Now we will look at Assessment Nuts and Bolts. This is the final blog in a series that started with Assessment — Some Initial Thoughts, and Some Assessment Vocabulary.

Individual Assessment

Instructors should work with students to develop criteria for evaluation of each task, prior to assignment. Also to be considered is the student’s evolution of performance throughout the activities; there should be marked improvement at the end, regardless of their abilities at the start. Continuous progress assessment can take the form of:

  • Checklist
  • Conferencing
  • Interviewing
  • Observation
  • Portfolio development
  • Self-assessment/reflection

Using criteria-referenced evaluation for each student, rather than a group comparative process, allows the instructor to better assist a student in their individual progress. As students progress, they should also be assessed on the variety of media used in tasks, comfort levels with new elements, and ability to integrate new and existing abilities. Assessment should be a combination of:

  • Student self-assessment, using criteria established with your support
  • Instructor assessment, based on the demonstrations and elements of effective writing

The instructor assessment could take one of the following forms:

  • Student-teacher one-on-one meetings
  • Assessment on the learning activity outputs
  • Performance tasks
  • Portfolio Assessment

Group Assessment

For any assessment the instructor should work with the students to develop criteria for evaluation for each task, prior to assignment.

Group assessment focuses on the progress of a group of students and assesses cooperation and collaboration in completing the particular task.

The instructor must first decide the type of assessment to use.  This can include:

  • Give the same mark to each student (group mark)
  • Evaluate individual progress within the group (see individual assessment)
  • Give group and individual marks (70 per cent group + 30 per cent individual, etc.)

Once the assessment type has been chosen, the assessment tool can be selected. A number of tools are described here. In addition, the instructor can work with the students to develop a set of strategies for group work (division of labor, role-taking, contributions to the group, reporting). A checklist can be developed. After each group activity, each member can fill out the checklist and indicate what could be done to improve the group experience.

Assessment Tools

There are a number of assessment tools available.

Individual Interviews

In individual interviews, instructor and student meet and discuss the student’s progress. This should be used as a time not only to exchange information about work to date (through review of portfolio, learning logs or other artifacts) but also to explore the student’s thinking and understanding in order to plot future work. Interviews are an important tool and should be used frequently as both a diagnostic and a formative tool. The instructor should have questions prepared ahead of time but must be willing to ‘go off the script’ to seize a teaching moment.

Journal Writing                         

Journaling can help students increase their writing skills and can lead to self-reflection. When shared with the instructor it can be an excellent opportunity for a one-to-one dialogue. This an exercise allows the student to write about daily events, opinions, thoughts and feelings, and can be quite personal.  This is where an instructor needs to be very careful. Journaling must be safe and it requires the instructor to be sensitive to the sometimes personal nature of the writing. For this reason, it is best to have the student choose what they wish to share and it is best not to attach a grade to their journal writing. As an assessment tool, journals can be used by an instructor to develop further activities and individualize each student’s instruction based on the needs illuminated by the dialogue. While allowing students to pick the topic of their writing, an instructor can and should suggest potential topics that can be of use in assessment and tailoring the program to the student’s needs.

An instructor can have students spend the first 10 or 15 minutes of each class on journal writing (a good chance to get their ‘thinking caps’ on). Journals work well during class time to allow students to reflect on learning that has just taken place. An instructor can allow students to occasionally choose journal entries for sharing and assessment of their writing progress.


Listening is an important skill for all students. To assess the effectiveness of listening, the instructor can ask the student to listen to a guest speaker, a student speaker or a taped program from radio or television. The student can then be asked to complete a summary or checklist (prepared by instructor beforehand – this works best with a taped program).


Observation is a systematic viewing and recording of a student’s behavior, skills, or actions. Ongoing observation is also good when assessing a student to make decisions about subsequent learning activities and strategies. Observation is important early in an instructor-student relationship to obtain information about strengths and weaknesses, needs, interests skills, attitudes, and behaviors, as well as preferred learning styles. It is important to objectively measure student behaviors, skills and actions to the outcomes expected for that activity.  A checklist can be helpful.


Portfolios have long been used by artists, architects, graphic artists and others in the creative community. In recent years they have caught the attention of educators in many high schools and colleges. There are several types of portfolios:

  • Job/Career (with samples reflecting skills necessary for a particular job or career)
  • Personal (with samples from important milestones in ones life)
  • Best-Work Portfolio (with reflections about strengths and weaknesses for each piece)
  • Growth Portfolio (samples of work taken at different points during a semester or year with reflections on skills development)
  • Process Portfolio (samples from various stages of a project with reflection on process steps)
  • Learning Portfolio (with representative samples and reflections of student learning)

In their simplest form, portfolios are used to collect and display samples of student work (projects, reports, drawings, resume, etc). Putting the components of a portfolio together is an important exercise but the reflection that goes on behind it is the more interesting and arguably the most valuable. As a result, many portfolios now include critical self-reflection pieces (where students have been, where they are, and where they are going).

Portfolios should exhibit the progress of the student toward the outcomes of the program and their personal goals. Care must be taken to allow students to participate in the type of portfolio developed, the elements of the portfolio, and the selection of portfolio contents.

Assessment of a portfolio should be formative, and the instructor must work with the student to set up the assessment criterion before any assessment event. Various assessment tools can be used, including:

  • Content checklist
  • Student self-evaluation
  • Student interview

Performance Tasks

A performance task is an authentic assessment, modeled after real-life, which involves the student constructing a response or creating an artifact to demonstrate their level of understanding or skill level (think of your driving exam road test or a presentation at a job interview). In this way the instructor is assessing the student’s understanding of both the process and the product.

  • Oral retelling
  • Design a brochure


Student presentations can be either prepared or extemporaneous. The presentations can be formal or informal, ranging from a brief summary to extensive presentations. Checklists are a good method of assigning value in presentations and can be used for peer, self or instructor evaluation. A variation is a role play, which involves several students in a joint presentation exploring a specific situation or event.

  • Communication presentations
  • Role play


Projects use a number of learning skills. Projects could involve conducting written research or personal interviews, writing a report, giving a presentation, and making a product (e.g. teaching a class, building a model).

  • Collage
  • Workplace project
  • Imaginary island
  • Personal timeline


Questioning is a tried-and-true strategy: the instructor poses a question and a student answers it orally or in writing. This method can give an instructor a quick idea as to the student’s understanding of a topic and follow-up questions can be used by the instructor to further clarify the learning taking place. Close-ended questions will help to reveal the knowledge level of students. Open-ended questions can assess a student’s abilities to apply, analyze, synthesize, organize and evaluate content knowledge in a new situation. Be aware, however, that some students are not comfortable answering questions in this way and as a result, this method does not give a true indication of their level of understanding. An instructor must ensure that other techniques are used for these students, such as a small group of students discussing the question and response together.

 Quizzes, Tests, Exams, Essays

These tools are the traditional assessments used in schools. They include true-false, matching, completion items, essays, etc. These types of assessment are generally confined to knowledge and comprehension and can test connections and logical processes. These assessments must be sensitive to various learning styles, cultural diversity and student success. These guidelines can help:

All Tests ·         Each  item on the test should be tied to a specific learning outcome

·         Each test should have several (three to five) items for each learning outcome you wish to assess. Students should have more than one opportunity to show what they know.

·         The items should be fair to all students (appropriate reading level, cultural context, level of expertise, consistent with language and context, etc)

·         Directions should be clear and grammatically correct

True-false items ·         Avoid absolute words such as all, never, and always.

·         Use only affirmative statements

·         Statements must be absolute (absolutely true or absolutely false)

·         Avoid ambiguous questions.

·         Limit the number of true-false questions to 10 per cent of the total test value.

·         Asking students to give the correct answer to false questions (higher-order thinking).



·         Make the lists small (Five to 10 items)

·         Be consistent (Don’t mix names with dates)

·         Make response mode easy

·         Give more choices than statements

Multiple choice


·         Clearly ask what you are looking for

·         State the main idea in the question, not the choices

·         Offer at least four choices

·         Avoid obviously incorrect choices

·         Have choices of consistent length



·         Have completions of one or two words only

·         Be sure there is a specific answer for each completion

·         Be sure the completion item is a significant item

·         Use blanks of equal length

·         Avoid sentences with multiple blanks

·         Offer a bank of possible responses



·         Ask specific questions that require specific answers

·         Define criteria for evaluation

·         Look for evaluation, synthesis and analysis, rather than simply asking them to recall knowledge


 Reflection/ Challenges Logs

Reflection logs allow students to ‘look back’ at previous learning. In this way they can re-examine the way in which they understood and reacted to the learning activities presented. This reflection can lead to higher order learning skills and extend the actual learning that took place. This is also an excellent way for students to make connections to other learning and to think about the learning process they are experiencing.

  • Weekly challenges log
  • Personal response journal
  • Information reaction journal
  • Math journal

 Reflection/ Learning Log

The learning log is an ongoing record of the student’s learning and is an excellent tool to show student progress over time. As well, it allows students to ask questions and make connections with their own learning. It can be used as a reference when interviewing students about their learning, especially at the end of a long project or at particular milestone events (end of unit, end of term, end of year).

  • Reading journal
  • Math journal

 Reflection/ Self-assessment

Self-assessment allows students to reflect on their own learning in relation to personal progress in knowledge, skills, and attitudes. It allows students to take ownership of their own learning and makes them more aware of themselves as learners. Some students find this a difficult process at the beginning, so it is important for the instructor to help the student understand how to reflect on learning. This is an ongoing process and requires instructors to provide opportunities for student self-reflection and guidance on using self-assessment tools.

  • Reflection chart
  • Unit self-reflection form
  • Personal goals and volunteerism
  • Personal goals and citizenship
  • Math journal
  • Unit reflections

 Writing Sample

A writing sample is a written product on a topic either assigned by the instructor or chosen by the student. Writing samples can range in length from a single sentence to a multi-paragraph essay or report. Writing samples in draft form can be a useful formative evaluation.

  • Writing journal
  • Advice column
  • Workplace report
  • Historical essays
  • Current topic

Assessment – Assigning Value

Students should know and understand how they are going to be scored on a particular task or set of tasks before beginning the task. There are two main tools used to assign value — checklists and rubrics. If students are involved in developing the rubric or checklist, they will have a better understanding of what is required in a specific task and be better able to critique their own work.


Checklists are easy to use and are good when gathering information about student skills, behaviors, and actions in a particular task. The instructor (or peer) checks off listed items as each student displays that skill, behavior, or action. Checklists are often used for oral presentations. The checklist can also add depth by identifying various competence levels that can be observed. If a task can be broken down into steps, checklists used periodically can be an effective tool in measuring student progress and final mastery of the task.

A checklist is a list the criteria or elements to be included in a work. Beside each criteria listed are spaces marked “yes” and “no” or “yes,” “no” and “partially,” where the scorer indicates the presence of each criterion. Using a checklist documents the occurrence of those criteria within the work.

Examples of Checklists

  • Editing checklist
  • Peer editing checklist


A rubric is simply a way to score or measure a particular learning activity. In essence it sets the range of acceptability of the instructor and student for that particular demonstration.  Normally it sets the lower limit of acceptable performance and students who fall in intervals of performance above this are ‘graded’ on where they perform. Sometimes this grading takes place in relation to the performance of the ‘class,’ however, with small class sizes it is best to use criteria-referenced evaluation.

Here’s How:

  1. Make a list of what you want the students to accomplish through your assignment.
  2. Organize your list from most important to least important.
  3. Decide on an overall point value for the assignment.
  4. Assign each item on your ranked list a percentage value out of 100 per cent.
  5. Multiply your total point value from step three by each item’s assigned percentage to arrive at the point value for that item.
  6. On a fresh sheet of paper, write the name for each item on your list in order from most to least important. Make sure to leave room in between each category.
  7. Assign specific grading criteria for each main category from step six.
  8. Distribute or display the rubric to the students when you are explaining the assignment.
  9. Attach a copy of the rubric filled in with the student’s scores to his/her graded work once it is completed.

Tips: Select the rubric categories before creating the assignment. The upfront time in creating the rubric more than pays off in the reduced time it takes to grade the assignment.

Ben Jodrey is a content strategist at Velsoft Training Materials.