Methods and tools

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Assorted Assessments developed using Wordle

The methods and tools that you use for assessment help to link it to the types of thinking and learning that you want your students to demonstrate. In Assessment and learning the ICE approach (Google book) - Ideas, Connections and Extensions are three concepts that are described. Why they are important, and how formative assessment and feedback can draw these aspects out is covered. If using Bloom's Revised Taxonomy, remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating need to be demonstrated and these levels of thinking and learning may influence the marking criteria that are used.

Aligning assessments with learning outcomes
The assessment tools or methods that are chosen must align with the learning outcomes. Therefore, the language used for the criteria in the assessments must match. For example, if higher order learning is intended, the learning outcomes and assessment criteria would reflect this, using terms such as analyse, evaluate and create. For example, open-ended essay or short answer questions could be used to encourage students to demonstrate that they can analyse information and create new knowledge (Analysing and Creating levels), whereas multiple choice questions might be used for demonstrating recall (Remembering level).
Supporting the values and principles of assessment
For methods and tools of assessment to be appropriate, they must also support the principles or values of assessment. For example, if you want to encourage learning in the assessments you use and decide to use multiple choice questions for summative assessment, it is advisable to give students plenty of practice in answering this type of question beforehand, and also in doing tests online. Therefore, formative assessment is necessary to help students develop their skills and knowledge and to become familiar with taking online tests. It is also good practice to give the students feedback on their responses. In online tests this can be built into the questions to guide the students, and allows the teacher the opportunity to suggest how they can extend their learning. Otherwise, the value of fair assessment is not adhered to, nor is this type of assessment going to enhance learning.

Defining Assessment Methods and Tools

  • An assessment method is defined as the philosophical or pedagogical approach to assessing. For example, written assessment or practical assessment, formative or summative assessment.
  • Assessment tools are used for different assessment methods and are more specific. For example, posters, essays, exams, interviews etc, and can be used across a number of assessment methods. Also the tools used to mark assessments, e.g., rubrics can be considered as assessment tools.

Choosing the Methods and Tools

Eight broad categories of learning outcomes have been compiled by Lee Dunn (2011) from Oxford Brookes University (based on the work of Chris Morgan (1999) from Southern Cross University, New South Wales, and originates from the work of Nightingale et al. (1996)). Read: Selecting methods of assessment for a list of potential tools for each category. The authors of this resource refer to assessment methods such as portfolios, posters, reports group work under each of the eight categories. However, for the purposes of this course, these methods are regarded as tools for assessment.

  1. Thinking critically and making judgements - (e.g., developing arguments and reflecting) could be assessed using essays and journals.
  2. Solving problems and developing plans - (e.g., identifying problems, and analysing data) could be assessed using scenarios and group work.
  3. Performing procedures and demonstrating techniques - (e.g., computation, and using equipment) could be assessed using role play and posters.
  4. Managing and developing oneself - (e.g., working co-operatively and working independently) could be assessed using portfolios and learning contracts or agreements.
  5. Accessing and managing information - (e.g., researching and organising information) could be assessed using annotated bibliography and projects.
  6. Demonstrating knowledge and understanding - (e.g., recalling and describing) could be assessed using exams and essays.
  7. Designing, creating, performing - (e.g., visualising and producing) could be assessed using presentation and projects.
  8. Communicating - (e.g., communication individually or within a group; verbal, and written) could be assessed using written or oral presentation or observation.

Dunn , L. (2011). Selecting methods of assessment. Oxford, UK: Oxford Brookes University. Retrieved from

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  • Explore an assessment method and tools that you are not currently using. Access information on the different methods: Written, Tests and exams, Student role (refers to self and peer assessment), and Practical. You can also access this information using the menu at the top of the page.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method and the associated tools?
  • How could this method and tools be used within a course that you teach?