Assessment design can have as big an influence on what your students learn as your teaching. Students may have a real passion for their subject, but for many the highest priority is getting 'a degree'. As a result, they focus their learning in priority on what they need to know to pass their coursework and exams.

The assessment strategy you design should do more than award a grade – it needs to serve as an aid to students' learning, allow them to gauge their progress, get feedback on their strengths and weaknesses, and consolidate their learning. The REAP project, which is embedded into the University of Greenwich assessment and feedback policy, has identified principles of good assessment design that aim to empower and engage:

  1. Engage students actively in identifying or formulating criteria
  2. Facilitate opportunities for self-assessment and reflection
  3. Deliver feedback that helps students self-correct
  4. Provide opportunities for feedback dialogue (peer and tutor-student)
  5. Encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem
  6. Provide opportunities to apply what is learned in new tasks
  7. Yield information that teachers can use to help shape teaching 
  8. Capture sufficient study time and effort in and out of class
  9. Distribute students' effort evenly across topics and weeks.
  10. Engage students in deep not just shallow learning activity
  11. Communicates clear and high expectations to students.

TESTA research has produced a very useful list of assessment patterns that work and that fail. It serves as excellent guidance as to what to avoid when designing your assessment strategy. The document can be downloaded here. The following pages will deal with different aspects of assessment design, issues to address and examples of how this can be done.

Further reading:

Walker, D.J. (2007) Principles of Good Online Assessment Design Assessment design for learner responsibility 29-31.

David Nicol & Debra Macfarlane-Dick (2004) "Rethinking Formative Assessment in HE: a theoretical model and seven principles of good feedback practice".

Gibbs, G and Simpson, C. (2004) "Conditions under which assessment supports students' learning" Learning and Teaching in Higher Education vol.1 pp.3-31.

Gibbs, G and Simpson, C. (2004) "Conditions under which assessment supports students' learning" Learning and Teaching in Higher Education vol.1 pp.3-31. Retrieved April 6, 2006, from: 

MMU assessment project

Constructive alignment
Guidance on how to ensure constructive alignment.

Inclusivity
Practical strategies for inclusive assessment.

Formative vs summative
A discussion of the purpose and the value of formative and summative assessments and strategies on how to engage students in formative assessment.

Loading, bunching and variety
A discussion of issues related to loading, bunching and variety of assessments on a course and programme level.

Holistic design
Taking a broader, programme level look at assessment design.

Designing questions
Advice on how to design effective quiz questions.

Writing effective assessment briefs
Guidance on how to write effective assessment briefs.