Assessment design is a complex and iterative process. This page provides guidance, processes and questions to support your decision making about assessment. The framework used is adapted from the Assessment Design Decisions project, in alignment with the Higher Education Learning Framework, UQ’s Curricula and Assessment Policy and Teaching and Learning Plan 2018–2021.

Principles and purposes

Assessment at UQ is based on the following principles outlined in PPL 3.10.02 Assessment Policy:

  • a developmental learning activity for students
  • a mutual responsibility between teachers and students
  • criterion-referenced (i.e. student performance is judged by reference to explicit or predetermined criteria and standards rather than the achievement of other students)
  • transparent, so students can see that the assessment tasks align with the learning objectives and marking criteria
  • valid, by meeting the intended learning outcomes, and providing a consistent and reliable indication of the quality of the student's performance
  • fair and equitable
  • a purposeful and academically professional activity
  • sustainable and workable for both teachers and students.

All assessment tasks have a range of purposes. When designing your assessment tasks you need to consider how the task:

  • engages students in productive learning
  • enables feedback to guide improvement
  • informs teaching and learning decision-making
  • provides evidence of learning outcomes and graduate attributes
  • provides defendable certification of student achievement, and
  • maintains professional and disciplinary standards.

Contexts

The assessment you design has to work in your context. Consider how the different aspects of context will influence how your assessment will function and impact student learning. The Higher Education Learning Framework identifies that ‘Learning occurs in context, and context can be leveraged to enhance the learning experience.’

Course

  • Course assessment plan – how do the assessment items in your course work together? How will students see the different assessment tasks fitting together?
  • Consider the course learning environment – class size, mode (online/blended), teaching spaces and tools.

Technology

Programs

  • How does your assessment task fit into the overall program? Think about the role of your course within this program or major. The Higher Education Learning Framework recognises that learning is built on connecting new understandings to prior knowledge and engages students in deep and meaningful thinking and feeling. 
  • Do you have to meet any professional, vocational or employment-related requirements?
  • Consider the horizontal and vertical integration of the task into students’ studies. What else are students working on at the same time? How do the tasks work across the program in terms of genre, type, and timing of tasks?

Learners

  • Think about your students. How will they respond to the task? Will they see the task as relevant to them? Will different students respond differently to the task? Will the task advantage or disadvantage any students in your cohort? Do you have to plan extra support to make the task fair and successful?
  • Do students have experience doing similar assessment? Providing students with practice assessment in this context may enable more students to succeed.

School and discipline

  • Does the task meet your school, disciplinary and personal expectations and ideas? Are you doing something tried and proven or something innovative? 
  • Is the assessment task reflecting authentic and real world contexts and scenarios? It may be worth consulting with industry or members of society more broadly to refine a task to match their contexts – their stories and contexts may be powerful to explain the relevance of the task to your students. 

UQ 

Learner outcomes

Constructive alignment (Biggs & Tang, 2011) is built into how we develop our courses at UQ. Setting the right level of challenge and difficulty in our assessment is not only critical for our academic standards but also our students learning (see more in the Higher Education Learning Framework).  

  • How will students see the alignment of the task with the learning objectives and activities within your course and their programs of study?
  • Does the task help students become the type of graduate you want to see in your discipline? Does the task support students to develop and demonstrate any of UQ’s graduate attributes?
  • Should the task contribute to professional, vocational or employment-related requirements?

Tasks

Are you using the best type of assessment task for what you want to achieve? Can you make the task more authentic or switch to a more authentic assessment approach?

Dr Mair Underwood led the development a UQ Assessment Ideas Factory which features a broad range of assessment tasks to explore.

UQ Assessment Ideas Factory

No task is perfect. When planning an assessment item you may wish to consider if your task is:

  • Valid – i.e. assessing what you want to assess. What will you be able to see in the student work? What are you actually asking students to do? What is the hard, intellectual work in the task? What skills, knowledge, etc. are you aiming to measure / evidence with this task? How will you be able to judge the quality of this work? How will you grade this work?
  • Reliable –  i.e. assessing the same thing of each student. What skills, knowledge and resources do students need to complete the task?
  • Practical with the time and resources available for your team and your students to complete the task, mark the task and engage with feedback.
  • Relevant for your students so they see the benefits of completion.
  • Encouraging integrity – how does your task influence students approaches to academic integrity?
  • Supporting learning in your course – how will the task drive learning as students complete the task and impact learning throughout the course?

Feedback and feedforward

  • How are multiple feedback from the task support students in future tasks in your course and other courses?
  • The Higher Education Learning Framework identifies that ‘emotions play an important role in how students learn.’ Feedback can be particularly affected by emotion. Will the feedback in your course involve dialogs that are specific, timely and outline how to improve?
  • How will students learn what is good work? How will students learn to judge the quality of their work, learning and approach? Will students be able to self-assess?
  • How will students engage with feedback to improve their work and approaches to learning?
  • What types of feedback information will be provided and by whom?
  • Why will students see the feedback as valuable?

Processes and support

The processes and support around an assessment item can be the difference between an effective and satisfying assessment task and a disaster. Students need to learn how to learn effectively. The Higher Education Learning Framework identifies that ‘when students employ effective methods of thinking, and understand how they learn, they can improve the way they learn.’

  • How will you ensure your students understand and engage with the assessment?
    • How will learners understand what is required in the assessment task(s)?
    • When will students engage with the task? Do you need to provide scaffolding? 
    • Is the workload and weighting appropriate? Will students see it this way?
  • What activities or resources do you need to implement to support the assessment?
    • Rubrics
    • Task sheets
    • Exemplars
    • Scaffolding activities
  • How will you evaluate and improve this assessment for future offerings?
    • Take a moment to reflect – did the assessment achieve its goals?
    • Can the assessment be more efficient for you or your students?
  • How will you ensure your whole teaching team is on the same page with your assessment?

Design approaches

Select a design approach to suit your situation. We recommend collaborative approaches to assessment design – talking to your colleagues, learning designers or ITaLI to refine and enhance your ideas.

  • Why do you want to change your assessment?
    • Are there issues with your current assessment?
    • Are there new goals or innovations you want to incorporate into your assessment?
  • Explore examples of assessment to inspire your practice:
    • Peruse the UQ Assessment Ideas Factory
    • Review the course profiles of other courses in your programs or majors
    • Scan publications about assessment in higher education generally and/or your discipline
    • Attend a workshop

Think about the evaluation or outcome you want through changing your assessment, work through a framework that helps you (like the one provided on this page). Remember that assessment design is a complex and iterative process and the best tasks are developed over multiple course offerings.

References, events and further reading

Biggs, J and Tang, C. (2011): Teaching for Quality Learning at University, (McGraw-Hill and Open University Press, Maidenhead)

Designing assessment workshop

ITaLI facilitates a Designing assessment workshop each semester through the UQ Staff Development program.

Webinars