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Assessment and Grading

Assessment is “the systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development” (Palomba & Banta, 1999). 

Alignment with Learning Objectives

It is through assessment that faculty can determine whether their students have achieved their learning objectives. An important aspect of course design is ensuring that the course learning objectives, instructional activities, and assessments are aligned with each other and with the goals of the course. Faculty should consider:

  • What learning objectives and other skills (e.g., writing, public speaking, collaborating, etc.) do the students need to demonstrate during the assessment?

  • How will these be observed and graded?

Formative vs. Summative Assessment

Formative and summative are the two major categories of assessment.

Formative Assessment

The purpose of formative assessment is to check student progress, identify areas in student performance that need improvement, communicate feedback to students, and inform instructors about students’ understanding of course material. Formative assessment tasks are ongoing throughout a course and are embedded in the instructional process. These can vary and can include short quizzes, short papers, written observations, group activities, and classroom discussions. Angelo and Cross (1993) developed 50 different classroom assessment techniques that help in observing and improving student learning. 

Summative Assessment

Summative assessments sum up what a student knows or can do at the end of an instructional unit or at the end of the course. They are cumulative in nature. In most cases, a grade is assigned and is used to make some sort of judgment of a student’s performance. These give a much larger picture of a student’s progress and achievement of the learning objectives. 

Assessment Formats and Tools

CoursePlus supports many types of assessments. The table below shows some of the most common types of assessments and their corresponding assessment tool(s), organized by Bloom’s taxonomy action verb proficiency level. Faculty and teaching assistants (TAs) can contact an instructional designer at the Center for Teaching and Learning to discuss even more assessment options and tools.

Proficiency Level
Measurable Verbs
Assessment Formats
Assessment Tools

Create, generate, plan, produce, design, build

Research projects, essays, plans, or designs that require students to:

  • create something new

Drop Box (file submission ), Wiki (collaborative page), VoiceThread (presentation)


Judge, criticize, support, evaluate, appraise, critique

Journals, diaries, critiques, reflections, problem sets, product reviews, debates, or studies that require students to:

  • test, monitor, judge, or critique readings, performances, or products against established criteria or standards

Drop Box (file submission), Peer Assessment, VoiceThread (presentation), Discussion Forum (class discussion)

Compare, analyze, classify, survey, differentiate, distinguish

Case studies, critiques, labs, papers, projects, debates, or concepts that require students to:

  • discriminate or select relevant and irrelevant parts; 

  • determine how elements function together;

  • determine bias, values, or underlying intent in presented material

Drop Box (file submission), VoiceThread (presentation)


Apply, execute, implement

Problem sets, performances, labs, prototyping, or simulations that require students to:

  • use procedures to solve or complete tasks;

  • determine which procedure(s) are most appropriate for a given task

PathFinder (simulation), Drop Box (file submission), VoiceThread (presentation)


Interpret, exemplify, classify, summarize, infer, compare, explain

Papers, exams, problem sets, class discussions, or concept maps that require students to:

  • summarize readings, files, or speeches; 

  • compare two or more theories, events, or processes; 

  • classify or categorize cases, elements, events using established criteria; 

  • paraphrase; 

  • find or identify examples or illustrations of a concept or principle

Drop Box (file submission), Quiz Generator (quiz, in-lecture knowledge check), Discussion Forum (class discussion)


Recall, recognize, identify 

Objective tests like fill-in-the-blank, matching, labeling, or multiple-choice questions that require students to:

  • Recall or recognize terms, facts, and concepts 

Quiz Generator (quiz, in-lecture knowledge check)

Source: Adapted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Teaching and Learning, from University of Louisville (n.d.). Use Bloom's taxonomy to align assessments. Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from

Feedback and Grading

Feedback and grading are essential parts of effective learning, but grading can be challenging for faculty and teaching assistants. It is important to evaluate students’ work fairly in a way that is valid and reliable for the learning objectives and assessment goals.
Faculty can set expectations for grades and assessments by including any grading policies and methods of assessment details in the course syllabus using the Syllabus Builder tool in CoursePlus. 

Effective Feedback

Students need feedback to reinforce understanding, correct mistakes, and improve performance. Bellon et al. (1991) state, “[a]cademic feedback is more strongly and consistently related to achievement than any other teaching behavior. ... This relationship is consistent regardless of grade, socioeconomic status, race, or school setting.” The following are some research-based tips for giving effective feedback (adapted from Stenger, 2014):

  • Be as specific as possible.

  • Give feedback as soon as possible after an assessment.

  • Address the student’s advancement toward a specific goal or milestone.

  • Fully explain the purpose of the feedback.


Faculty can use rubrics to give fair, consistent, and specific feedback for both formative and summative assessments. A rubric is “an assessment tool that lays out the expectations for an assignment by identifying its various [criteria], with detailed descriptions of acceptable and unacceptable levels of performance for each [criterion]” (Stevens & Levi, 2013).

Read more about rubrics in this CTL Blog Post. 


​Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Bellon, J. J., Bellon, E. C., & Blank, M. A. (1991). Teaching from a research knowledge base: A development and renewal process (facsimile ed.). Prentice Hall.

Stenger, M. (2014, August 6). 5 research-based tips for providing students with meaningful feedback. Edutopia.


Stevens, D. D., & Levi, A. J. (2013). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning (2nd ed.). Stylus Publishing.

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