Getting started with assessment design

Establishing why you're assessing and what you want to get out of an assessment should, ideally, be your first step in the design process. Different objectives, such as providing detailed formative feedback, generating grades, and adhering to professional accreditation requirements, will all have different impacts on how you design your assessments.

Not only are the reasons for assessing diverse, there are a number of different stakeholders in the assessment process with different needs to consider when designing your assessments. These are outlined below:

Girl writing on a blackboardStudents

Ideally, assessment should consolidate students' learning through:

  • Clearly linking with the learning outcomes of the course;
  • Being complemented by timely, quality feedback with clear indications on how to improve future performance 'feed forward' – see the Engage in Feedback website for more details);
  • Exciting, motivating and challenging tasks, for example, through the use of authentic assessment methods.


Quality assurance

Quality assurance regulators (both internal and external) as well as professional accrediting bodies require summative assessment to provide evidence that students have met certain standards in order to grant them a particular degree award. This means that some disciplines will have more prescriptive assessment methods that need to be adhered to than others.

Moderation is an important consideration to ensure that quality standards are met and you should factor this in to your assessment design. During the design process itself, it can be helpful to have your assessment design moderated by colleagues, who may spot potential issues that you have missed. Once students have completed the assessment, their work will also need to be moderated in order to guarantee reliability and institutions will have their own protocols for doing this.


Employers rely on assessment to provide evidence of students' knowledge and skills, necessitating authenticity and validity of assessment tasks, which may be of particular importance in more vocational subjects. Employers also rely on the grades awarded by final summative assessment as part of their graduate selection process.


The feedback and statistics generated by assessment can be used by you and your colleagues to make judgements on the performance of both students and as a means of evaluating both your own teaching and of the assessment methods themselves.

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