Best Practice

Assessment of/for/as learning

I was recently asked to deliver a presentation as part of the CIRTL Ignite your Teaching Seminar Series on Assessment of/for/as learning. Much has been written about this over the past year or so by the National Forum for Teaching and Learning, and there are some very useful resources and thinking available around the subject (see the end of this post for some recommended reading via a Padlet link).

There is now very much a move away from summative, high stakes assessment (also known as assessment of learning: think cramming, anxiety-provoking written examinations). The movement away from these ‘old fashioned’ approaches has prompted new thinking around assessment, and therefore good teaching practice.

As a result, assessment is now being reconceptualised as:

  • Formative: Higher frequency and lower stakes
  • Authentic: Providing the chance for students to practice ‘real world’ skills within the discipline
  • Transparent: Accompanied by rubrics and exemplars
  • Inclusive: Allowing choice

How might this look in an online space?

  • Implement small group-based assessment projects throughout the semester which focuses on the creation of a learning artefact which can be reused by the group (such as revision materials or reading summaries).
  • Devise communication via Twitter, Padlet or other ‘back channels’ where students can interact outside of Blackboard.
  • Relate the assessment back to a performative aspect as per the discipline, for example, requesting a video recording of a role play or clinical competency which is shared and given feedback and/or assessed by peers, using a rubric.
  • Facilitate choice in the medium of expression, not only relying on text-based essay. For example, giving students the option of choosing to record a podcast or presentation, or in an online context, writing a blog or creating an e-portfolio submission with images.
  • Involve students in the process of creating the assessment criteria. This increases ownership of the task.
  • Be transparent about the expectations – a rubric is one way. This is complemented well with exemplars, which could be drawn from either example created by the teacher or from outstanding submissions from previous students. Again this works well in an online context, where exemplars can easily be shared.

This list is obviously by no means exhaustive. But it is a starting point. As Boud (1995) states: “Students can, with difficulty, escape from the effects of poor teaching, they cannot escape the effects of poor assessment”. We, therefore, owe it to our students, as our most important stakeholders, to get it right, and any small changes can spark bigger ones.


  • Recorded Presentation and Slides:  Assessment of/for/as learning – CIRTL Ignite your Teaching Seminar Series. Delivered by Dr. Briony Supple, CIRTL Lecturer, Wednesday, 8th November, 12.30-2pm. Live recording:
  • Further Resources: Including links to further reading, planning templates for constructive alignment, creating rubrics, readings about assessment:
  • Boud, D. 1995. Assessment and learning: Contradictory or complementary. In P. Knight (Ed.) Assessment for Learning in Higher Education. Kogan Page, London. Pp.35-48.