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About designing aligned assessment

More than any other aspect of the curriculum, well-designed assessment is the key to engaging students in active and effective learning. When you design assessment for a course of study, you are essentially designing what and how students will learn. What you decide to assess should be closely aligned with the stated learning outcomes and the learning and teaching activities used in the course.

The UNSW has a formal Assessment Design Procedure which elaborates on each of the principles that support the University’s Assessment Policy, for example:

1.1. aligning assessment with learning outcomes

1.2. assessment feedback

2.1. assessment criteria and performance descriptors

When designing assessment several factors need to be considered (as identified by Biggs and Tang, 2011, p. 225):

  • Criteria for each grade or standard “assigned to describe how well the assessment tasks have been performed” need to be clearly outlined as rubrics covered in Step 3.5
  • One assessment task may address more than one learning outcome
  • One learning outcomes may be addressed by more than one assessment task
  • Assessment workload needs to be considered, that is, the time spent performing the task by students and the time spent by teachers assessing the task should be “manageable” and “reflect the relative importance” of the learning outcome.

Leaders of good assessment design have each generated lists of factors (Race, 2010), recommendations (Boud & Associates, 2010), and tactics (Gibbs, 2010) to consider when designing assessment.

Mapping Time

A principle of good assessment design is aligning assessment with learning outcomes. Using the example of this Educational Design in Higher Education course, we can map the alignment of the learning activities (discussions and tasks) and assessments to the Course Learning Outcomes (CLO).

Mapping course learning outcomes with the assessment

Click here to enlarge

Reflection point

Think about a course you have supported, taught or designed. Do the assessment tasks align with the learning outcomes?

Want to know more?

If you would like to more about this topic of designing good assessment there are additional resources listed in the Want to know more.pdf for this step.


Biggs, J. & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university. What the student does. Fourth edition. Maidenhead: The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.

Boud, D. & Associates (2010). Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

Gibbs, G. (2010). Using assessment to support student learning. Leeds: Leeds Met Press.

Race, P. (2010). Making learning happen. 2nd edition. London: Sage.

UNSW (2017). Assessment design procedure.

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Educational Design in Higher Education

UNSW Sydney