Effective assessment

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For assessment to be effective, certain principles and values need to be followed, and these are described in this section. Generally, assessment and moderation policies and procedures guide expectations in organisations and are aligned to quality assurance requirements for the tertiary sector. In New Zealand, these are directed by NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority).

Principles and values of assessment

How do you know if assessments are suitable for purpose and what was intended (e.g., formal or informal, or formative or summative)? Generally, formal assessment attracts a mark or a grade contributing to a final recorded result, and informal assessment is used to provide feedback to support students' learning. The principles of assessment are described by Dorothy Spiller (2009) in her easy to read booklet.

It is also important to consider the values of assessment such as validity, reliability, authenticity and transparency etc. of the assessments you use. To understand why these matters are important, you need to refer to the The fundamentals of effective assessment: Twelve principles published by the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at Melbourne University. The first principle is: Assessment should help students to learn. The authors identify that formative assessment is crucial to effective learning.

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Values of assessment

Race et al. (2005) consider that assessment should be:

  • Fair - opportunities to succeed are equal regardless of the learning experience;
  • Reliable - similar results are obtained regardless of the work that is assessed, or the assessor - this relies on clear instructions and accurate marking criteria;
  • Valid - tasks assess what needs to be measured;
  • Equitable - a variety of assessments offers better opportunities for students' different learning preferences;
  • Formative - assists students in the learning process - particularly beneficial if good feedback is provided;
  • Timely - opportunities for feedback during learning as well as the timing of tasks and summative assessments;
  • Incremental - tasks occur in stages so feedback can be given, and achievement relies on more than one assessment;
  • Redeemable - allows students another opportunity to succeed;
  • Demanding - challenging enough to reward commitment and effective learning;
  • Efficient and manageable - tasks are sustainable to produce and to undertake, in terms of resources and workloads.

From: Race, P., Brown, S. & Smith, B. (2005). 500 tips on assessment. London: Routledge Falmer. (Available in the Robertson library.)

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  • What are the important principles of assessment for your context?
  • Choose at least two principles, and reflect on why they are important.
  • Consider validity, reliability and fairness of assessment by critiquing some of the assessments you currently use.
  • Also read the article: Suskie, L. (2002). Fair Assessment Practices: Giving Students Equitable Opportunities to Demonstrate Learning. Retrieved from http://www.elcamino.edu/administration/vpsca/docs/assessment/FairAssessmentPractices_Suskie.pdf


Case Study: Emilia

The challenge for Emilia, using criterion-based assessment, is to develop marking criteria that are fair, transparent, valid and reliable. This is especially important since she won't be the only lecturer marking the e-portfolios, and the assessment requirements could be misinterpreted. Even though she knows that moderation will assist in ensuring that the assessment is effective, she decides to develop a marking rubric.

First of all, Emilia reads her organisation's policies about assessment and moderation. Then she explores some resources about marking criteria and rubrics.

Policy and procedure

Policy about how to conduct assessment and ensure that it is effective through moderation is particularly important when it is formal and results are recorded.

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Reflect about assessment policy

  • What sort of policies and procedures does your organisation use for assessment practices?
  • You may like to view the Otago Polytechnic policies on Assessment (AP0900.06 Assessment) and Moderation (AP0908.01 Moderation of Assessment). Press Ctrl-F on your keyboard to find each one.
  • How does policy influence your assessment practices?


Spiller, D. (2009). Principles of assessment. Hamilton, New Zealand: Teaching Development, The University of Waikato. Retrieved from http://www.waikato.ac.nz/tdu/pdf/booklets/16_AssessmentPrinciples.pdf