Matching Assessment Tasks to Learning Outcomes

Revisiting Learning Outcomes

When you begin the process of designing assessment tasks for a course, it is helpful to start by re-revisiting the course learning outcomes. Consider where the assessment fits into the “big picture” of the course, and how it maps to the overall learning outcomes and other major assessments. Use the following questions to guide the initial assessment design process:

  • What are the main learning outcomes for the course?
  • How will I know the student has achieved the outcomes?
  • What kinds of concepts do I want the students to master in my course and at what level?
  • What kinds of skills do I want them to acquire?
  • Is the assessment task reasonable with respect to the students’ workload?

Tip: This formative assessment, prefaced by your short commentary about its instructional purpose and how it can help students learn concept/skill X, can be added as an item to your teaching portfolio.

If you are clear about your goals for student learning, it is easier to select assignments that address the learning outcomes of the course. The course design model presented below is a useful tool for ensuring that your assessments are aligned with your main learning outcomes and help students demonstrate their achievement of the outcomes. The model also captures a very close relationship between goals, assessment, and teaching methods in relation to the course content.

Figure 7. Aligning learning outcomes, assessments and teaching methods
Ellis, D. (2007). Teaching Excellence Academy workshop. University of Waterloo, Canada.

Check your learning outcomes carefully to ensure that you are assessing them. Consider giving both ungraded, dialogue-based feedback and graded assessment. Also consider if you can work in some student self-assessment (your assessment criteria need to be clear and illustrated to the students). We will discuss self- and peer-assessment strategies later in the module.

To learn more about the alignment of the main components of the course, consult the Principles of Course Design module.