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What is being assessed?

Three interrelated elements are important to consider when clarifying what should be assessed

  • UCD Level Descriptors assist us in devising a coherent assessment strategy that assesses student learning as they progress through the different levels of their programme
  • Taxonomies of Learning Outcomes are a useful reference as they are classifications in an ordered system of what can be learned and assessed.
  • List of Graduate Attributes help us to focus on “graduateness” and the key transferable skills we want to develop and assess that are important for future work and study e.g. critical thinking, teamwork

What is being assessed

UCD Level Descriptors

The UCD Level Descriptors covering UCD levels 0-5, provide a useful over-arching rubric when planning an assessment strategy for a full programme and designing assessments appropriate for different levels. The descriptors help students to understand what is expected of them.

Taxonomies of Learning Outcomes

These taxonomies help you plan the progression of learning for your students as you clarify what you are assessing at each level.  There are different taxonomies relevant to different disciplines and professions for more information go to the Guide to Taxonomies of Learning Outcomes


SOLO Taxonomy

The solo taxonomy is specifically designed for learning outcomes based curricula.

Characteristic Level 
 Incompetent, nothing known about the area  Pre-structural
 One relevant aspect is known  Uni-structural
 Several relevant independent aspects are known  Multi-structural
 Aspects of knowledge are integrated into a structure  Relational
 Knowledge is generalised into a new domain  Extended Abstract

These levels range from incompetence to expertise. For more on SOLO including a very effective visual see:

ATHERTON J S (2009) Learning and Teaching; SOLO taxonomy UK:
For example the solo taxonomy can be used to help to specify what is being assessed in essays.

Graduate Attributes

What attributes do you want graduates of your programme to have developed to prepare them to move to employment or further study? How do you design your assessments around these key graduate attributes?

UCD Strategy for Education and Student Experience 2009-2013 p.4 states that:

As well as producing students with a high level of expertise in their own discipline, UCD will continue to foster students wider capacities, such as creativity and critical thinking, information communication and problem-solving skills, and teamwork, citizenship and leadership skills, that prepare them for lifelong learning, employment and active citizenship.

UCD’s policy on graduate attributes is at an early stage of development. It is worth looking at international universities work in this area. For example the University of Sydney has a policy, a framework of levels, faculty statements on graduate attributes and research publications.

The University of Sydney Graduate Attributes

University of Sydney Graduate Attributes 

Assessment of graduate attributes can be easily built in to existing modules to reflect the skills required. For example, if you wish your students to learn more about “information literacy” (the ability to find, use and evaluate information effectively), you can embed a task related to using key sources in your discipline and attach a learning outcome to your module descriptor asking the student for reflection on the task.

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