Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Assessment Types and Methods

Assessing subject learning outcomes is the main focus of assessment, so analysing what you are looking for in the outcomes can help you define what skills and knowledge you are asking students to demonstrate, subsequently guiding what type or method of assessment you could use. You can include other academic skills such communication, digital and information literacies, ethics and reflective practice. These skills are often blended into subject learning outcomes and can encompass other graduate learning outcomes as well.

Subject learning outcomes include

  • student action or skill, usually identified through a verb such as describe, analyse, evaluate, design or create which indicates the development of skill which can be a cognitive skill or one used in professional practice;
  • a content area of knowledge; and
  • a context or professional environment or practice in which the student can apply the skills and knowledge.

If your criteria and standards have been focused around the skills and knowledge to be assessed, you have the opportunity to find different methods and formats of assessment that still assess them without having to do much, if anything, to change your rubric.

The first step in deciding on your assessment method is to analyse your learning outcome.

  • Examine each of your learning outcomes for a selected task and identify the skills you are asking students to demonstrate. Review what action you want them to take, is it a cognitive skill or a professional or practical skill?
  • Think about the level of thinking you want students to demonstrate, are they lower order thinking skills or higher order thinking skills? The level of thinking is related to the verb in the learning outcome which indicates what skill the student is expected to achieve. Look at Revised Bloom’s taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002) or SOLO taxonomy (Biggs, n.d.) to get a sense of what each level might be expected to do in relation to your learning outcome. The following table providesd some terminology usually associated with each level of taxonomy.

Student actions for each level of thinking based on taxonomies:

RememberUnderstandApplyAnalyseEvaluateCreate
Choose, Define, Find, Label, List, Match, Name,  Recall, Relate, Select,  Show, Spell, Tell, What, When, Where, Which, Who, Why Classify, Demonstrate, Explain, Extend, Illustrate, Infer, Interpret, Outline, Relate, Rephrase, Show, Summarize, Translate Apply, Build, Choose, Construct, Develop, Experiment with, Identify, Interview, Make use of, Model, Organize, Plan, Select, Solve, Utilize Analyse, Assume, Categorize, Classify, Compare, Conclude, Contrast, Discover, Dissect, Distinguish, Divide, Examine, Inference, Inspect, Motive, Relationships, Simplify, Survey, Test For, Theme Appraise, Assess, Award, Choose, Criticize, Deduct,  Defend, Determine, Disprove,  Estimate, Evaluate, Explain, Influence, Interpret, Judge, Justify, Measure, Opinion, Perceive, Prioritize, Prove, Rate, Recommend, Select, Support, Value Adapt, Build, Change, Choose,  Combine, Compile, Compose,  Construct, Create, Delete, Design, Develop, Discuss , Elaborate,  Estimate, Formulate, Imagine,  Improve, Invent, Make up, Maximize, 

Alternative Assessment Types to Include Specific Skills

Assessment tasks can vary each time you deliver a subject while the skills and content being assessed in the subject stays the same. Alternative task formats allow students to demonstrate their learning towards achieving subject learning outcomes and  Graduate Learning Outcomes 

For example:

  • If you are assessing the ability to research and present information you can ask students to present the information through audio, video, presentations, information sheets, data representations in graphical form, or report or essay format.
  • If you were developing communication skills through digital literacy you might ask students to use an online format such as a blog, a wiki or a journal. The scholarly information can be presented using an alternative form to an essay or report.
  • An eportfolio might be used to ask students to reflect on their practices,
  • Social media could be used to encourage students to develop skills in ethical, legal and safe use of the online environment.
Table: Types of assessment task mapped against the intended learning outcome.

A downloadable file on types of assessment with examples and suggestions for use is available.

Generic learning outcomesAssessment types that can align with the skills sets of intended Learning Outcomes
Thinking critically and making judgments
(Developing arguments, reflecting,  evaluating, assessing, judging)
Essay
Report
Journal
Letter of advice to...
Present a case for an interest group
Prepare a committee briefing paper for a specific meeting
Book review (or article) for a particular journal
Write a newspaper article for a foreign newspaper
Comment on an article’s theoretical perspective
Solving problems and developing plans
(Identifying problems, posing problems, defining problems, analysing data,  reviewing, designing experiments, planning, applying information)
Problem scenario
Group work
Work-based problem
Prepare a committee of enquiry report
Draft a research bid to a realistic brief
Analyse a case
Conference paper (or notes for a conference paper plus
annotated bibliography)
Performing procedures and demonstrating
Techniques (Computation, taking readings, using equipment, following laboratory procedures, following protocols,
carrying out instructions)
Demonstration
Role play
Make a video (write script and produce/make a video)
Produce a poster
Lab report
Prepare an illustrated manual on using the equipment, for a
particular audience
Observation of real or simulated professional practice
Managing and developing oneself
(Working co-operatively, working independently, learning independently, being self-directed, managing time, managing tasks, organising)
Journal
Portfolio
Learning contract
Group work
Accessing and managing information
(Researching, investigating, interpreting, organising information, reviewing and paraphrasing information, collecting data, searching and managing information sources, observing and interpreting) /td>
Annotated bibliography
Project
Dissertation
Applied task
Applied problem
Demonstrating knowledge and understanding
(Recalling, describing, reporting, recounting, recognising,
identifying, relating and interrelating)

Written examination
Oral examination
Essay
Report
Comment on the accuracy of a set of records
Devise an encyclopaedia entry
Produce an A–Z of ...
Write an answer to a client’s question
Short answer questions: True/False/ Multiple Choice
Questions (paper-based or computer-aided assessment)
Add or edit to a Wikipedia article

Designing, creating, performing
(Imagining, visualising, designing, producing, creating,
innovating, performing)

Portfolio
Performance
Presentation
Hypothetical
Projects
Communicating
Express learning in poetry

Communicating
(One and two-way communication, communication
within a group, verbal, written and non-verbal
communication. Arguing, describing, advocating,
interviewing, negotiating, presenting, using specific
written forms)
Written presentation (essay, report, reflective paper, etc.)
Oral presentation
Group work
Discussion/debate/role play
Participate in a “Court of Enquiry”
Presentation to camera
Observation of real or simulated professional practice

Source: Teaching @UNSW | Assessment Toolkit Aligning Assessment with Outcomes Document Version Date 07/08/2015 teaching.unsw.edu.au/aligning-assessment-learning-outcomes (Dunn, 2010, adapted from Nightingale et al., 1996). University of New South Wales

Categorising assessment

There are a number of different ways to categorise assessment. Generally, assessment is divided into diagnostic, formative or summative.

Diagnostic testing or assessment may be carried out prior to or early in the teaching session to provide the student with feedback on their progress and understanding. The purpose of this type of assessment is often referred to as early, low-stakes assessment and you can read more about designing assessment for first year students on the Division of Learning and Teaching, Assessment and Moderation website. Diagnostic testing can also be carried out prior to session start to determine what skills and knowledge students have about particular areas related to their study. This is usually so that learning can be more directed for students depending on their results of testing.

Formative assessment or assessment FOR  learning - Formative assessment has been defined in different ways (Dennis, 2016); formative  assessment when accompanied by feedback from teachers and from their fellow students can be used to modify teaching strategies to meet learning needs; formative assessment provides students with feedback on progress and identifies areas for improvement and provides teaching staff with information on where their students need to improve. Formative assessment can also be defined as assessments methods to improve teaching or learning.

Some examples of assessment FOR learning are presented:

ContextAssessment type
In-Class In -class quizzes/problem sheets
  Formative Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ’s) in class
  One minute test
  In-class peer- and self-review of work against set criteria
  In-class discussions
  In-class feedback on assignment/assessments
Online Online formative MCQ’s developed by students
  Problem-solving activities
  Online formative MCQ’s developed by staff
  Participation in online discussions, blogs or wikis
Out of class Use of pre-submission checklist for assessment
  Research activity as a group

Source: O’Neill, G. (2015). Curriculum Design in Higher Education: Theory to Practice. Dublin: UCD Teaching & Learning. ISBN 9781905254989  http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/UCDTLP0068.pdf.

Much emphasis is given these days to self-reflective assessments by students known as “Assessment AS learning” .These are assessments in which students reflect on and monitor their own progress to inform their future learning goals (O’Neill, 2015).

Summative assessment or assessment OF learning - tasks assess the achievement of the student learning against the intended learning outcome. Summative assessment occurs at a chosen point in instruction and results in the final form of a grade. These grades are quite often used as a means to identify and discriminate the level of achievement of learning outcomes by students.

The reports obtained from these summative assessments provide the evidence of student achievement related to learning.Rather than informing teaching or learning in the current session, they are valuable for reflecting and evaluating subject design for subsequent offerings.

Dennis (2016) provides a following list of question that can enable instructors to judge the summative assessment

  • Does it focus on how students learn?
  • Is it sensitive and constructive?
  • Does it foster motivation?
  • Does it promote understanding of goals and criteria?
  • Does it help learners to know how to improve?
  • Does it develop the capacity for self-assessment?
  • Does it recognize all educational achievements?

References and Resources

O’Neill, G. (2015). Curriculum Design in Higher Education: Theory to Practice. Dublin: UCD Teaching & Learning. ISBN 9781905254989 http://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/UCDTLP0068.pdf.

Boud, D., Sadler, R., Joughin, G., James, R., Freeman, M., Kift, S., & Webb, G. (2010). Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education. Sydney, Australia: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

Nottingham Trent University (2013). CADQ Guide: Formative assessment and feedback. Centre for Academic Development and Quality, Nottingham Trent University. Retrieved from https://www4.ntu.ac.uk/adq/document_uploads/assessment_awards/137923.pdf

Boud, D., & Dochy, F. (2010). Assessment 2020. Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education.

Suskie, L. (2010). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. John Wiley & Sons.

Kift, S. (2009). Articulating a transition pedagogy to scaffold and to enhance the first year student learning experience in Australian higher education: Final report. Retrieved from Sydney: http://transitionpedagogy.com/

Sieber, V. (2009). Diagnostic online assessment of basic IT skills in 1st-year undergraduates in the Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40: 215–226. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00926.x

Treagust, D. (2006). Diagnostic assessment in science as a means to improving teaching, learning and retention, UniServe Science Assessment Symposium Proceedings, http://science.uniserve.edu.au/pubs/procs/2006/treagust.pdf

Further Reading on A&M website: http://www.csu.edu.au/division/student-learning-ol/home/assessment-and-moderation/online-resources/further-readings

Teaching Tuesdays:Assessing students through alternative methods https://www.smore.com/rz43s-teaching-tuesdays-csu?ref=my