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Assignment and Assessment Design

This resource aims to offer ideas centered on flexible learning through intentional design of assignments and rethinking how we assess learning. 

Benefits

These activities support a variety of conditions for well-being. They emphasize practices that strengthen student autonomy, minimize instructor control, support student competency and build community, and are designed to align with the precepts of Self-Determination Theory.

Context

These activities were embedded in a synchronous Faculty of Education class on Zoom and asynchronously on Canvas. These can be adapted to other teaching platforms. These practices have been used in classes ranging in size from 15-40 students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, and in both remote and face to face instructional settings.

Overview

Here are some suggestions to consider how we design assignments and rethink how we assess learning to better support students to thrive, particularly in times of uncertainty and stress. 

Designing Assignments & Engaging Students in their Learning Experience

  • Written assignments are designed to allow students to choose the topics they want to investigate. 
  • Students have a choice in assessment activities (for example, taking a quiz or completing the activities at the end of each chapter).
  • Assignment format can be negotiated as students desire (e.g. replace a written submission with a verbal presentation).
  • Students can choose to revise and resubmit any assignment, any time, and as many times as they wish, up to the last day of class. Extensions beyond the last day are offered but must be negotiated and may involve deferring the grade.
  • Assignments are not graded (or ungraded percentages for quizzes); developmental feedback is offered in written format (similar to the process of a peer reviewed article). A final grade for the course is individually negotiated based on the student’s learning experience (see below).
  • No fixed deadlines, only recommended targets (if they want feedback within a specific timeframe).

 

Rethinking Assessment

  • An ungraded final exam (consisting of selected quiz items) is offered to allow students to self-assess their learning retention over the course of the semester.
  • All quizzes can be taken repeatedly until the students are satisfied with their score.
  • All quizzes and exams are open book.
  • Grades are unique to the individual’s experience and not competitive or curved.
  • Final grades are negotiated during a one to one meeting where we discuss their learning experience within the context of the course and instructor’s teaching of the course.
  • All students could choose to defer their grades if they needed extra time to complete them to their satisfaction.

The reasons for these pedagogical choices are made explicit, both with regards to the assignments and the assessment and grading system. Students must be engaged in understanding how the system is set up to support their learning and evaluation, as these practices will be unfamiliar to many, and therefor may be resisted.