Demonstrations of learning

Now that you’ve considered ways to develop a course learning climate, create course learning aims, plan for class sessions, and select learning activities, the next questions to ask yourself are these:

  • How will I know if students have achieved the ultimate course aims?
  • How will I know if are making progress in meeting the learning aims attached to mediating and foundational aims?
  • How will the assessments I have in mind reflect what I want students to see as valuable about studying in this field and working to master course content?

Reflecting and writing in response to these 3 questions can help us begin the instructional work of aligning assessments with all three levels of intended aims.

To think further about types of assessments, we offer the following resources:

Align assessment with aims

Types of Assessments

Considering your course aims, what kind of assignments or tests/exams would measure what you value most, as reflected in the aims? Thoughtfully designed multiple choice tests can measure factual knowledge, as well as application and analysis, but are usually not as effective when it comes to measuring procedural skills, for instance, or the highest levels of learning that require students to create and evaluate. In these cases, performances, problem sets, or essay papers might be better choices. When the assessment is well suited to measuring the target learning aim the two are said to be "in alignment."

More about Types of Assessments


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

In creating assessments that align with aims and with activities it can be helpful to think about what the range of assessments might be possible, that might engage your particular students in pursuing questions and doing work associated with your field of study. Rather than focus assessments that are either familiar to you from your past student role or that are embedded in a course you have inherited, consider some of the possibilities set out in these documents:

Rethinking the role of exams in student learning

Conversation with Maria Gini, UMTC Distinguished Teaching Professor, Computer Science & Engineering, on re-thinking the role of exams in student learning.

Check for feasibility

When you are satisfied with the alignment of your aims and assessments, decide when they should occur during the semester. One approach is to insert your tests/exams and assignments in a blank course outline before you insert information about the weekly class sessions’ activities and content possibilities. Creating an outline where all you see are the assessment measures can help you determine whether the assessments are correctly spaced and sequenced, whether you have an appropriate variety of assessments to measure your learning outcomes, and whether the assessments will support the student learning and development you hope will occur during the semester, and whether you have created an appropriate workload for you and your learners.

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. Finally, when planning assessments, be certain at least one test/exam or major assignment is timed to happen well before the deadline for students to drop the course.

In checking for feasibility as part of this iterative course design process, returning to two resources from the Activities tab will be helpful: the “Backward Design - Sequencing Activities, Assignments, Assessments,”  will return you to calendar planning, and the Teaching for Learning resources combined with the Classroom Patterns resource will provide you with resources for updating assignments as well as class session and preparation work.