Assessment Design and Development

When designing and developing a course, instructors need to create assessments that directly relate to the course’s learning outcomes. Also, instructors need to create a thoughtful and systematic grading structure that weights and distributes the assessments through the semester. Designing assessment is an ongoing complex and systemic process that gathers and interprets students’ performance by the faculty. Most importantly, assessment should occur regularly throughout a semester. As shown in Table 1, instructors need to delineate what assessments, how many of them, unit points, total unit points, and percentage when designing and developing assessments for a course.

Table 1 Assessment Methods and Grading Scale

Assessment MethodsHow ManyUnit PointsTotal Unit PointsPercentage
Mid-term Exam    
Final Exam    
Total Points   100%

The Assessment Cycle

As shown in Figure 1, an assessment cycle is ongoing and should be used to adjust teaching to address learning gaps and meet students’ individualized learning needs. The assessment cycle often occur at the module level and course level in an online course.

Figure 1 Assessment Cycle by University at Buffalo, Office of Curriculum, Assessment and Teaching Transformation

Using a modular approach, instructors will articulate the learning objectives for a specific module, provide instruction in the form of readings, lecture videos, and other learning resources, provide activities for the students to perform, and then ask students to complete assessment like quizzes and papers. Quiz results or student’s performance in papers can inform instructors of student performance related to covered course topics. Instructors can then adjust instruction for next module by adding more resources, or providing more instructions for paper assignments.

Alignment Assessments to Learning Objectives

Assessments should be designed to help students recall knowledge and practice skills embedded in module learning objectives and course outcomes. A variety of assessments should be considered, including but not limited to, quizzes, essays, or exams.

Table 2 demonstrates how different types of assessments align with different levels of learning objectives based on revised Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Table 2 Alignment Between Learning Objectives and Assessments

Level of Learning ObjectiveExamples Assessments
Remember (represented by action verbs such as identify, state, define)Quizzes. Essay questions, true-or-false, fill-in-the-blank, matching, or multiple-choice questions can be included to ask students to identify facts, and concepts
Understand (represented by action verbs such as explain)Paper assignments. Students are asked to summarize readings.
Online discussions. Students are asked to explain one theory by relating to their experience.
Concept maps. Students are asked to draw a concept map by handwriting or using a tool in order to illustrate a principle or relations between concepts
Problem sets. Students are asked to solve problems by applying a formula , theory, or principle, widely used in STEM field.
Labs. Students are asked to perform a procedure in labs by applying a theory or principle, widely used in STEM field.
Case studies: Students are asked to solve a problem in one scenario by applying a theory or model, widely used in Social Science field.
Case studies. Students are asked to analyze the situation to identify the problem, identify causes of the problem and other factors in one scenario
Journal critiques. Students are asked to critique one journal article to identify the strengths and weakness of it and underlying biases.
EvaluatePeer-assessment: Students are asked to assess their peers’ work based on a rubric.
Product reviews. Students are asked to assess products such as one new tool in their field.
Poster project: Students are asked to create a poster to demonstrate their research design

Nine Steps for Creating a New Assessment

Creating effective and authentic assessments requires the instructor to reflect, systemically review, document, and assess the student’s performance. The following nine steps are adapted from the steps identified by Fisher & Bandy (2019) faculty can refer to when creating a new assessment: 

  1. Defining learning objectives for the new assessment 
    • A new assessment should address knowledge and skills embedded within existing learning objectives.
    • For instance, the new assessment examines whether students achieve this learning objective: identify five factors influence …
  2. Defining assessment methods, including projects, assignments, quizzes, and exams
    • An quiz or paper assignment is often assigned at the end of every module/week.
    • A project or exam is often assigned after students complete several modules
  3. Developing the assessment, meaning articulating the clear instructions for an assessment, including prompts, formats, the performance criteria, 
    • A rubric is often needed to clarify levels of performance and areas of performance.
    • Effective prompts need to be provided to promote students to think critically.
    • Formats include APA formats for a paper, page numbers, etc.
  4. Integrating assessments with other course elements including readings, lectures, videos, and other activities
    • Clarify what readings and lecture videos that students need to complete before working on a new quiz or an assignment
  5. Communicating about the assessment in multiple ways, through assignment overview in syllabus, example assignments, rubrics for assessments
  6. Administering the assessment, like setting up a quiz, exam on Blackboard Ultra 
  7. Analyzing the result, analyzing student performance to see how students do in the assessment
  8. Communicating the results, identifying areas of strength and improvement. This is the time to determine whether the assessment is reasonable, valid and reliable. And if not, how to communicate this to students and adjust feedback and grades fairly. For instance, are there students feeling confused about some quiz questions or instructions for assignments?
  9. Reflecting and revising the assessment as needed for future courses.

Additional Resources: 

Video Series on Assessment by Vanderbilt University. The Video Series provides guidance on creating assessments in higher education.


Fisher, M. R., Jr., & Bandy, J. (2019). Assessing Student Learning. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved 1/19/2023 from

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