How can I create good, valid, and reliable assessments?

Amongst many other applications, assessment is used to generate valuable feedback to students about their learning progress, provide rich evaluative data to teachers regarding the efficacy of their teaching strategies, and formally certify student achievement. Due to its role in certification, it has been argued to be a strong influence on students’ future directions and careers. As such, designing good-quality assessment activities and opportunities is an integral part of teaching in higher education.

Evidence-base

The literature on assessment (inter alia, Biggs & Tang, 2011; Bloxham & Boyd, 2007; Boud & Falchikov, 2007; Carless, 2007; Conrad & Openo, 2018; Race, 2019) consistently identifies good assessment as being (in no particular order):

  • Valid The assessment measures what it is supposed to measure.
  • Fair The assessment is non-discriminatory and matches expectations.
  • Transparent The assessment processes and documentation, including assessment briefing and marking criteria, are clear.
  • Reliable The assessment is accurate, consistent and repeatable.
  • Feasible The assessment is practicable in terms of time, resources and student numbers.
  • Constructively aligned The assessment should be clearly linked to the learning outcomes and the learning and teaching activities undertaken.
  • Educationally impactful The assessment results in learning what is important.

Five Top Tips

(Re)designing and (re)developing assessments can be somewhat daunting. Here are 6 quick tips for creating good assessments:

  1. Design with the end in mind and be explicit in communicating the purpose of the assessment. Be clear about what your students need to do to be able to demonstrate they meet the learning outcomes targeted by the assessment, and what they need to do to successfully complete the assessment. Also be clear about how the assessment fits the expectations of the discipline, year level, etc.

  2. Design opportunities for agency. Consider giving the students some degree of choice in the assessment topic or mode of submission e.g. video, report, poster, etc. This provides the student with opportunities to integrate their own interests or other skills into the assessment.

  3. Design the feedback. When designing the assessment, consider how and when you will provide feedback to the students. It is also worthwhile considering how students might use such feedback to inform their performance on future assessments.

  4. Design out academic misconduct. Setting assessments that require recalling knowledge may lead to accidental or purposeful plagiarism. To reduce the likelihood of academic misconduct, a solution can be designing personal unique assessment tasks or tasks that assess higher order thinking. You may wish to consider how you may be able to assess the process of completing the assessment as well as the final product.

  5. Design with a focus on student development. Consider how you can encourage deep learning as opposed to surface learning, understanding as opposed to memorisation, etc. Consider how you could structure frequent ‘check-in’ points where you can provide feedback on progress or help rectify any misconceptions.

References

Biggs, J.N., & Tang, C.S. (2009). Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does. McGraw-Hill.

Bloxham, S., & Boyd, P. (2007). Developing effective assessment in higher education: A practical guide. Open University Press.

Boud, D., & Falchikov, N. (2007). Rethinking assessment in higher education: Learning for the longer term. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203964309

Carless, D. (2007). Learning-oriented assessment: Conceptual bases and practical implications. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 44(1), 57-66

Conrad, D., & Openo, J. (2018). Assessment strategies for online learning: Engagement and authenticity. AU Press.

Race, P. (2019). The lecturer’s toolkit: A practical guide to assessment, learning, and teaching. Taylor & Francis Group.