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Constructive Alignment: Assessment


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There are various questions we can ask when talking about assessment practice, but two of the most important questions are why and who we assess.

The first question, "Why do we assess?" relates to the purposes of assessment - broadly as well as of each individual assessment opportunity. The second question, "How do we assess?" has to do with the practice of assessment - the methods we use, the scheduling, the communication.

The video below contains an overview of these aspects of assessment: 


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Purpose of Assessment

The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students' learning and teachers' teaching as both respond to the information it provides. Assessment for learning is an ongoing process that arises out of the interaction between teaching and learning.

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1. Assessment for diagnostic purposes takes place when the strong and weak points of students in the academic sphere are determined in order to, for example,
make suitable remedial actions, selection, admission and placement possible.

2. Assessment for formative (i.e. assessment for learning) purposes primarily serves the learning process by offering students an opportunity to develop the desired
knowledge, skills and attitudes with the aid of timely feedback.

3. Assessment for summative (i.e. assessment of learning) purposes serves to elucidate decisions and findings on the progress of students, e.g. for promotion or
certification, during which value judgements are made on students' performance.

4. Assessment can form part of the information that is used for feedback purposes (i.e. assessment for quality promotion) to evaluate the quality of a learning and
teaching programme.

Methods of Assessment

The selection of appropriate assessment methods in a module is influenced by many factors:  the intended learning outcomes, the discipline and related professional standards, the context of the course and its relationship to other courses, the level of study, the characteristics of the students, the available resources, the delivery mode of the course, and so on.  The integration of technologies into assessment can provide opportunities to enhance student experiences and diversify the range of options available for students to learn and demonstrate their learning. 

Below are links to resources on diverse assessment methods, for diverse contexts of learning and teaching, and with diverse students.

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Peer assessment is a good way of doing formative assessment. Students learn how to give, receive and respond to feedback. The links below give some background information about this way of assessing.

Web resources.jpgCornell University:  Peer assessment

Web resources.jpgUniversity of Waikato:  Peer and self-assessment


Classroom Assessment Techniques or CATs are also used for formative assessment. Patricia Cross and Thomas Angelo (1988) are the pioneers in the field and in the document below they describe how CATs can be implemented as a quick way of giving lecturers and students feedback about the level of students' learning.

Web resources.jpgClassroom Assessment Techniques.  A Handbook for Faculty.

Web resources.jpgUniversity of Texas:  Methods of assessment

Web resources.jpgLearning and Teaching; Forms of Assessment

Web resources.jpgUniversity of Reading:  A – Z of assessment 


Assessment policy and practices at Stellenbosch University

​The SU Assessment policy focuses on the criteria for excellent practice in assessment. The point of departure in this policy is that lecturers are best placed to make the necessary assessment decisions in their modules. Thus the policy does not propose to be prescriptive with regard to assessment strategies, but rather to create space within which lecturers can make justifiable choices with regard to assessment within their own environments, by offering lecturers a set of criteria against which they could measure their practices. 

By means of this assessment policy, the University strives to make explicit the points of departure relating to policy that are implicit in existing institutional, faculty and departmental regulations and practices. In the spirit of "excellent scientific practice", as stated in the University's mission, an attempt is made to bring the assessment practices of the University in line with current, research-based views and standards regarding assessment.

Policies.jpgThe Assessment policy and Plan for flexible assessment is available on the CTL website, click here.