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How do I Assess?

Explore your students' programme assessment journey

Before you launch into the design of your module’s assessment, have some discussion with other faculty in your programme/subject on what assessments students have done, are doing and what they are doing next. This helps to support the integration of your assessment(s) into students’ learning journey throughout the programme. Some other questions to consider are:

  • What previous feedback have the students and other staff given on this module’s assessment? 
  • What level are the students? 
  • What is the class size? 
  • What is the diversity of the students’ learning, their experience, and their competencies?
  • What is the cultural diversity of students in your module?

Learn More

Designing online assessments: As a result of COVID-19, you may need to design more online assessments, listen to a related UCD webinar Designing Online Assessment  (June 2020).  This webinar is hosted on the HEAnet Media Hosting service, after clicking the link, you will be prompted to log in by selecting your institution and entering your UCD username and password.


Align your assessment with outcomes and teaching/learning activities

The next step is to consider the expectations for learning in your module, i.e. your intended module learning outcomes. Your assessments should align with these outcomes. If not, you need to either adjust your assessment or revise your intended module outcomes (for more on writing learning outcomes go to the module design section). To assist in designing the level expected in your assessment, see Guide to Taxonomies of Learning which outlines some descriptions of levels, including associated verbs. These levels are often called taxonomies.

In designing assessment, you also need to think about what is the key purpose your module’s assessments.  For example is it primarily ‘to demonstrate learning achievements at points in time’; ‘to get and give feedback’; and/or  ‘to empower students to self-regulate their learning and critically evaluate their performance…’? 


Consider how you can motivate students to engage in your assessment. Is the assessment authentic?  In other words, does it appear to be of value to the students in their current and future life? (National Forum, 2017; Swaffield, 2011). 

Use diverse approaches over a programme

As assessment methods should align with your outcomes, then, for example, critical thinking outcomes should be supported by assessments that challenge students to demonstrate this, such as essays, debates, online discussion forums, etc. For more examples on alignment, see Matching Outcomes to Assessment Methods.

 Students should experience a range of assessments across a programme. The examination is a useful assessment approach and it is still used widely in UCD and nationally (National Forum, 2016), but it does not suit all learners.  Give some thought to whether there are other approaches you can use to assess student learning in your module, bearing in mind that too much assessment innovation can also be challenging for students. Here are some UCD T&L and National Forum resources on common assessment methods, i.e. 

Group Work and Its Assessment; An Introduction to Effective Poster Design and Production The Use of Concept Maps for Assessment; The Design of Multiple Choice Questions for Assessment; Dissertations/Masters Dissertations; Work-Based Assessment; Authentic Assessment.

Empower Students in the Assessment Process

Some UCD case studies explore faculty’s experience of some of these in particular contexts are at the foot of this page.

Assessment should be inclusive and play to the strengths of diverse learners in your cohort. To be inclusive, you should try to engage learners in the assessment process. You should consider how they can be involved in any assessment decisions, such as: 

For more ideas on ‘students-as-partners’ in assessment and feedback see National Forum, 2016b.

The Universal Design for Learning approach gives some useful advise on how to be inclusive in your assessments (see also Padden et al., 2019).

Be careful not to overload students or yourselves

Assessment should be manageable for staff and for students (National Forum, 2019; UCD T&L, 2019)

However, we often find it challenging to reduce assessment (see more on this debate see O’Neill, 2019

The assessment should link with the expected student effort hours in the module. Larger modules should usually have proportionally higher student effort hours on assessment.  Student workload can be impacted by the assessment weighting, number and size, as well as by other demands, i.e. number of parallel modules/module sizes. Small regular assignments are often popular with students but be wary that too many can be overwhelming and encourage surface learning, particularly they have many modules. This can also impact class attendance. 

 Somethings to ask yourself are:

  • Can you plan the timing of your assessment submission with others in your team?
  • Could you use some in-class assessment, including use of technology tools, for example  Mentimeter (Implementation in Core UCD Psychology Module, Suzanne Guerin)?
  • Can you reduce some assessments in their size or number? Could you use replace some summative assessments with formative assessments/activities? 
  • Could your school/programme team consider the equivalence of your assessment methods to ensure some equity in effort? For example, do you have a discipline expectation for an essay length for a five-credit module?  What is the expectation for students time on a group project in a 10-credit module, that is weighted 50% of the grade? (This Assessment Workload and Equivalences gives an overview of examples in different institutions to assist in your local discussions.)
  • Can you make maximise student self and peer review so they can monitor their own learning?

Having designed and implemented your assessment, it is important that you can stand over the grading of your assessment.

For more on this see: How do I grade my assessment.