Designing & Delivering Digital Assessments
When designing any digital assessment, the same principles and characteristics of effective assessment design apply. As always, consider the interrelationship between learning outcomes, module/programme teaching and learning activities, and assessment strategy. The principle of constructive alignment should always be applied whereby your assessment approach align with the desired learning outcome.
This section aims to help you:
- define learning outcomes
- select appropriate assessment methods based on defined learning outcomes
- calculate assessment workload when designing your assessment strategy.
Click on the links below for more information.
Defining learning outcomes
A learning outcome articulates what students should know, understand or be able to do at the end of a learning experience (ECTS Users’ Guide, p.14). A ‘learning experience’ can range from the learning involved in a one-hour class to the learning which is expected to take place across the duration of an entire module or programme.
Learning outcomes play an important role in helping to determine appropriate assessment methods for a particular learning context. By specifying what students should know, understand or be able to do, learning outcomes act as a useful framework for guiding you, as educator, towards appropriate assessment approaches which effectively evaluate and recognise student progression.
Bloom’s Taxonomy is frequently used for writing learning outcomes, providing an accessible framework for conceptualising learning outcomes and listing an accompanying suite of appropriate verbs for articulating different types of learning outcomes. Bloom delineated three domains of learning— cognitive, affective and psychomotor—and within each of these domains he identified a sequential order of complexity. The cognitive domain—which classifies different ‘thinking behaviours’ in order of complexity—is the most widely used in the creation of learning outcomes, articulating different levels of understanding.
Figure 3. Bloom’s Taxonomy. From Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blooms-Taxonomy-650x366.jpg), added labels by Academic Practice, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode.
Linking assessment methods with learning outcomes
In any learning context, it is important that the method of assessment effectively measures or evaluates whether or not the learning outcomes have been demonstrated. In this resource, using Bloom’s revised Taxonomy as a framework—particularly his work in the cognitive domain of learning (see Anderson and Krathwohl 2001)—we have compiled a list of ‘thinking processes’, competences and skills that are commonly assessed in higher education.
For each level within the Taxonomy, you will find:
- a list of related “action verbs” that may be used to articulate an appropriate learning outcome
- a series of assessment approaches that are typically used to assess the achievement of learning outcome at this level.
Developing links between learning outcomes and assessment can be challenging.
In many cases, one assessment type may not satisfy all learning outcomes and it may be necessary to choose a number of different assessment types.
See also “Linking Assessment Methods with Learning Outcomes using Blooms Taxonomy” in accessible, printable formats: WORD - PDF.
Click on the + sign in the image below to see the different assessment approaches.
Planning your assessment strategy: calculating ECTS workload
When designing your assessment strategy for a module/programme, it is important to consider assessment workload for the student.
ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) is a way of accounting for student time in the classroom or at a distance. When designing modules to accommodate digital teaching, learning and assessment, it is important to consider ECTS size and to estimate student workload.
Assessment workload is typically based on how much time an average student invests in order to achieve a module’s learning outcomes at threshold level. Regardless of its digital context, a module or course with 10 ECTS credits should have approximately twice the workload of a course with 5 ECTS.
At Trinity, module sizes are limited to 5 and 10 ECTS, with 20 ECTS reserved for capstone modules only. Assessment workload should be commensurate with ECTS size.
Student workload is the calculation/estimation of notional hours of ‘typical’ student effort, so think of the ‘typical student’ as much as is feasible:
5 ECTS module = 125 hours of ‘typical’ student input
10 ECTS module = 250 hours of workload for a 10 ECTS module.
Workload estimation includes all teaching, learning and assessment including self-study. For example, it includes:
- practical or virtual lab work
- studying in advance of a flipped classroom
- continuous assessment
- preparation for summative assessment
- time taken to complete the assessment.
When designing assessments think of it as preparation and delivery. If you require your students to deliver a 15 minute online presentation, don’t forget to consider what the preparation time might be (perhaps five hours)?
For greater information on parity of assessment sizing, and for more information on workload in Trinity see Trinity ‘s TEP Guidelines on Student Workload and Assessment.
- When designing any digital assessment, the same principles and characteristics of effective assessment design apply. Assessments should be constructively aligned with the desired learning outcome
- A learning outcome articulates what students should know, understand or be able to do at the end of a learning experience. A learning experience can range from the learning involved in a one-hour class to the learning which is expected to take place across the duration of an entire module or programme
- In many cases, one assessment type may not satisfy all learning outcomes and it may be necessary to choose a number of different assessment types.
- When designing your assessment strategy, consider assessment workload for the student i.e. how much time an average student invests in order to achieve a modules learning outcomes at threshold level. Assessment workload should be commensurate with ECTS size and should take into account the students time for preparation and delivery.
- Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Anderson and Krathwohl present a revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy pointing towards a more dynamic framework where they use ‘action words’ to describe the cognitive processes by which we encounter and engage with knowledge.
- The Trinity Education Project (TEP): TEP Guidelines on Student Workload and Assessment (2017). Developed to support the Trinity Education Project, this resource aims to provides a comprehensive overview of the relationship between teaching, learning and assessment workload and their alignment with the ECTS value of the module.
- European Communities (2009) ECTS Users’ Guide. This resource provides guidelines for implementation of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).
- Laurillard, D (2021) Scalable Assessment Strategies for Digital Contexts. In this virtual webinar, which was hosted and recorded by Academic Practice at Trinity in January 2021, Professor Laurillard presents on the pedagogies of engagement for teaching and learning online, drawing on the now seminal Conversational Framework (Laurillard 1993, 2002).
- Digital Assessment: Expanding the Repertoire (Word, PDF):
- Writing Digital Assessment Briefs for International Students (Word 2116KB, PDF 230KB)
- Linking Assessment Methods with Learning Outcomes using Blooms Taxonomy (Word 2,122KB, PDF 220KB)
Many different methods and techniques can be used or adapted to meet assessment needs across the disciplines and a broad range of assessment practices and assignment ‘types’ will often feature across a module or programme. This resource is intended to prompt reflection on the breadth of potential assessment activity that can be used across the disciplines.
Assessment performance can act as a key indicator of a student’s understanding of module content. This resource provides academics with practical guidelines to ensure that their digital assessment practices are transparent for all students, particularly those coming from different educational contexts.