How do we know whether students are picking up what we’re putting down? Assessments help evaluate student understanding. And what else can they do? What other purposes can they serve? Can some, sometimes, do more harm than good? Are your assessments for your students, for you, or for the institution? From essays and quizzes to group projects and creative presentations, from letter grades to grading contracts, we’ll work this week to bust open what we thought we knew about assessing student learning. We’ll think broadly about how to assess and we’ll consider some alternative motivational strategies such as gamification. We’ll talk, too, about making choices (how, what, when, and who we assess) that reflect our pedagogies and values.

Three Qualities of Effective Assessment of Student Learning

This is a short web article highlighting some basic points of assessment. It will give us a starting point for discussion. Although it is written by a music professor for an association of music instructors, it provides generalized worthwhile points for consideration.

Hamlin, P. (2016) Three Qualities of Effective Assessment of Student Learning. [web page] Retrieved from

Gamification, Assessment, and the Joy of Learning

This one hour video is not a joke. The design team respects your time. We would not suggest that you watch an arbitrarily long video for no good reason. We have at least a few good reasons. Note on the video quality: it improves significantly after about 4 minutes into it. Essentially Buckland, a New Zealand professor relates his evolving understanding of what motivates students and how to get them to “work”, and what he can do with assessment. Over the course of relating his story he provides concrete examples of online courses, strategies for assessments and results. The video includes accurate captions, which may help those not familiar with English accents from the Southern Hemisphere.

Buckland, R (2011). Gamification, Assessment, and the Joy of Learning. [Video] Retrieved from 

Student Gradebook Declarations

This short web article introduces the idea of using student-driven grade declarations to make assessment easier on the instructor. Think about how such an idea would affect your course. Some questions for discussion might include: What are the pros and cons of this system? How does the student’s role change given this system? How about the instructor’s? 

Gibbs, L. (2017) Student Gradebook Declarations. [web page] Retrieved from


Check out and participate in the discussion on our #readinggroup channel in Slack. What questions do these pieces raise for you? (Where) Do you agree and disagree? What’s missing from the debate?

Join the discussion anytime.

Case Study

Please visit the #case-studies channel to view this week’s case study and respond.

Build Something

Choose one of the options below, create or upload your work to our Team Drive, and then share a link in Slack for feedback.

Option 1: Choose a goal that you are planning to target in your course. Design an assessment for this goal (i.e. how do you know students are getting there?) that employs a strategy you have not used before. Examples might be: iterative drafting/attempts, peer review or collaboration, student-led testing, or gamification. Try and connect the assessment to the outcomes that you wrote last week.

Option 2: Write a one paragraph grading/assessment plan/policy for your course that will go in your syllabus, or for a specific assignment or sequence of assignments. Questions to consider as you write your policy:

  • Do you allow revisions?
  • Are your grades weighted?
  • What is graded and what is not graded?
  • Are there any pass/fail assignments?
  • Do you want to grade participation, and if so, how?
  • Is the percent breakdown of assignment types in your course clear?
  • Are their ways that students can game the grading system by not participating but still passing?