Having pre-determined standards of performance are the most defensible approach to assessment. Without a clear understanding of the subject goals students have a greater chance of becoming confused and wasting time trying to discover what it is we want them to learn.
As you plan your teaching you will make choices on what you think is the best way to learn a particular skill, knowledge or attribute. If you go a small step further and make these goals clear to your students, then the written objectives used in curriculum design will serve a useful purpose in assisting your students' learning. The most direct way students experience what is needed to achieve the subject's learning objectives is through the assessment criteria.
Writing Assessment Criteria
Once the goals of assessment have been determined it is necessary to describe the criteria that will be used to judge whether the desired level of performance has been achieved. Learning objectives consist of three parts:
- the student action;
- the content;
- the standard required to meet the objective.
Assessment criteria relates to the third part of the objective, the standard of performance.
Criteria are developed by analysing the learning outcomes and identifying the specific characteristics that contribute to the overall assignment. These are the standards by which learning is judged.
Capturing the multiple dimensions of student performance is at the heart of criterion development. A range of diverse performance measures can be formulated for any given performance. The main question is, how many criterion are needed that contain neither irrelevant or miss important areas? The criteria then need to be linked with marks in some form of combined composite score.
Examples of Assessment Criteria
Constructively aligned assessment criteria begin with a noun that complements the verb in the assessment tasks objective. For example, if the objective is for students to "explain how concepts in the subject interrelate" one of the criteria might be "Clarity of explanation". That is, the criterion describes the quality in the assessment task that will be judged during marking. Other commonly used quality words used in criteria include:
Attendance and Participation
If there are any attendance or participation requirements they must be prescribed in the relevant subject outline. Students who do not meet the minimum attendance or participation requirements can be refused permission to attempt or be considered for assessment. This can result in the student receiving a "Fail" for that subject. There are provisions in the university rules for making alternative arrangements for circumstances outside of the student's control. Academics should note that Rule 3.8.2 does not provide them with the option of reduce a student's grade or mark as a result of poor attendance or participation.
Where attendance is a requirement of a subject, a record will need to be kept.
There are times when it is appropriate to assess participation. Contributions to group work and workplace placements are two examples common in universities. In cases where participation is being assessed, appropriate performance criteria and standards that can be observed in the classroom will need to be set. Common goals would be for students to demonstrate that they can work co-operatively, behave ethically, assess & evaluate information or provide helpful feedback. Students will also need to receive formative feedback on their performance in this area.