Examples of Innovative Assessments

In this section of the module, you will have an opportunity to explore how university teachers in different disciplines use innovative assessment approaches to measure the learning progress of their students. Click on the Visual Guide to Creative Assessments to learn about innovative ways to assess student learning.

Visual Guide to Innovative Assessments

Concept maps provide a visual representation of connections between concepts that students have learned. These concepts are connected by directional, labeled links to show the relationships between them. Concept maps are excellent tools that can provide instructors with a formative assessment of students’ learning and misunderstandings, after the students were introduced to the new material. For example, the instructor can post an incomplete concept map where students are asked to fill in the blanks to build a complete map, which is then submitted to an instructor in class or via an online drop box. To assess student-generated concept maps, you may want to adapt this rubric for assessing concept maps opens in new window.

Watch screencast with Dr. Mark Morton (University of Waterloo) on how instructors can use concept mapping tools to support student learning in different disciplines.

ConcepTests are multiple-choice questions designed to test understanding of a single concept. They are effective at identifying common student misconceptions surrounding traditionally difficult concepts in science and engineering and have been shown to enhance student comprehension of fundamental concepts. The questions are posed during the lecture immediately after the key concept has been described or discussed. Students work independently to arrive at an answer and then try to persuade their neighbors in the lecture room that they are correct. Finally, all the students offer their answer. The instructor confirms the correct answer and the class can discuss why it is correct and how some students were misled. This form of peer instruction is offers students and their instructor insight in how well they understand the various key concept and allows them to identify and address popular misconceptions.

Watch a video with Harvard professor Eric Mazur on the use of ConcepTests:

An ePortfolio is an online space where students can store and organize artifacts that they have produced in the course, such as written assignments, images, videos, and so on. They then use the ePortfolio to reflect on their learning experiences. An ePortfolio requires students to pause and reflect on their learning, often by making explicit connections between different learning experiences. This process deepens their learning, and has the added benefit of helping them to chronicle their learning: they can look back on earlier work in their ePortfolio and readily see how much they have learned and how far they have progressed in the course. An ePortfolio helps students to “see” connections within various components of a course, or among their various courses.

Watch the videos of two professors from the University of Waterloo who share how they use ePortfolios

A podcast of vlog project encourages students to take their identifications, analyses, reports, diagrams, etc. to a real-world, digital level by creating a visual/verbal file for submission that activates and authenticates their learning. This can be done individually or collaboratively. Podcasts and vlogs are similar to poster presentations in terms of the content-based orientations of them, yet they take it to a different level by creating and facilitating an extension of the classroom for audiences beyond the students’ immediate classmates and immediate teacher. This type of assignment encourages professional writing and presentation processes (such as oral and visual communication skills), but it also fosters networking and the building of connections for the students and their subject matter.

Watch the video of Indiana University professor Justin Hodgson introducing vlogging for his “Professional Writing Skills” course assignment:

A Talk Show Performance is an authentic version of the more traditional in-class presentation as it directs students to take on and embody their learning for an interactive, live or record discussion. It can be character-based (i.e. students taking on and acting as an individual in their discipline would, talking about the issues, analyses, diagrams, etc. and answering questions as this person would) or it can be self-based (i.e. students perform as themselves, presenting the materials and answering questions as they themselves would based on their developing knowledge).

Watch the video of University of South Florida professor Patrick Finelli overviewing his assignment for his “Sport as Performance” course:


Look at examples of creative assessment approaches presented in the Visual Guide and discuss how you can adapt one of them to your course.