A good assessment plan and robust set of assignments for a course come directly from the course learning objectives and should be designed to help students (1) learn with smaller, lower-stakes, formative opportunities and (2) demonstrate their mastery of course content and skills in higher-stakes assessments such as exams or large projects.
As Step 1 of developing your assessment plan, review your course learning goals and objectives, and think about how to align your assessments with these objectives. You can do this by considering the "backward design" process for developing courses.
Course learning objectives state what students can expect to have learned after completing the course. These are the things that you want students to remember years after they leave your course and are out in the world contributing to your field and society professionally. Course learning objectives should complete the phrase, “as a result of taking this course, students will be able to…” Effective learning objectives are student-focused, action-oriented, measurable, and precise. Learn more about how to write good objectives in this video. (Download transcript here)
Backward Design for Courses and Assessments
The backward course design process focuses on learning objectives (LOs) first. Everything else in the course flows from the LOs. In backward design, you articulate your LOs, development an assessment plan to track and measure student success in meeting the LOs, and then the day-to-day activities and content for the course. The video below reviews the process. Having your LOs defined is important for the rest of the assessment plan development process. (Download transcript here).
In the backward design process, your next step after defining the course learning objectives is to creating assessments that are aligned with the LOs and allow students to show their progress toward meeting those goals, typically through a series of formative and summative assessments (discussed more on next page). This video explores the idea of aligned assignments.