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 Assessment and Evaluation

​Assessment and evaluation are very important parts of the contsructive alignment process. Well-designed assessments will allow your students to use the knowledge and skills they have learnt and indicate their level of mastery. The feedback on the assessments will also provide students with clear information on the criteria they need to match to succeed at the tasks, and can give the lecturer a clearer sense of how the task is assessing mastery and what aspects are being assessed. Evaluation of the course or module, by students and lecturers should feed back into the whole process of curriculum alignment, and reflect critically and constrcutively on the outcomes, the teaching and learning activities, the assessments and the experience of the course or module. Reflexivity and continuous learning and development are key aims of successful evaluation.


Assessment, feedback and rubrics

Assessment is perhaps one of the more important elements of curriculum design and alignment, because this is where lecturers and students get to see if all the hard work has paid off, in a way. Can students demonstrate mastery in terms of the knowledge and skills they need to have learnt? Where are the gaps and where are the points of strength? Assessment, in a constructively aligned curriculum, must speak to the outcomes listed for the course, and must draw in both the knowledge and the practical and intellectual skills and competencies that students have been taught and that they have practiced in lectures and tutorials. Assessment activities must test what has been learnt and taught, and should not be designed to catch students out or be constructed so as to be ambiguous or inexplicit.

Assessment tasks in anty course should also, ideally, be an appropriate balance between formative and summative assessments. The former give your students opportunities to make errors and get constructive, guiding feedback that can be used to develop competency and understanding in further assessments and teaching and learning. Formative quizzes, essays that can be drafted and revised, and short written or verbal tasks that receive detailed feedback are examples of formative assessments. The latter are opportunities for your students to demonstrate mastery or competence in a particular area or across several areas that have been studied, and the feedback is usually less detailed and more aimed at providing a summary of what they have and have not yet mastered, rather than providing explicit guidance for further development and growth. Examinations, some kinds of tests and theses or dissertations are examples of summative assessments.​

Feedback is a very important part of the assessment process, both formative and summative. Through receiving focused, relevant and guiding feedback, students are able to understand where their strengths and weaknesses are, and where they still need to concentrate their efforts in terms of their own learning. Through giving feedback, lecturers and tutors are better able to make similar assessments of strengths and weaknesses for individual students and also across the cohort they are teaching and tutoring. This can enable more responsive teaching and tutoring to address the gaps and weaknesses where necessary. It can also enable a better understanding of how students are responding to the methods and styles of teaching and tutoring, and how deeply and accurately they grasp and understand the relevant knowledge and employ the related skills and practices to explore and demonstrate their knowledge.

Rubrics and assessment criteria or marking guides can provide students with valuable information about what is being assessed and how, and provide a useful guide for the markers of the task, whether tutors or lecturers. Rubrics can be designed in a number of ways, and can be very detailed or fairly simple depending on the task, and on the criteria being assessed. The following resources provide further examples and information about giving students feedback on their work, in both oral and written form, as well as examples and guidance on writing and developing assessment rubrics and criterion-referenced marking guides.

The following resources, downloadable in PDF format, contain ideas and examples, useful references and further information on assessment.

Responding to students' writing (with thanks to CHERTL and Rhodes University)

Giving students feedback on assessment​

Writing rubrics and designing assessment criteria​

Evaluation

Evaluation, far from being an onerous task for both lecturers and students, can and should be meaningful, creative and lead to improved understanding and communication around students' learning needs, and lecturers' ability to repsond appropriately and to communicate their own teaching approaches.

Evaluation is an important part of an aligned curriculum and an overall teaching and learning strategy because it is part of the feedback and development cycle that should be a part of any responsive and up-to-date teaching and learning strategy or plan. Evaluations gve students opportunities to speak to the lecturer about their experiences and impressions of the course content and the pedagogical approaches that have been used, and it therefore gives lecturers valuable insights into how the knowledge being taught and the teaching styles and assessments have been managed by the students. Where things have gone well, a well-deserved pat on the back can be enjoyed, and where they have not, thinking and development for the next course can begin from an informed place.

The timing of evaluative exercises is also important. You can use quick ones to chek in with students during the course, at the end of a topic, or after an assignment has been completed. You can create longer and more detailed evaluations for the end of a course. Or you can even ask students who did your course last year to complete a retrospective evaluation. The important thing to consider when thinking about the timing is the purpose of the evaluation (what do you need to know and why), and what you plan to do with the information students give you.

This PDF file contains some creative ideas for evaluation.

Evaluation for ongoing learning and development​

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