Student expectations are serious constraints on imaginative assessment processes. Students are taught through their educational experience that ‘final grades matter’ so it is natural that they become fixated on the final assessment. A transparent design that closely reflects the ILOs within the teaching activity and assessment will necessarily engage students in a broader and deeper understanding of their learning journey.
Following the 8-Stage Learning Design Framework, we know at this stage what our intended learning outcomes (ILO) are. This enables us to design meaningful assessment that provides opportunities to students to evidence their learning against those ILOs. It is important to initially identify which outcomes across different domains of learning can be combined through assessment. This allows us to manage the assessment load, for both faculty and student, while ensuring all ILOs are assessed. Using taxonomy circles, we can then draft marking rubrics for the appropriate level that represent all the guidance that individual assessors and students need to guide their practice.
There is also a challenge to meet the needs for assessment, or the outcomes, sometimes even the content, dictated by external bodies. In many programmes, there is pressure to assess a range of skills and behaviours beyond subject knowledge. The challenge is to design assessments that allow students to demonstrate a range of skills (across various domains) through a single assessment. Rather than abdicate our responsibility as learning designers, this is a call to understand how better to articulate the relationship between what the intended learning outcomes of a course are, how it is being assessed and what is being experienced as learning by the students.
Drafting an assessment framework is an iterative process. Ideally one designs the assessment at the same time as one writes module ILOs, ‘tweaking’ them to give them depth and flexibility at the same time. If students are properly guided to generate well-structured evidence, it can be a fascinating and engaging process to assess them.