Choose the right assessment task

At the heart of effective assessment is knowing what it is that you want to assess. Once you have decided this, then you need to decide how you will collect that data. The validity and reliability of any task depends on its ability to match the intended purpose.

Any assessment is the right assessment, if it is measuring what we intended it to measure and if the evidence we collect meets the purpose of the assessment.

This guide will take you through the six steps for choosing an assessment task.

Step 1: Why are you assessing?

Consider the different forms of assessment in the assessment terminology section. Is your assessment going to:

  • Gather evidence to inform instruction?
  • Gather evidence to inform learning?
  • Gather evidence against standards or criteria?

Each of these decisions will help to shape the assessment regime and task design.

Step 2: What are you assessing?

In order to choose the correct assessment task, you will need to have a clear idea of the specific learning outcome(s) that you are assessing, and ensure your assessments are aligned to these. Consider what you are trying to assess and the evidence of learning that you wish to elicit from students.

If you are struggling to define assessment, ask if the underlying construct of what you are trying to assess has been defined first.

Look at the section on types of assessment for further information on the types of tasks (reflective, analytical) that might be used for certain learning outcome statements (analyse, critique).

Step 3: Which task will you use to gather evidence?

Knowing what you want to assess will influence the assessment task you choose. It should allow students to show the performance attributes or characteristics that demonstrate evidence of their learning.

Look at the section on types of assessment for descriptions of different tasks.

Step 4: What level of performance are you seeking?

While it can be tempting to select the task and task design before considering the criteria and expectations for performance in an assessment, the choice of assessment task must support the collection of evidence to demonstrate the desired learning. Assessment design should therefore consider these elements together, using the criteria to inform the choice of assessment task. Selecting an examination, essay or report without considering the desired standards or criteria may make designing the specific task harder than necessary, and result in challenges with marking. Please see the Marking, grading and rubrics page for more information about criteria for assessment.

Step 5: How will you communicate standards?

A useful way of defining the expectations for assessment can be through the use of a standard rubric. There may be additional information or requirements for assessment that are communicated separately from the rubric (e.g., appropriate conventions for particular writing formats, hurdle requirements etc.). Please see the Marking, grading and rubrics page for more information about rubrics.

Assessments may have a number of sub-tasks or pieces of evidence that provide the evidence for evaluation in a variety of formats.

Step 6: How and under what conditions will the assessment occur?

Assessments should have a clear explanation about the mode of assessment as well as any conditions applied to the assessment task. This includes:

  • The length, word count, formatting requirements, as well as any specific software that should be used to create the assessment.
  • Any specific requirements for where and when the assessment must be undertaken (for example, if it is completed on-site or online, and what day/time this is scheduled)
  • Any conditions that apply (for example, scheduled timed assessments may need to be invigilated, so how this happens for any particular assessment task must be explained)
  • What a successful assessment looks like (and if possible, whether there are sample assessments available for students to view)
  • Any parameters for judging the assessments consistently (marking sheets, rubrics, etc.)

You may want to consider how you will communicate the mode and conditions of the assessment with your students. Will you provide briefing sessions? Or spend time in class going through the assessment criteria?

Selecting scheduled timed assessment tasks

Assessment can be timetabled as a scheduled timed assessment, which requires students to engage in tasks (e.g. short answer questions) in a short, predetermined period of time (e.g. under examination conditions). These can be scheduled to be undertaken in person or online.

Scheduled timed assessments can include:

Class tests

Invigilated scheduled timed assessments completed in class

Examinations

Invigilated scheduled timed assessments completed in person at a specific venue, or administered via eAssessment

Online quizzes

Non-invigilated scheduled timed assessments completed using online platforms such as Moodle

Take-home examinations

Non-invigilated scheduled timed assessments undertaken over a short period of time by students at home

Allowing students to complete tasks in timed environments (short or long examination-style settings) allows them to practice self-regulation and meta-cognition.