Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University


Assessment is the process of ascribing value to the outcome of any work that a student undertakes whilst engaged in a course of studies.

Assessment tasks include, but are not limited to: essays, tests, examinations, laboratory, clinical or field practicum, projects, compilations, productions, presentations, performances, web-based discussion (adapted from sources from University of Western Sydney).

Cohort refers to all students correctly enrolled in a course of study.

Constructive alignment: The process of constructive alignment ensures that subject learning outcomes, assessment tasks and student learning activities all align together (Biggs, 2003).

Criterion referencing is the assessment of the extent to which a student achieved the stated learning outcomes of a subject. This assessment is carried out against previously specified benchmarks ('criteria'). Where a grade is assigned, it is assigned on the basis of the standard the student has achieved on each of the criteria. It provides a focus for teaching and learning and specifies for the lecturer and student what is required from the assessment task. In criterion referenced assessment, judgments about the quality of students' performance are made by reference to predetermined criteria and standards and not by reference to the achievement of other students. Criterion referenced assessment differs from norm-referenced assessment in which grades are determined by reference to other students' performance with only a certain percentage of students able to attain each grade. At CSU, assessment is not norm-referenced (adapted from sources from University of Western Sydney, University of Queensland and University of Technology Sydney).

Criteria are specific performance attributes or characteristics that the assessor takes into account when making a judgment about the student response to the different elements of the assessment task.

Early low-stakes assessment: Designed for first-year undergraduate subjects, these early, low-weighted, formative assessment tasks are due and returned to students before Week 4–5 (Census date) to relieve student anxiety, to provide feedback to both students and staff on student progress and achievement, and to identify those students in need of extra support.

Formative assessment: A single assessment task is formative when it provides feedback to students on how their work can be improved. In this way, the intent is to help students to monitor and reflect on their learning progress and determine where improvements can be made.

Graduate Learning Outcomes are a set of common learning outcomes, which have been written to assist course teams with alignment between the standards of CSU's Graduate Attributes Policy, course and subject outcomes, and assessment.

Hurdle requirements: A task that is mandatory to complete in order to meet the pass requirements of a subject, but does not always align to the learning outcomes (e.g. attendance at a residential school).

Learning objectives: In 2011, Academic Senate decided that the term Learning Objectives will be replaced by Learning Outcomes. As of 201430, all systems have been updated to reflect this change. Learning objectives typically describe what an academic plans to teach, it indicates to the student what the academic will focus on throughout the subject, with the idea that students should attain this knowledge.

Learning outcomes are a set of knowledge, skills and attributes that we expect a student will be able to demonstrate after completing a subject. Outcomes differ to objectives in that they are more student-focused – stating what a student will know after successfully completing a subject, rather than describing what the student can expect from the academic. (which is more teaching-focused). If your subject previously used learning objectives, these may require some rewording to make them outcomes. Within MSI, the pre-set text will be updated to say: "On successful completion of this subject, students will".

Mandatory Subject Information (MSI): The published Subject Outline, which is designed to ensure all students receive the subject information on teaching strategies, texts, readings, resources, and assessment items by the start of session.

Moderation is the process of reviewing subject assessment tasks and learning materials to achieve appropriateness and constructive alignment with learning outcomes. It is also the process of reviewing and checking the marking and grading of individual assessors to achieve consistency in the application of subject learning outcomes, performance standards and marking criteria. At CSU, moderation has three phases: pre-delivery moderation; moderation during delivery; and post-delivery moderation.

Moderator is a person tasked with moderating a subject, its assessment tasks, learning materials and the consistency of marking. Moderators will be experienced staff, with appropriate skills, and may be people who are not currently employed as staff of the University or are otherwise independent of the teaching team responsible for the subject. At CSU, moderators are appointed by the Head of School or nominee.

Norm referencing means awarding marks and grades by reference to the performance of other students in the cohort, according to a prescribed distribution of grades.

Quality assurance (QA) is an institutional process that ensures quality of a product or service. Quality assurance is applied to assessments through the moderation process and through a quality assurance review of the Subject Outline before publication.
Reliable in this context means that the process ensures that the same data will always produce the same result.

Rubric originally referred to headings or sections within a text that were printed in red to ensure they stood out (Oxford Dictionaries online, 2013). More commonly today within education, it is used to indicate a marking scheme, containing criteria and standards of performance that are linked to learning outcomes. Also referred to as a marking grid, marking guide, marking matrix or marking sheet.

Standards are statements describing the level of the quality of student performance in relation to the stated criteria in an assessment task. In standards-based assessment, specific criteria are established and standards (which are specified levels of the qualities of performance) are developed for those criteria for each assessment task. A student's achievement (and marks awarded) can then be assessed by reference to their standards of performance in various aspects of the assessment task. In this way, comparisons can be made between students based on their achievement of the standards. To achieve this, staff will need to identify and articulate clearly the different levels of performance that are connected to the grade and communicate those standards to students and other staff. The statements describing each level of quality are often referred to as standard descriptors, performance descriptors, or grade descriptors.

Student-facing language is a form of writing that addresses the student personally. Also known as the second-person narrative. Student-facing language uses the pronouns "you," "your," and "yours".

Summative assessment: Assessment is summative when it forms part of the final grade in a subject. The student's work is assessed in terms of pre-determined standards so that it can be classified in terms of levels of achievement (grades).

Threshold assessments: Assessment tasks that are marked using a satisfactory (SY)/unsatisfactory (US) scale.

Valid in this context means that the outcome accurately reflects the value of the work.

If you have other terms or definitions you'd like to see included here, please contact the Learning Academy.