ETP - Designing Aligned Assessments and Assignments

Learning Objectives

Rationale

“Students learn best—and assessment works best—when education is a purposeful, integrated, collaborative experience” (Suskie, 2009, p. 3).

Learning Objectives

In order to ensure that your assessments and assignments measure your learning outcomes, we will discuss practices you can use to:

  • Identify assessment and assignment types aligned to the cognitive level of course outcomes
  • Offer assignment choice to increase equity
  • Ensure portfolios provide evidence of mastery
  • Assess students’ prior knowledge and use results to inform course adjustments
  • Provide early opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of foundational concepts
  • Use formative opportunities to prepare students for summative assessments and assignments
  • Incorporate certification/licensure exam requirements in assessments
  • Use the transparent assignment template
  • Break complex assignments into smaller components

Skeletal Outline

Download a skeletal outline to take notes on the practices included in this module.


Course Demonstration

Select one or more of the six videos below that show instructors effectively demonstrating the evidence-based practices presented in this module. The first set of two videos focuses on identifying appropriate evidence of mastery, the second set of three videos demonstrates using formative assessments to prepare students for mastery, and the last video depicts faculty demonstrating ways they use their assignments and assessments to promote equity.

Identifying Appropriate Evidence of Mastery

  • Identify assessment and assignment types aligned to the cognitive level of course outcomes (00:12)
  • Offer assignment choice to increase equity (02:08)

Download the transcript for this video.

Download the transcript for this video.

Using Formative Assessments to Prepare Students for Mastery

  • Assess students’ prior knowledge and use results to inform course adjustments (00:11)
  • Provide early opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of foundational concepts (04:11)

Download the transcript for this video.

  • Ensure formative opportunities prepare students for summative assessments and assignments

Download the transcript for this video.

Download the transcript for this video.

Providing Assignments and Assessments That Promote Equity

  • Use the transparent assignment template (00:10)
  • Break complex assignments into smaller components (07:09)

Download the transcript for this video.


Implementation Video

This video models a two-step process for aligning your assessments to your course outcomes. Download the course design workbook to help when organizing your work for modules DC1, DC2, and DC3.

Identifying the Types of Assessments Aligned to Your Learning Outcomes

Download the transcript for this video.


Expert Insights

In the first video, you’ll hear Ken O’Connor, MEd; Tracie Addy, PhD; Tom Angelo, EdD; Aaron Pallas, PhD; and Mary-Ann Winkelmes, PhD, authors and scholars in teaching and learning, discuss the specific nuances of and the research support for the teaching practices presented in this module. You may find it helpful to download the documents “Action Verbs by Cognitive Level” and “Types of Assessment by Cognitive Level” prior to watching the video. 

In the second video, Ken O’Connor, MEd, shares insights about some of the components of quality assessments.

Download the transcript for this video.

Download Action Verbs by Cognitive Level.

Download Types of Assessment by Cognitive Level.

What Are Some Important Considerations for the Quality, Types, and Sequence of Assessments?

Download the transcript for this video.


Common Challenges & Misconceptions

In this section, you will read about some common challenges and misconceptions associated with designing aligned assessments and assignments. Click on each statement to read research-based clarifications and suggestions aligned to each challenge or misconception.

CHALLENGE: I am unsure of the steps I should I take to make sure my assessments are meaningful.

Clarification:

Listen to Catherine Haras, MLIS, and Beverly Bondad-Brown, PhD, from the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at Cal State LA as they discuss best practices in designing meaningful assessments.

Download the transcript for this video.

CHALLENGE: I have noticed that there are times when the verb in the outcome or objective appears in more than one Bloom’s level. How can I be sure I am focusing on the right cognitive level?

Clarification:

Using the excerpt from the Action Verbs chart below, you may notice that several verbs are included in more than one of the thinking levels. For instance, “identify” is in Remember, Understand, and Apply. Similarly, “arrange” shows up in both Remember and Understand.

In these cases, you will need to consider what you actually want your students to do to decide which level is most appropriate for your outcome or objective. Using the word “arrange” as an example, consider if you want students to arrange a list of events in a known chronological order. If so, the use of “arrange” in that context will be aligned with the cognitive level Remember, as it is asking students to recall an arrangement that already exists. If you are wanting students to demonstrate their comprehension of a set of events by asking them to arrange the events from most to least significant contributions to the industrial revolution, the use of “arrange” in this context is at the cognitive level Understand.

Action Verbs (Bloom’s Taxonomy adapted by Linda Nilson)
Source:

Adapted from Nilson, L. B. (2016). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (4th ed.). Jossey-Bass.

RememberArrange
Choose
Copy
Identify
Label
List
Locate
Omit
Order
Quote
Repeat
Reproduce
Select
Spell
UnderstandArrange
Associate
Clarify
Express
Grasp
Identify
Interpret
Locate
Organize
Restate
Review
Rewrite
ApplyApply
Appraise
Break down
Criticize
Demonstrate
Determine
Execute
Formulate
Identify
Modify
Operate
Practice

CHALLENGE: I’m not sure I understand the difference between formative and summative assessments and assignments. Do they serve different purposes and when should I use each?

Clarification:

Formative assessments and assignments are usually low-stakes or ungraded, offering students multiple opportunities to recall and demonstrate knowledge of concepts and skills, stressing learning rather than performance (Bain, 2004). The results, including any feedback you might offer, can help students know what knowledge and skills they have mastered and where they need to put in additional time, effort, and practice. These formative assessments and assignments are also helpful in providing feedback to the instructor in the areas where students may benefit from reteaching, additional resources, or more practice.

The goal of summative assessments and assignments is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit, module, or course by comparing the level of learning against a standard or benchmark. For instance, a major exam or research project would be considered summative because they occur at the end of a learning process and will be incorporated as part of the students’ grades. According to Linda Nilson (2016), summative assessments typically take place at the end of a learning process while formative assessments are part of the learning process.


Download the transcript for this video.

MISCONCEPTION: I’ve heard a lot about transparent assignments, but it seems like they would take quite a bit of time to create and I wonder if it’s really worth it.

Clarification:

Listen to Anna Smedley, PhD; David Copeland, PhD; and Sharon Jalene, PhD, three professors from the University of Nevada, as they reflect on how the use of the transparent assignment design has benefited them as instructors and how it has helped their students better meet assignment expectations.

Download the transcript for this video.


Observe & Analyze

In this Observe & Analyze (OA), you’ll complete an activity focused on evaluating the alignment of assessments with course learning outcomes. As you analyze the examples to identify the alignment and where there might be a misalignment, you gain a deeper understanding of how to ensure your assessments and assignments are well aligned to your course outcomes.

Review the following subset of learning outcomes from an introductory physics course and then answer the questions below.

  1. Students will be able to define Newton’s laws of motion and Newton’s law of universal gravitation.
  2. Students will be able to translate the description of a physical event into a mathematical formulation.
  3. Students will be able to calculate the gravitational force that two objects exert on each other using Newton’s law of gravitation.
  4. Students will be able to recognize whether or not the results of their calculations make physical sense.
  5. Students will be able to design experiments that generate data for exploring physical principles.

Implementation Resources

  • Implementation Resources

  • Module Resources

This section includes resources to support your implementation of the practices presented in the module.

Download all of the implementation guides for this module.

Identify appropriate evidence of mastery 

Identify assessment and assignment types aligned to the cognitive level of course outcomes

To make sure there is alignment between assessments and assignments and course outcomes or objectives, create evaluations that ask students to demonstrate the same level of thinking in both. Begin by identifying the cognitive level of the outcome and then select the most appropriate assessment or assignment method.

Download a resource on identifying assessment and assignment types.

Download the resource Types of Assessments and Assignments by Cognitive Level.

Offer assignment choice to increase equity

Providing students with assignment choice also encourages a greater level of ownership for their learning. There are many ways that we can adapt assignments to offer students a variety of opportunities to learn and demonstrate their learning.

Download a resource on offering assignment choices.

Ensure portfolios provide evidence of mastery

Portfolios are collections of students’ work that demonstrate their progress and achievement of learning objectives and course outcomes. There are three forms of portfolios that are frequently used in higher ed: showcase portfolios, working portfolios, and assessment portfolios.

Download a resource on portfolios.


Use formative assessments to prepare students for mastery

Assess students’ prior knowledge to inform course adjustments

Students come to us with a wide range of preexisting knowledge, skills, and experiences. Because learning new knowledge is dependent on preexisting knowledge and skill, knowing what students know and can do before beginning a new course or new topic can help you adjust the course to address gaps and misconceptions and build on the existing skills and interests of your students.

Download a resource on assessing students’ prior knowledge..

Provide early opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of foundational concepts

Foundational concepts are those concepts or skills in a discipline from which everything else builds. Early opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of foundational concepts ensure that they have a strong foundation of knowledge from which to build upon throughout the course.

Download a resource on foundational concepts.

Use formative opportunities to prepare students for summative assessments and assignments

While summative assessments typically take place at the end of a unit, module, or course, formative assessments and assignments serve to help students learn and develop skills while also providing feedback to the instructor and student regarding where students are meeting with success and where they may benefit from reteaching, additional resources, or further practice.

Download a resource on formative opportunities..

Download the resource Types of Assessments and Assignments by Cognitive Level.

Incorporate certification/licensure exam requirements in assessments

Many vocations require proof of minimum task proficiency prior to earn certification. This proficiency is often proven through completion of industry-specific certification or licensure exams. To prepare students for satisfactory exam performance, integration of authentic, low-stakes exam practice can be included within course design.

Download a resource on incorporating certification/licensure exam requirements in assessments.


Provide assignments and assessments that promote equity

Use the transparent assignment template

When students have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, why, and how it is contributing to their desired outcome, they experience increased motivation (Winkelmes, 2013). One way of ensuring that your course assignments include these motivational elements is by using the transparent assignment template designed by Mary-Ann Winkelmes in 2013.

Download a resource on the transparent assignment template.

Break complex assignments into small components

Assigning components of a larger assignment as separate assignments with their own point value, while presenting the larger assignment as a project combining all the components, can help students build their skills and confidence with each step and will develop their confidence and success on the assignment.

Download a resource on breaking assignments into components.


This section provides links to the resources generously provided by the faculty featured in this module.


Identifying appropriate evidence of mastery

Identify assessment and assignment types aligned to the cognitive level of course outcomes

References

David Beach, PhD
Associate Undergraduate Writing Coordinator
Department of English
West Virginia University

Kathy Berlin, PhD
Associate Professor & Program Director
School of Health & Human Sciences
IUPUI

Nicole Blalock, PhD
Assistant Professor, American Indian Studies Program
Core Faculty, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies Doctoral Program
California State University, Northridge
ᎾᏍᎩᎠᎨᏴ/She/her/Dr.

Beverly Bondad-Brown, PhD
Director of Academic Technology
Center for Effective Teaching and Learning
California State University, Los Angeles
She/her/hers

Lauren Brickman
Adjunct Lecturer
Queensborough Community College

Hugh Broome, PhD
Associate Teaching Professor
School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi
He/him/his

David Copeland, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
He/him/his

Earle M. Crosswait III
Academic Specialist
Mathematics
Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College
He/him/his

Michael Davis, PhD
Associate Professor
School of Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi

Candice L. Freeman, PhD
Department Chair
Medical Laboratory Technology Program
Fayetteville Technical Community College
She/her/hers

Catherine Haras, MLIS
Executive Director
Center for Effective Teaching and Learning
California State University, Los Angeles

Andrea Jackson, EdD
Instructional Coach
Center for Faculty Development
Fayetteville Technical Community College
She/her/hers

Naat Jairam
Instructional Designer
Center for Effective Teaching and Learning
California State University, Los Angeles
He/him/his

Sharon Jalene, PhD
Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Affairs
Assistant Professor in Residence
School of Integrated Health Sciences
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
She/her/hers

Kelly Lester, EdD, MFA
Director
Center for Faculty Development
The University of Southern Mississippi
She/her/hers

Mwauna Maxwell
2020-22 Faculty Fellow for the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning
Faculty, Department of Psychology
Dallas College
She/her/hers

Kenjuana McCray, EdD
Lead Program Coordinator
Arts & Humanities Program
Fayetteville Technical Community College
She/her/hers

Natasha Nurse-Clarke, RN, PhD
Assistant Professor
School of Nursing
Lehman College, CUNY
She/her/hers

Deborah M. Oh, PhD
Professor of Statistics, Research, and Evaluation
Applied and Advanced Studies in Education
Charter College of Education
California State University, Los Angeles
She/her/hers

Deninne Pritchett, PhD
Chairperson and Faculty Member
Department of Psychology
Central Piedmont Community College
She/her/hers

Mya Rome
Instructor
School of Child and Family Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi
She/her/hers

Anna Smedley, PhD
Director of Student and Community Engagement
Assistant Professor in Residence
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Desmond Stephens, PhD
Associate Professor
Director of Faculty Development
Department of Mathematics
Florida A&M University
He/him/his

Jeff Suarez-Grant
Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Effective Teaching and Learning
California State University, Los Angeles
He/him/his

Juanita Williams
Instructor
Cosmetology Services Education Center (CSEC)
Fayetteville Technical Community College

Melissa Ziegler, PhD
Assistant Teaching Professor
School of Health Professions
The University of Southern Mississippi
She/her/hers

Tracie Addy, PhD
Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning
Director, Center for the Integration of Teaching, Learning, & Scholarship 
Lafayette College
She/her/hers

Thomas A. Angelo, EdD
Coauthor, Classroom Assessment Techniques
Emeritus Professor, Educational Innovation & Research
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ken O’Connor, MEd
Author and Consultant
Assess for Success Consulting, Inc.
He/him/his

Aaron M. Pallas, PhD
Professor of Sociology and Education
Education Policy and Social Analysis
Teachers College, Columbia University
He/him/his

Mary-Ann Winkelmes, PhD
Executive Director, Center for Teaching and Learning
Principal Investigator and Founder, TILT Higher Ed
Brandeis University
She/her/hers

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Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (4th ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Nilson, L. B., & Goodson, L. A. (2021).
Online teaching at its best: Merging instructional design with teaching and learning research (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Pallas, A. M., & Neumann, A. (2019).
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