Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Assessment across a course

Designing new and analysing existing assessment across a course requires consideration and application of a number of steps in a process. In order to determine what is needed for assessment in the course, analysis needs to be undertaken to define requirements according to institutional, professional and course standards and expectations. Then assessment is designed and developed, and criteria, a rationale and subject learning outcomes that are in alignment are written.

These standards and outcomes to be considered in alignment to CSU policy include:

Design principles for assessment

Assessment demonstrates achievement of professional standards and graduate learning outcomes.

Assessment is authentic to graduate practice.


  • Design assessment tasks that support evidence of student learning and achievement of course learning outcomes.
  • Learning is scaffolded and there is a broad range of assessment styles across the course.
  • Assessment tasks are authentic, criterion-referenced and standards-based (CRSB). They have clearly defined assessment criteria and performance standards that make explicit to students what they need to achieve in order to receive a passing grade.


  • Define subject learning outcomes which support students to successfully complete assessment tasks.
  • Select teaching and learning strategies best suited to realise the subject learning outcomes.
  • Design constructively aligned subjects that meet the needs of students and are deliverable in online mode.
  • A mapping template can help you organise your information for your course before recording it in its final form as a record of the course design. This analytical course mapping template is designed as xltx file format in Excel so can be used to create copies for each of your individual courses as you map. Simple save a copy as a xlsx file format.

Working through the following steps in the process of assessment design and analysis will guide you to the development of authentic, scaffolded assessment tasks across a course.

1. Analyse the course learning outcomes and check against Graduate Attributes (GAs) or Graduate Learning Outcomes (GLOs), accreditation standards if needed, values if desired.

When you analyse the course learning outcomes, you are looking for the skills they will be demonstrated to show their achievement, the knowledge or content that will be used in the demonstration of the skills, and the professional practice or context in which they are applied for the purposes of the course. Colouring the skills (verbs) green, the content/knowledge red and the application or contexts blue helps visually delineate what you are looking for.

Brainstorm ideas of all the skills you would need to have to meet the course learning outcomes as these are the skills you will need to assess across the course. Identify the knowledge that will be needed to meet the course learning outcomes for the same reason. Start to think about ways you could situate the skills and knowledge in professional practice for authentic assessment. This practice of analysis helps you plan out what needs to be met by each course learning outcome.

2. Identify the commonalities of skills, knowledge and applications to start thinking about where multiple course learning outcomes can be met.

Where the same types of skills are being learned, developed and assessed, ask yourself how they can either be combined or built on in assessment to develop student skills. Don't forget to include the skills required by Graduate Learning Outcomes as they often mirror the outcomes required by AQF and accrediting bodies. Apply the same process to knowledge development. How does knowledge build across the course and where can it be combined? As you work through this analytical process, you will probably notice similarities in skills and application even if the knowledge or content you want to assess is different.

Add a row under the skills, knowledge and applications you’ve identified at the course learning outcome to document possible big picture tasks for the course. See point 4 for more detail on this.

3. Identify how many subjects and how many course year levels are in the course

This will determine how many main ideas or content you will have to cover. Identify how many subjects and how many course year levels are in the course to help you work to a manageable number of assessment tasks, remembering that initially tasks are those designed at the course level, not the subject level. This means that if you have 24 subjects in the course think a big picture view of 24 main areas of assessment, remembering to build in developmental tasks from first year to last year of the course, scaffolding skill development. Look at the next step for the processes of big picture task development.

4. Formulate big picture tasks that meet the course learning outcomes

Formulate big picture tasks that meet the course learning outcomes remembering that these are not subject level tasks but an end product of the course. While in the end you are likely to end up with 2 or 3 assessment tasks per subject, it is still good to think at a big picture level then break each big picture down into the smaller tasks (in Step 7) that would make up the big picture. This will help you develop scaffolding tasks from the beginning of the subject to the end, where students develop skills and knowledge across the broad context of the subject while maintaining cohesive and authentic assessment.

You can list these big pictures tasks in the rows under the brainstormed skills, knowledge and applications for the course learning outcomes and then start to distribute them across the course where you can see they might fit in subjects. See the next steps for how you might do that.

5. Analyse the skills.

Based on the number of subjects and the number of years, analyse where skills for both academic and professional standards need to be initially taught, developed and finally assessed at the appropriate level for the course. Documenting these and matching them to Graduate Learning Outcomes will help in communication to teaching staff what skills they should be assessing.

Identify the skills needed in each year and map them across the template to show where they would best fit across the course using the next step.

6. Identify how those skills are used with the knowledge or content or the course in application.

You will need to think about:

  • a.Authenticity of the task
  • b.Styles/types of assessment
  • c.Work related/integrated/placement
  • d.First year early low stakes assessment
  • e. Scaffolded tasks within and across subjects
  • f.Suited to year level of course
  • g.  Building on skills through each year level
  • h. Capstone subjects and the culmination of skill and knowledge development across the course

7. Analyse the big picture assessment that meet course learning outcomes

Once you have identified the skills and their placement across the course, analyse the big picture tasks to identify how you can break each down either across subjects to develop across the learning period of the course, or within subjects to provided scaffolded tasks within the subject.

Enter them into the space for assessment next to the subject names. You may have assessments across the line or you can add more lines for assessment under each course learning outcome as you need it.

8. Write the tasks based on the skills, knowledge and application you have analysed

Write the description of the tasks based on the skills, knowledge and application you have analysed and documented ensuring that you write the tasks suited to scaffolded development within the subject and across the course reinforcing the skills and knowledge at each year level. Your analysis in Step 4 and 5 will guide this process.

You are writing a description of what skills will need to demonstrate using the knowledge you nominate in a context or practice. If you write the task description in such a way to describe these three things you should be able to change each of these parameters slightly each session to help avoid academic misconduct but still keep the capacity to meet the learning outcomes.

9. Write a rationale for each task.

This should be a clear and concise narrative explaining in student facing language why the task is important and what they are going to achieve by doing it. This text will be included in the subject outline and will directly inform the development of subject outcomes. (Refer back to the CLOs for the appropriate words and phrases to emphasise in the rationale).

10. Write the criteria of the task based on the skills, knowledge and application that are being assessed.

Look at the Example Rubrics page for ideas on how to write criteria and standards for common action words.

11. Develop differentiated performance standards for each assessment task

Look at the Example Rubrics page for ideas on how to write criteria and standards for common action words.

12. Develop a Subject Abstract

Develop a Subject Abstract by drawing from the Rationales for each assessment task into a single narrative describing the subject.

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