Effective assessment is inseparable from good teaching and learning. Just as a good facilitator would use more than one method of teaching, a program or a course would normally employ more than one method of assessment. An assessment plan lays out a well thought out selection of assessment methods that are aligned to the elements of performance and outcomes of the course or program can be facilitated in a number of ways.

Decide which assessment fits best, consider:

What do I want the students to know, do, and be?
What is acceptable evidence to show that students have achieved those outcomes?
What experiences will help students to demonstrate their achievement of those outcomes?
Time/resources required to develop the assessment for students, developing rubrics/scoring guides, student briefing video/document, sample/exemplar for students and evaluating student work.
Time/resources for students to complete the assessment.
Will the student require a physical space free from distraction/noise (in person/synchronous presentation)
Synchronous presentations may need to be recorded for potential appeal process if capstone activity.
Timing: are time zones a concern?
Technology: are students comfortable with the technology required to complete the assessment? If not, prepare/share support documents/links. 

From: Drake, S. (2007). Creating Standards-Based Integrated Curriculum: Aligning curriculum, content, assessment, and instruction. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin – page 8.

These questions will help you to choose an assessment task that is aligned with the outcomes students will be performing in the course.

Have a look at these examples from courses:

Outcome: Develop a business plan for a small business.

Assessment: Students write a business plan for a specific business.

Outcome: Apply conflict resolution strategies in a variety of settings.

Assessment: Students demonstrate strategies during a series of simulations in class.

Outcome: Critically analyze situations that lead to the perpetration of fraud.

Assessment: Students examine case studies and present their analysis.

 Review the links below to compare formative/summative assessment and traditional versus authentic forms. 

Evidence of student learning is collected through out the lesson / unit / course; however, learning is being graded. Grading is low-stakes.

Summative assessments typically occur at the end of a course although not always for example midterm examinations. Grading is high-stakes. Examples  include Case Study, Project, Final Examination or Capstone. Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.


  • Bloom’s Verb Wheel: Remember / Understand
  • Students select an answer or recall information to complete the assessment.

Authentic (Performance Assessment)

  • Bloom’s Verb Wheel: Apply / Analyze / Evaluate / Create Requires a Rubric
  • Students use a repertoire of knowledge and skills to complete a task (WIL)

“A form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills” — Jon Mueller

“…Engaging and worthy problems or questions of importance, in which students must use knowledge to fashion performances effectively and creatively. The tasks are either replicas of or analogous to the kinds of problems faced by adult citizens and consumers or professionals in the field.” — Grant Wiggins — (Wiggins, 1993, p. 229).

“Performance assessments call upon the examinee to demonstrate specific skills and competencies, that is, to apply the skills and knowledge they have mastered.” — Richard J. Stiggins — (Stiggins, 1987, p. 34).

Advantages of Authentic Assessment

  • Requires students to contextualize and apply what they have learned. 
  • Has students work within ambiguities and grey areas that are often present in the real work environment.
  • Challenges students with a full array of tasks and challenges, and priority setting that is required in solving real world issues.
  • Looks at students abilities to plan, craft and revise through and justifiable arguments, performances and products. 
  • Often include ambiguous problems and roles that allow students  to practice dealing with the ambiguities of the real world. 

Wiggins, Grant (1990). The case for authentic assessment. Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation. 


Identify criteria to evaluate the task(s) and develop a grading outline, checklist or rubric. Did you know with a small investment of time you can build your rubric in the learning management system and efficiently grade students. 

Evaluate students’ abilities to complete the criteria of the task(s). 

Click on the links below to learn more about various types of assessments.


You can create individual or group journal assignments and can optionally enable rubrics and grading. Some tips include making the journal entry an assignment and documenting the due date in the learning management system (Blackboard). Attaching a grade to the journal assignment will encourage completion. Using a minimum three-point scale will help prevent students from simply writing one-line responses.

Journal assignment examples:

  • In the first class have students write a definition(s) of key term(s), at course midpoint have students review, reflect and annotate/edit their definitions, you could also repeat at the end of the course
  • have students reflect on the learning process and document changes in their perceptions and attitudes as they progress through the course
  • at the end of lectures, have students summarize or reflect upon what they thought were the most important points
  • have students describe challenges faced and how they solved them
  • create and assign instructor-directed journal entries that are more formal in nature
  • have students document or reflect on placement/work integrated learning experiences
  • have students work in small groups to make lists in their journals of the citations from an article
  • have students consider how an article, event, legislation, may impact their hometown/culture
  • visualize two or three articles by drawing concept maps in their journals

To learn more about how to create a journal in Blackboard, click here.  

Problem-based Learning (PBL) is part of a larger group of learning activities and assessments under the umbrella of inquiry-based learning. Other forms of inquiry-based learning include design labs, case studies, moot court in law schools, and medical rounds in health-sciences. Analysis and response to a case study, debate and legal brief.

Use this form of assessment if you want students to:

  • Practice concrete applications of theory and content.
  • Develop authentic learning and application beyond rote content memorization.
  • Engage students in a much more interactive manner.
  • Increase awareness of application and relevance of theory and discipline-specific knowledge to situations beyond the classroom.
  • Promote soft skills, including working with others, communication, time management.
  • Scaffold learning from multiple units into a more continuous learning experience.
  • Development of a product proposal or business plan (perhaps to be judged by external judges)
  • Brochure
  • Performance: e.g., a presentation to the class or a debate
  • Creation of a website or video (example of tied to industry/non profit – Public Service Announcement Video)
  • Work of art

When assigning a research report, provide the student with the required structure and instructions with an aim to receive clear and concise papers about the research topic so you can easily understand the purpose and results of the students research. We recommend providing a rubric. 

You may be asking yourself how can you design fair, yet challenging, exams that accurately gauge student learning? Should you assign essay questions on your exams? Problem sets? Multiple-choice questions? Well the answer is it depends, consider your learning objectives.  For example, if you want students to articulate or justify an economic argument, then multiple-choice questions are a poor choice because they do not require students to articulate anything. However, multiple-choice questions (if well-constructed) might effectively assess students’ ability to recognize a logical economic argument or to distinguish it from an illogical one. If your goal is for students to match technical terms to their definitions, essay questions may not be as efficient a means of assessment as a simple matching task. There is no single best type of exam question: the important thing is that the questions reflect your learning objectives.

Provide review activities that will inform the structure and/or content of the examination. Write instructions that are clear, explicit, and unambiguous. When drafting questions, avoid complex sentence construction and language that may be difficult for students, especially international students, to understand. Also, in multiple-choice questions, avoid using absolutes such as “never” or “always,” which can lead to confusion. It is important to design exams that can be reasonably completed in the time allotted.

Did you know you can create your examination in the learning management system. One advantage to this format is the ability to apply academic integrity features. Click to learn more about using the LMS to build your exam.

If you require a examination to be locked down and/or monitored, learn more here: Respondus Lockdown & Monitor

These ideas are just a few of the alternatives to examinations you may consider in designing your assessment strategy. These forms of authentic assessment will challenge the student to contextualize and apply their course learning. 

Use the creation of concept maps or flowcharts if you want students to:

  • Represent knowledge in graphic form
  • Organize and categorize knowledge
  • Identify connections and relationships between abstract or complex ideas.

Example forms of digital submission:

  • Submitted in Word Smart Art or PowerPoint slide
sample fish bone diagram

Is a tool that helps identify, sort, and display possible causes of a specific problem or quality characteristic. It graphically illustrates the relationship between a given outcome and all the factors that influence the outcome. Often referred to as a “fishbone” diagram. 

Students receive calculations or problem-solving questions that have already been solved but contain an error or flaw. Ask students to identify (and possibly correct) the error.

Use this form of assessment if you want students to:

  • Demonstrate their ability to find errors in sets of data, problem solving questions, or arguments

Use this form of assessment if you want students to:

  • Apply theory to practice or real world situations
  • Explore alternative perspectives
  • Assess the impact of the course experience on their own personal growth

Critical reflection assessments might ask students to:

  • Prepare a written paper similar to a short or long-form essay question typically seen on a face-to-face final exam. What are the themes of your course? How can you form synthesis or analysis questions around those themes?
  • Explore their assumptions/biases, strengths, weaknesses, skills, identity, or emotions in relation to a course theme
  • Articulate the assumptions embedded in arguments, social media posts, or any form of communication
  • Engage on a meta-cognitive level by asking students to explain how they have met the learning outcomes in the course and how they will apply this learning in the future

For help developing assessments that support your curriculum goals, contact a Teaching & Learning Facilitator at

For help developing and integrating assessments into Blackboard, contact a Learning Technology Facilitators at