Develop assessment regime

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The purpose of assessment is to measure learning so clear instructions, and a detailed marking rubric should be provided to students, so they know exactly what is required of them. When you develop your assessment regime, consider the following areas.

Define the purpose
Assessments can be either formative (how am I doing?) or summative  (how did I do?).

  • Formative assessment guides further learning and should include feedback on areas of strength and weakness. Formative assessment provides information on how learning is proceeding so it can be useful both to improve individual student learning and to improve teaching.
  • Summative assessment usually occurs at the end of a course and the results are used to grade students and determine whether they have achieved competencies and standards.

Use Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning to help you identify the purpose of your assessment based on the level of learning you want students to achieve. Download this handout for more information on appropriate assessments, activities and resources for each level of learning.

Reliability and validity
A reliable assessment ensures that the same students will consistently achieve the same result and the same mark will be given when different lecturers grade an assessment. For reliable assessments:

  • write instructions and questions that are clear and unambiguous;
  • ensure the time allowed for the assessment is appropriate;
  • ensure that the number of assessment items is sufficient to give a reliable measure of a student’s ability;
  • develop a marking scheme with explicit criteria; and
  • check marks (moderate), double mark (two assessors), re-mark a sub-set (sample).

A valid assessment accurately measures what it is meant to measure. For valid assessments:

  • include a representative sample of the course content (content validity);
  • measure the progress toward the intended outcome of the course, for example, attributes/knowledge that the student should be developing (construct validity, the construct being ‘what it is to be a good ‘accountant’ etc);
  • have sufficient predictive ability to determine how well the student will transfer her/his knowledge into the workplace (criterion validity: the criteria will provide a suitable measure of how the student may be expected to perform outside the relative safety of the teaching environment).
Marking assessments

A rubric makes the criteria for marking explicit. The teacher – and anyone else involved in the assessment (second marker for example) – can clearly see the criteria associated with the different grades.  Students can be guided by the rubric as they complete the assignment. The rubric will help students to understand what is expected of them and it will help to communicate high expectations to the students.

Carnegie Mellon University has useful information about rubrics including a full explanation and examples of rubrics that can help you create your own.

Giving feedback

When the process of providing feedback is carried out well, feedback can motivate students and help them to improve their performance. Constructive feedback is information-specific, issue-focused, and based on observations. Constructive feedback will identify strengths (what the student has done well) and areas for improvement (where the student might have done better).

Feedback should be:


  • Provide more than a mark
  • Provide opportunities for further guidance


  • Students should receive feedback as soon as possible
  • Students should have sufficient time to improve before their next assessment


  • Provide clear direction and make links to marking criteria explicit
  • Clearly indicate areas for improvement


  • Provide unbiased and objective feedback. Blind marking can be useful here.
  • Relate feedback to the task and not the student

Feedback can be informal, in day-to-day encounters between teachers and students or it can be more formal as part of written assessments. To encourage independent learning, provide comments and suggestions to support self-correction. For example, prompt the student to review their work and self-identify where they went wrong.

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has created a comprehensive report on enhancing assessment practices. It includes 12 evidence-based principles of good assessment and feedback and gives examples to implement in your own practice.

Evaluating assessments

One way to evaluate an assessment is to look at the performance of students on an individual assessment task. Evaluating assessment results in detail can help you identify strengths and weaknesses of the assessment.

Good starting questions for an evaluation include:

  • How does the performance of students on this assessment compare with their performance on other assessments?
  • Are there any question items that are outliers or did not produce the expected results?
  • How do students and staff feel about the assessment?
  • Were there any practical issues that need to be addressed in future?

Based on your evaluation, you may need to alter the assessment to improve reliability and validity. You might also need to reconsider the alignment of the assessment with the learning activities and learning outcomes. Whenever students perform in an unexpected way, there is usually misalignment between these areas. Misalignment may lead to a revision of the learning outcomes, to redesigning learning activities and/or changing the assessment to ensure validity.


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