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Let’s talk about the ‘A’ word

Written by Lee Carter, Learning Designer

Assessment, it’s the thing that gives students sleepless nights and can also cause just as many issues for some academics. So as we continue to live in a constantly changing world how can we ensure we are delivering rich, authentic assessments that support students but provide rigour and relevance to the courses being taught?

What should assessment look like?

For me as a learning designer and former educator, assessment must start with learning outcomes. Learning outcomes provide the foundation that all course assessment is based on. They should inform everything that is taught and should be explicitly assessed throughout the course. Assessment should also support students in their learning journey, let’s not aim to make it easy to pass courses but make it hard to fail. To achieve this we need to provide rich, engaging and challenging assessment activities with scaffolded support mechanisms such as rubrics, marking criteria and useful feedback.

Assessment should also be an authentic experience for the student, to ensure purpose and relevance are explicit and gives learners an opportunity to not only demonstrate the knowledge that they have acquired but also enables them to demonstrate deeper thinking and other relevant skills. As such, for me, assessment tasks should allow students to demonstrate critical and creative thinking skills, problem solving abilities and risk taking. Let’s not create assessment tasks that ask students to regurgitate facts and course content, instead let’s get them to use the knowledge learnt to investigate, analysis, synthesis, predict and create.

Rich assessment should also be relevant and authentic for the student. Feedback from recent students on current assessment tasks has highlighted the need for assessment which is work integrated and demonstrates a clear path between study and the workforce. Students are genuinely interested in assessment tasks that they understand can be applicable and useful in a future career.

Why is feedback so important?

A crucial part of relevant and useful assessment, particularly assessment for and as learning, is timely and meaningful feedback. Timely in the sense that when a student receives it they have the opportunity to apply it, and meaningful to the student as an individual – how does the feedback received address their needs, their progress, their vision of success? MyUni can also provide indicators through the LMS analytics to support the identification of students who may be struggling whilst emerging technologies such as “On Task’ can enable academics to connect individually with students.

So, next time you face the ‘A’ word…

Ask yourself whether you are providing an assessment environment that is creative, challenging, innovative and best serves your students as they move into the future. This may look different for every course but could include ideas such as infographic creation, eportfolios, presentations or even model design.

Wanting to start a conversation on assessment?

For more information or support on creating rich assessment tasks please contact our Learning Design team.


Lee Carter

Lee Carter is a Learning Designer who works with academic staff to provide pedagogical and solid practice advice in blended and online learning.

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