Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Designing and writing assessment tasks

Designing and writing assessment tasks

Designing and writing assessment tasks is complex. Here's some steps to consider.

end productLengthtask descriptionrequirements
contentsubmission methodstudent actionpresentation
titlesreturn dateLink to workplacemarking criteria
Weightingdue datelink to learning outcomesrationale

Steps to writing assessment tasks

End product

Think about what the end product will be. It needs to be clear to students what their end result is and how it relates to their profession. You’ve probably already done this in design stages of constructive alignment.

Content, data or information

What is the content area you what to assess and what sort of data or information will students need to access or research in order to achieve the end result? Think about how students will research the information and what obstacles might be in their way. If you’re going to ask students to do a research project, think about whether you need an ethics application.  Do you need to provide case studies or advise students of publicly available information?

Title

Use a descriptive title so that students are clear from the beginning what the end product of their task will be. If you use the term Assignment 1 but the assessment item number is 2 it can be confusing so it's best to avoid these nondescript titles. This section is limited to 50 characters including spaces.

When giving your assessment a title, think about how it will look in the summary table. The assessment item ‘type’ is set to assignment, so use a title that describes the assessment task to give students as much guidance as possible. Use familiar terms. For instance, if the task requires short answer responses, call it this; if it requires a blog post or discussion forum, then name the task to correspond with the format. This helps students to become familiar with university language and expectations, and they can access support on the different assessment types by searching for the appropriate term.

Titles must be unique: Titles may also be used by other CSU systems and processes, e.g. EASTS, grading, etc. To avoid errors, it is very important that all Assessment Items within an Outline have a unique Title, i.e. there cannot be 2 or more items entitled "Essay" or "Exam". A unique identifier must be added, e.g. Essay on Indigenous Health Issues or Mid-session Exam.

http://www.csu.edu.au/division/landt/interact/help/sot/index.html?search_for_an_outline.htm

Weighting

Assessment tasks can be marked using either a numerical value or a satisfactory (SY)/unsatisfactory (US) grading scale. If a numerical value (percentage) is selected, then standards of performance should be developed along the University’s grading system of HD-PS. SY/US should be used in cases when there is no numeric value ascribed to the assessment.

You will need to think carefully about the overall subject pass requirements for assessment tasks graded as SY/US. For example, if a student is marked as unsatisfactory can they pass the subject? If not, then the assessment task can be very ‘high-stakes’ compared with an assessment task valued at 10% where students can still pass the subject without passing that particular assessment task. You will need to include all pass requirements in the relevant section of the subject outline.

This information may also be used by other CSU systems, e.g. EASTS, grading, etc.

http://www.csu.edu.au/division/landt/interact/help/sot/index.html?search_for_an_outline.htm

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Due date

One of two (2) due date options must be selected for the assignment item to be deemed compliant. It is important to consider whether you need to include an early low-stakes assessment task in your subject. The assessment principles policy suggests that wherever possible, early low-stakes assessment tasks will be provided in first year undergraduate subjects. You should set the due date for these tasks before Week 4–5 (Census date) so there is plenty of time to provide feedback to students on their progress and achievement, and to identify those students in need of extra support. This page on designing first year assessment may help you.

This information may also be used by other CSU systems, e.g. EASTS.

The two (2) due date options are:

  • Due date
  • Variable date

Return date

The Return Date which is auto-calculated fifteen (15) business days from the selected Due Date will apply unless the 'Not returned' checkbox is selected.

http://www.csu.edu.au/division/landt/interact/help/sot/index.html?search_for_an_outline.htm

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Length

Provide the length requirement for the assignment item or state if the length of an assignment is not applicable, such as for laboratory reports.

Length of an assessment task is very important. It provides an indication of the depth of response required. Ensure that this is the overall word length of the assessment item and make some comment about whether you see this as a maximum, minimum or target for this assessment. Also include word length for separate parts if appropriate.

http://www.csu.edu.au/division/landt/interact/help/sot/index.html?search_for_an_outline.htm

Submission method

There are a number of options for submission. EASTS (online) is the default for Assignment items.  Students may submit in a number of ways. Check out the following link and select Submission methods for more information.

http://www.csu.edu.au/division/landt/interact/help/sot/index.html?search_for_an_outline.htm

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Task description

This is a critical part of the subject outline, where you explain what is required of the student. You should aim to have all the details in the subject outline because it is important for students to be able to make decisions on their ability to complete the tasks in the subject when they first enrol.

When working on the design of the task here  is a template document sourced from Claire Hughes (2009) Assessment as text production: drawing on systemic functional linguistics to frame the design and analysis of assessment tasks, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34 (5), 553-563 DOI: 10.1080/0202930802187316

You should consider what type of task  best suits the learning outcomes you want students to achieve.

atd framework
Fig 1: Claire Hughes (2009) Assessment as text production: drawing on systemic functional linguistics to frame the design and analysis of assessment tasks, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34 (5), 553-563 DOI: 10.1080/0202930802187316

Here are a number of important details that you should consider putting in the task description.

Student action  

  1. Ensure that your opening sentences clearly outline what the students will have to produce as an end result, then describe what and how they have to produce it. This, in combination with a descriptive title, goes a long way towards clear communication for students.
  2. Make sure that your language is clear and concise and that you address the student directly. Please reflect on your clarity of expression, and maybe have a colleague, a QLT Assessment Leader or an Educational Designer read through it to give you feedback on how clearly you have described the task.
  3. Ensure that you use the correct terminology for the task. For example, do not say essay if what you require is a report. You might like to use the following documents to ensure that you are using the correct terminology for your task. These links can also be provided to students to ensure a shared understanding.
  4. http://student.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/830347/Comparing-Assessment-Tasks.pdf

    http://student.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/463381/Common-Instruction-Words.pdf

  5. Explain in detail what the students need to do and think about in the assignment. For first year subjects in particular, it is useful to provide scaffolding as to what you require. This may take the form of headings, with explanations of each section. Provide any relevant supporting materials students may need to complete this task. There are many resources available at http://student.csu.edu.au/study. If you require something more specific that doesn’t exist, talk to the ALLaN Team about developing something that will meet your needsThink about links to the workplace or professional practice and use authentic and relevant material and practices in your assessment task so that you are building student skills in their professional as well as academic practice.
  6. If you have particular requirements in relation to content and structure, please explain these. For example, a business report will differ to a scientific report in the preferred use of Appendices. If the task has separate sections, indicate how many words are expected in each section.

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Referencing

Include the referencing requirements for the task, or if referencing is not required it is still useful to say so. You may like to include your expectations on the sources of information that are appropriate (e.g. text books, or peer-reviewed scientific literature) as well as some guide as to the number of references to include. You will need to clearly state the style of referencing that students should adhere to (e.g. APA6 or a discipline specific style). You may also provide a link to the referencing guide. Alternatively, use either the Presentation or Requirements section of an Assignment Item to state the required referencing style and link to the detail of the method on the i2 subject site or other online source. For example: APA referencing style: https://apps.csu.edu.au/reftool/apa-6

Any variable dates should be detailed here or within another appropriate section within the Assignment Item.

Rationale

Make sure that you link to learning outcomes and explain to students how the task relates to them.

The rationale is where you have the opportunity to show the links between the assessment task and the Learning Outcomes and describe the purpose of the task. Make sure that you are explicit in stating what Learning Outcomes the assessment task is assessing and then use these Learning Outcomes as a base to develop your criteria in your marking guide. In outlining the purpose of the task, you can identify the skills and knowledge students will develop, how the task will help them in subsequent tasks (if applicable), or the application of the task to real world problems or professional work. You may wish to explain the relationship of the assessment task to modules, weekly topics, timing within the session, residential school, or other assessment tasks. If Graduate Learning Outcomes or Graduate Attributes are being assessed in this task, then include a description and purpose for those as well, such as for life-long learning.

Check out this page http://www.csu.edu.au/division/landt/interact/help/sot/index.html?search_for_an_outline.htm for examples of rationales that link outcomes and the task and explain to students why they are doing the task and how it helps them achieve outcomes.

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Marking criteria

When you develop your marking criteria, you need to include all of the elements for criterion-referenced, standards-based assessment. Here are the essential elements:

  1. Criteria are aligned with the Learning Outcomes being assessed in the task. Use similar wording to the Learning Outcome so students can clearly see the links. Additional criteria can be included to assess other elements of the task that you value.
  2. Standards are developed across HD-PS for assessments with a numerical value, and for both satisfactory and unsatisfactory levels for assessments with no value. Use a taxonomy as a base for communicating your standards such as Bloom’s or SOLO taxonomy.
  3. Performance descriptors are written for each standard.
  4. Referencing requirements are stated in the criteria and standards.

In this section refer to the marking criteria, not marking rubric or rubric as many students do not know the meaning of this term. Remember to include all of your expectations and requirements in the marking criteria in clear, unambiguous terminology, and outline the standard expected. Marking criteria should not only relate to whether the task has been answered correctly, but also how the response has been presented in terms of language and style. If you require fluent use of English and grammar, this should be included in the criteria.

Marking criteria and standards can be presented in different formats. A set of criteria and standards can be presented in either list and table formats or a combination.

Table format

The most common format is a table where criteria aligned to learning outcomes are defined in the first column and the standards related to the criteria are on the right for each passing grade. A fail grade column is not required but some lecturers like to add it and it can be very helpful for the student to know what constitutes a Fail. It may also be mandated by your School or Faculty.

CriteriaHDDCRPS
Criteria define aligned to learning outcome Standard defined for HD related to the criteria Standard defined for D related to the criteria Standard defined for CR related to the criteria standard defined for PS related to the criteria

List format

A list format can also be used where criteria are listed at the top and a set of standards grouped under the grade heading. The criteria are required to be defined and not just the standards under each heading. See the Assessment Principles Policy for further information in the Section 2 - GLOSSARY for a definition of criteria and standards.

Criteria

Criterion 1

Criterion 2

Criterion 3

etc.

HD standard

each standard can be defined under the HD heading

standard 2

standard 3 etc.

D standard

each standard can be defined under the D heading

standard 2

standard 3 etc.

CR standard

each standard can be defined under the CR heading

standard 2

standard 3 etc.

PS standard

each standard can be defined under the PS heading

standard 2

standard 3 etc.

Table/List format combination

The list format can also be used in a combination list and table where the criteria are listed at the top and the grades and standards are in a table.

Criteria

Criterion 1

Criterion 2

Criterion 3

etc.

Grade levelStandards
HD
  • each standard can be defined under the HD heading
  • standard 2
  • standard 3 etc
D
  • each standard can be defined under the D heading
  • standard 2
  • standard 3 etc
CR
  • each standard can be defined under the CR heading
  • standard 2
  • standard 3 etc
PS
  • each standard can be defined under the PS heading
  • standard 2
  • standard 3 etc

http://www.csu.edu.au/division/landt/interact/help/sot/index.html?search_for_an_outline.htm

The page on developing quality assessment for your subject on the Division of Learning and Teaching’s Assessment website has more help and examples of rubrics. https://www.csu.edu.au/division/learning-and-teaching/home/assessment-and-moderation/assessment-resources-and-information/developing-quality-assessment-for-your-subject click on Criteria to assess tasks in the page for more information.

https://www.csu.edu.au/division/learning-and-teaching/home/assessment-and-moderation/assessment-resources-and-information/example-rubrics

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Presentation

Include details not covered in the task description that specifically relate to presentation. For example document format (e.g. Word doc, PDF), cover sheets, font size, layout.

Use either the Task, Presentation or Requirements section of an Assignment Item to state the required referencing style and link to the detail of the method on the i2 subject site or other online source.

Examples

  • Assessment tasks should be submitted on EASTS as a Microsoft Word document. Do not submit as a PDF document.
  • The first page should contain your name, student number, subject code, word count and due date. Please use 12 point font and avoid the use of fancy templates with added colour or graphics.
  • Lines should be double spaced.
  • The assessment tasks should be within +/- 10% of the word limit. The word count is taken from the first word to the last word and includes quotes. Quotes must comprise less than 10% of the total word count.
  • Proof-read your work so that it is free of spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. Use language that is appropriate to academic and professional tasks. Ensure you use respectful and appropriate terminology. For assistance, see Learning Skills: http://www.csu.edu.au/division/studserv/learning.
  • Your reference list should contain all source documents that you refer to, quote or paraphrase from. It must conform to the APA referencing style: https://apps.csu.edu.au/reftool/apa-6

Requirements

Please provide any other details regarding the requirements for the assignment. Include details such as submission requirements, pass requirements, or dress requirements for work placement or laboratory-based assessments.

Use either the Task, Presentation or Requirements section of an Assignment Item to state the required referencing style and link to the detail of the method on the i2 subject site or other online source. For example: APA referencing style: https://apps.csu.edu.au/reftool/apa-6.

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