Assessment Strategies

Assessment directs students' focus and attention, so it's a critical feature of any course. This guide is focused on flexible and adaptable options for course assessment, supporting you to make quick but informative decisions on how to assess student performance in any course context.

Essential Principals

Assessments should, above all, be designed with intended learning outcomes in mind, and should be linked with clear guidance and communication to students about learning and expectations. 

  • Articulate a purpose statement for each assignment/assessment; identify the ways it relates to the learning outcomes 
  • Communicate clear expectations for learning: What knowledge or skills can students expect to gain through the assignment? 
  • Guide students toward meaningful and productive engagement with course material 
  • Weigh all assignments to the relative importance of the outcome(s) they assess and the expectations you have for student time-investment 
  • Distribute assignments/assessments in ways that provide students with ongoing feedback on their progress 
  • Use a variety of assessment methods and offer options to students when possible 
  • Balance the assessment scheme in a way that respects your, and your students’, schedules and time 

Aligning Assessments with Learning Outcomes

When planning your course assessments, consider the intended outcomes for student learning. What should students be able to do with what they know and/or value by the end of the course? How can assessments provide opportunities for students to demonstrate those goals?

Aligning Assessments with Learning Outcomes (PDF, 93KB) suggests specific assignments, tests, and projects that align with learning outcomes developed using the ICE Framework (Ideas-Connections-Extensions).

Creative Use of Technologies

When alternative approaches to assessment and evaluation are needed, many concerns (i.e. academic integrity, instructor intellectual property) are addressed when instructors design assessments that require students to create new knowledge through the creative use of technologies (Leiberman, 2018).

The CTL resource Online Options for Common In-Person Assessments (PDF, 173KB) offers a range of flexible assessment options based on common face-to-face assessments.

Consider the following strategies to increase the flexibility of your assignments:

  • Allow assessments to be individualized by allowing students to choose their own topics or problems to solve, applying concepts to their own experiences, incorporating self-reflection (e.g. students identify what they learned from the assessment), etc.
  • Explore options of open or non-disposable assignments – assessments that involve students in adapting, expanding, and improving openly licensed materials shared through creative commons licenses

Rethinking Attendance Policies

Many face-to-face courses measure attendance as a form of participation assessment, but physical attendance does not necessarily equate to learning. Consider finding flexible ways of measuring engagement in place of attendance. For example, many active learning strategies can be used as a classroom assessment technique (CAT) where artifacts (such as an exit ticket, one-sentence reflection, comprehension quiz) stand as the measure of engagement. These activities offer many benefits – they offer greater flexibility to students and are often easier for instructors to record than attempts at measuring attendance.

Using Rubrics

Rubrics are an effective way of creating and communicating assignment expectations to students. Develop a rubric for each assignment, test/quiz, or other assessment activity. Plan to share developed rubrics to students as part of your course communication plan.

Check out the CTL's guide on developing rubrics, found under the Rubrics tab of the linked Assessment page.

Scaffolded Guidance and Feedback

Students require clear directions, examples, and rubrics that will help them feel more confident in meeting your expectations. They also require help building the skills they’ll need for succeeding in the course. Consider the following recommendations for how to scaffold or structure guidance and regular feedback on course assignments:

  • Create a series of low-stakes assessments that offer opportunities for rehearsal and feedback ahead of a final higher-stakes performance.
  • Provide exemplars of past student work (with permission) and highlight how the exemplar meets high expectations outlined in the rubric.
  • Draft thorough written instructions that explain your expectations and instructions for completing an assignment. Have someone (a colleague, TA, undergraduate student) review the draft so that you get an external perspective on the message’s clarity.

Additional Resources

Association of College & University Educators Guide - Create Engaging Assignments With Accountability 

For those interested in experiential learning, the Queen's Experiential Learning Hub has a thorough resource, the Experiential Learning Faculty Toolkit.

Additional Disclaimer:  

Creative Commons License 
The Transforming Teaching Toolkit by the Centre for Teaching & Learning, Queen’s University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License