Assessment is the measurement of educational goals that have been met through instruction and typically is the greatest source of stress for students. Assessment should always be driven by the learning objectives and outcomes of the course. Subject matter experts should consider what is the most appropriate assessment for their objectives but also consider how students will best succeed, both in the course and also what skills and competencies the assessment helps develop.  

Assessment includes everything from daily in-person tasks to traditional writing and exams. Instructional designers can assist in several ways to make sure your assessment aligns with your objectives and help incorporate technology in the assessment delivery. Canvas supports a variety of assessment strategies including discussions, tests, and quizzes that include a large variety of question types, and submitting assignments like essays and other materials that can be uploaded or digitally shared. However, we can also help you think about how to incorporate technology into assessment as a way for students to develop skills, such as podcasting and video creation.  

Two major concepts instructional designers promote in assessment are transparency and authentic assessment. Transparency, for example using TILT, advocates for students to have a complete understanding of why and how they do assignments or projects. Focusing on the why ensures we are aligning the assessment with objectives and allows students to see the exact purpose you as instructor imagined for this assignment. TILT is one of the frameworks that can help with adding transparency. However, it is important to remember there is not a single way of being transparent. Additionally, while being transparent can promote equity, it is just one small step toward having a more equitable course, so the work towards equity does not stop there. Authentic assessment describes allowing students to show competency and knowledge application with assessment attached to real-world applications. The common characteristics of authentic assessment include: 

  • Allowing students to create deliverables that are original and draw on personal interest rather than single answers from a bank of possibilities.   

  • Giving students the ability to determine how to show their knowledge or competency to give them agency over the assessment.  

  • Favoring experience and application over memorization and recall in the assessment process, also puts emphasis on showing evidence of skills acquired through the course.  

  • Allowing for the creation of new knowledge and showing that students can see new problems in the field while also being able to create possible solutions.  

  • Including reflective practices in the assessment that ask students to reflect on what they learned and how that has informed their existing knowledge and goals moving forward.  

Most assessment also ends with grading or a way to measure the success of the assessment in relation to student performance. However, the process of grading, while seen as essential in the college process, creates high levels of anxiety and stress for students. Students want to achieve and are told that grades and GPA are measures of that success and by default even intelligence. Of course, we know that grades and GPA do not measure intelligence and when students feel anything below an A is failure then grading can also distort the meaning of success to students. There is no single fix to the issues that come with grading, but instructional designers are always available to talk through grading practices including but not limited to how to build in greater flexibility, how to improve student experience using authentic assessment, helping students understand the process and the institutional importance of grading, and alternative options to grading including ungrading practices.