Designing inclusive assessments
Designing any assessment should consider:
- The intended (LOs),
- What evidence would be needed to demonstrate that a learner has achieved that intended LO, and
- What approaches would allow students to provide that evidence.
Assessments include all of the ongoing activities in the course that show the learner and you the learner’s progress toward the course’s intended learning outcomes, which can include (for learning) and (for learning and graded) assessments.
Assessments can take many forms, including essays, projects, and exams; further, assessment requirements can range from authentic assessments (e.g., a learner demonstrating their ability in a co-op or experiential learning setting, a project that closely mimics or is actually used in a professional setting) to more traditional tests of knowledge (e.g., multiple choice).
Remember that some students will have approved academic accommodations, discussed in the chapter on academic accommodations.
With many options to make assessments more inclusive, consider what approaches may be workable in your own course. For example:
- Automatically dropping the lowest in a series of quizzes relieves pressure if students have a bad period (e.g., mental health, illness, family member’s death)
- Giving options to re-submit work, which additionally supports and promotes learning
- Letting students know that they can approach/email you if something is hindering their ability to complete an assessment on time (e.g., add that information to the syllabus, send an announcement)
- Designing assessments that students can do using a choice different methods, which engages with their interests and gives them greater agency (e.g., a final report that could be completed in the form of a video, essay, infographic)
- Co-creating the assessment and/or grading expectations
- Asking students to suggest questions for an exam
Here are some other ways to build opportunities for students to successfully achieve the intended learning outcomes:
- Clearly communicate the expectations for each assessment, including academic integrity expectations (see uOttawa’s Professors’ zone for more info). Some examples include:
- Providing a rubric or marking scheme
- Giving examples of past work
- Specifying whether the assessment is to be done individually or in groups (size?), whether it’s open book (any book? any website?)
- Explaining how to report misconduct
- Provide low stakes or practice assessments
- Create feedback opportunities (e.g., from you, current classmates, senior students)
In our eBook on Remote Teaching, we describe further considerations for assessment and academic integrity, particular for an online environment.
- Ungrading: Why Rating Students Undermines Learning (and What to Do Instead) | West Virginia University Press. 2020. wvupressonline.com/ungrading.
- Preparing for assessments other than in-person exams, from the University of Waterloo.
Learning outcomes (LOs) are the knowledge, skills, or values that a learner should be able to demonstrate at the end of a learning period (e.g., class, course, program).
The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:
- help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
- help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately
Formative assessments are generally low stakes, which means that they have low or no point value. Examples of formative assessments include asking students to:
- submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
- turn in a research proposal for early feedback
- complete a problem set
The goal of summative assessment is to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit (e.g., module, course) by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.
Summative assessments are often high stakes, which means that they have a high point value. Examples of summative assessments include:
- a midterm or final exam
- a final project
- a paper
- a senior recital
Information from summative assessments can be used formatively when students or faculty use it to guide their efforts and activities in subsequent courses.