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Assessment: Welcome

Understanding assessment

This guide is intended to provide you with some resources to help with student assessment. Our focus is on what is called "assessment for learning" (AFL). The consistent use of appropriate, principled and reliable assessments provides learners with clear feedback about their learning and their progress in a particular course or program, as well as information related to areas that need attention and further work.

Overall, the goal is to:

  • Improve educational outcomes for students
  • Enhance the quality of the student learning experience
  • Provide guidelines for supporting faculty to employ learning-centred assessment practices
  • Ensure alignment between learning outcomes, assessment and learning activities 
  • Reduce the potential for student complaints related to inaccuracy and/or inconsistency of course assessment(s)

Guiding principles

Effective assessment:

  • Is used to gauge student learning over time, with the overarching aim of improving student learning
  • Is used to inform teaching practice (in order to respond to and meet students’ learning needs)
  • Is aligned to learning outcomes as well as teaching and learning activities
  • Adheres to principles of equity, diversity inclusion, and Universal Design for Learning
  • Is transparent
  • Enables students to actively engage in their learning
  • Is informed by leading practices in assessment, curriculum, and instruction, as well as research on learning

Glossary

Assessment The ongoing process of gathering, interpreting, and using information on student learning to inform instructional decisions, as well as the extent to which students have met the intended learning outcomes (i.e., how well they are doing). The main purpose of assessment is to improve student learning. See formative assessment and evaluation.
Authentic assessment Determining the level of student knowledge or skill in a particular area by assessing their ability to perform a “real world” task in the way professionals in the field would perform it. Authentic assessment asks for a demonstration of the behaviour the learning is intended to produce (e.g. asking students to create a marketing campaign and assessing that campaign vs asking students to answer test questions about characteristics of a good marketing campaign). See portfolio assessment.
Curricular alignment The process of ensuring coherence between the intended learning outcomes, assessments, and teaching and learning activities. Consistency between what students are intended to learn, what is taught, and what is assessed promotes student achievement. 
Evaluation The process of judging coursework against defined criteria, typically at a specific point in time (e.g., weekly, mid-term, or end of term) to determine a student’s grade. See summative assessment and assessment.
Formative assessment Assessment that takes place throughout the teaching and learning process for the purpose of improving teaching and learning. Examples include discussions, low-stakes quizzes, reflection activities, summaries, and graphic organizers. See summative assessment and assessment.
Learning outcomes A learning outcome is a measurable, observable, and specific statement that clearly indicates what a student should know and be able to do (in day-to-day living or in the work or professional role for which they are being prepared) as a result of learning.
Peer assessment Assessment as collaborative learning where students give and receive feedback on one another’s work and offer ideas and strategies for improvement. Can be both formative and summative.
Portfolio assessment A type of performance-based assessment in which student work is systematically collected and reviewed for evidence of learning over a period of time. Portfolios typically contain selected examples of student work, including reflections on learning. See authentic assessment.
Reflection A process in which individuals think deeply about the learning experience, including what went well and what could have been done differently, in order to make sense of the material and/or the experience and connect it to learning and experiences in other contexts. Reflection can also be used to set goals for further learning. See self-assessment.
Rubric An assessment tool that explicitly details the performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery (e.g. emerging, developing, accomplished, exemplary). Rubrics can be used as summative or formative scoring or grading guides, as well as to provide feedback to support and guide ongoing learning.
Self-assessment Assessment that allows students to engage in their own learning by reflecting on and assessing their own work to determine strengths, identify gaps in knowledge, track progress, plan revisions, and set learning goals. Self-assessment can be both formative and summative, and may involve comparison with a standard or set criteria. See reflection.
Summative assessment Judgments of coursework that are used to measure student learning and academic achievement (typically at the end of a unit of work, semester, or year) against a standard or benchmark to determine grades. Examples include tests, quizzes, projects, presentations, and portfolios. See formative assessment and evaluation.

Adapted from the following sources: