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Part 3: Assessing Student Learning Outcomes that you’ve determined what students will know and be able to do as a result of this course, the next question to ask yourself is: How will I know if students have achieved these outcomes? Assessments must match the intended outcomes of the class. Students determine what you value and what the field values by what you grade, not by what you say.

In order to write your assessment plan, follow the steps below.

STEP ONE: Align Outcomes and Assessment

Types of Assessments

Considering your course outcomes, what kind of assignments or tests would measure what you value most? Multiple choice tests are appropriate for measuring factual knowledge, but usually not as effective when it comes to measuring procedural skills, for instance, or certain kinds of higher order thinking. In these cases,  performances, problem sets, or essay papers might be better choices. When the assessment is well suited to measuring the target learning outcome the two are said to be "in alignment."


It is also important that your assessments be weighted properly. The more important a learning objective is within the context of the course, the more weight the assessment of that objective should carry .Verify whether the weighting of your assessments align with the relative importance of what you're teaching.

Assessment Construction

If you use a typical examination to measure your students' mastery of learning outcomes, refer to the General Steps in Test Construction & resource for a step-by-step guide to writing a test.  Consider alternatives to traditional exams or papers. See the Alternative Assessment Strategies resource for examples .

The Test Construction Grid resource and the Assessing Student Learning Outcomes Working Guide (Word) for this section both contain samples that illustrate the concept of alignment as discussed above.

STEP TWO: Check for Feasibility

When you are satisfied with the alignment of your outcomes and assessments, decide when they should occur during the semester. One approach is to insert your tests and assignments in a blank course outline before you insert the weekly content. (Such an outline can be found in the Working Guide that accompanies this section of the tutorial.) Creating an outline where all you see are the assessment measures helps you determine whether the assessments are correctly spaced and sequenced, whether you have an appropriate variety of assessments to measure your learning outcomes, and how the assessments will support the student learning and development you hope will occur during the semester.

When planning where assessments should occur, be certain that you have a test or assignment well before the deadline for students to drop the course. Consider workload as well. When checking the feasibility of your assessments, be sure to ask yourself whether the workload you are planning for yourself and your students is reasonable.

STEP THREE: Create the Grading Portion of your Syllabus

In addition to describing the assessment measures and their relative weights toward the grade on your syllabus, explicitly connecting the assessments to the desired student outcomes for the course. Students greatly appreciate seeing  the congruence between assessment measures, but don’t expect them to make the link themselves. For examples from University of Minnesota syllabi, see the following syllabus examples.


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