions. Ensuring your assessments align with the type of knowledge and level of learning you need to assess and diversifying your assessment tasks will improve student engagement and provide a more robust evaluation of student achievement. The table below categorizes learning that is commonly evaluated in Higher Education and lists some examples of standard academic tasks and authentic assessment methods (tasks that mimic the way knowledge is used in the real world) 

The table below categorizes learning that is commonly evaluated in Higher Education and lists some examples of standard academic tasks and authentic assessment methods (tasks that mimic the way knowledge is used in the real world)Use it as a tool to help you select appropriate assessment methods for your learning outcomes. 

Recall, describe, report, recount, recognize, identify, relate, interrelate, exemplify, classify, summarize, compare, explain, infer, etc.

Assessment Methods

Standard academic task examples:

  • Presentation, Essay, Report, Summary, Compare & Contrast, Selected Response (True/False, Label a Diagram, Multiple Choice, Matching), Constructed Response (Short Answer Question, Self-evaluation, Peer review).

Authentic task examples:

  • Dictionary/ glossary/ encyclopaedia entry;
  • Graphical representation or analogy;
  • Identify examples in everyday life;
  • “In Plain English” video aimed at general public.

Identify problems, pose problems, define problems, analyze data, review, design experiments, plan, apply information, etc.

Assessment Methods

Standard academic task examples:

  • Case Analysis, Research Proposal, Collaborative Project Work

Authentic task examples:

  • Problem scenario;
  • Inquiry committee;
  • Grant application;
  • Experiment design;
  • Data visualization (chart);
  • Proposals (project, business, development, etc.)

Imagine, visualize, design, produce, create, innovate, perform, plan, generate, build

Assessment Methods

Standard academic task examples:

  • Portfolio, Performance, Presentation, Business Plan.

Authentic task examples:

  • Model or prototype;
  • Web site, pamphlet, poster, video.

Develop arguments, reflect, evaluate, assess, judge, critique, analyze, differentiate, organize, etc.

Assessment Methods

Standard academic task examples:

  • Essay, Report, Journal, Critique, Book Review, Problem sets.

Authentic task examples:

  • Briefing paper for a committee;
  • Case presentation for an interest group;
  • Advisory report (about policy, public health matters);
  • Newspaper article/blog post;
  • Podcast.

Compute, use equipment, follow laboratory procedures, follow protocols, carry out instructions, etc.

Assessment Methods

Standard academic task examples:

  • Demonstration, Role Play, Lab Report, Poster Presentation.

Authentic task examples:

  • How-to video;
  • Illustrated manual;
  • Graphic workflow;
  • Design a simulation.

Research, investigate, interpret, organize information, review and paraphrase information, collect data, search and manage information sources, etc.

Assessment Methods

Standard academic task examples:

  • Annotated bibliography, Research Project, Dissertation;

Authentic task examples:

  • Consultation;
  • Design Thinking workshop.
Note: the above lists of learning targets and assessment methods should not be considered comprehensive
Download Assessment Selection Tool PDF

References

1Scouller, K. (1998). The influence of assessment method on students' learning approaches: Multiple choice question examination versus assignment essay. Higher Education, 35(4), 453-472.

2Thomas, L. (2002). Student retention in higher education: the role of institutional habitus. Journal of education policy, 17(4), 423-442.

3Waterfield, J., & West, B. (2010). Inclusive Assessment: Diversity and inclusion – the assessment challenge. Plymouth: The University of Plymouth. Retrieved February, 25, 2013.