Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

Teaching Tips & Links for SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING

Issue 34 - Mix it up: Assessment Alternatives

November 6, 2018

Have you been thinking about how you could use different methods to assess the skills and knowledge of your students?

Would you like to develop other academic skills such as communication, digital and information literacies, ethics and reflection?

Deb Murdoch, Assessment and Quality Leader at Charles Sturt University, provides tips and strategies for developing and using alternative methods to assess student learning.


Implementing the CSU Value INSPIRING in your teaching.

Creative in our thinking, yet rigorous in our approach, we drive and lead change and evolution.

Through living the value of inspiring we engage and motivate our students and communities to also proactively build innovation and capacity into their lives, careers and industries.


Assessing students through alternative methods

By: Deborah Murdoch, CSU

Assessing subject learning outcomes is the main focus of assessment, so analysing what you are looking for in the outcomes can help you define what skills and knowledge you are asking students to demonstrate. You can also include other academic skills such communication, digital and information literacies, ethics and reflective practice. These skills are often blended into subject learning outcomes and can encompass other graduate learning outcomes as well.

Subject learning outcomes include

  • student action, usually identified through a verb such as describe, analyse, evaluate, design or create;
  • a content area of knowledge; and
  • a context or professional environment or practice in which the student can apply the skills and knowledge.

If your criteria and standards have been focused around the skills and knowledge to be assessed, you have the opportunity to find different methods and formats of assessment that still assess them without having to do much, if anything, to change your rubric.

The first step in changing your assessment type is to analyse your learning outcome.

  • Examine each of your learning outcomes for a selected task and identify the skills you are asking students to demonstrate.
  • Think about the level of thinking you want students to demonstrate, are they lower order thinking skills or higher order thinking skills? Look at Revised Bloom’s taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002) or SOLO taxonomy (Biggs, n.d.) to get a sense of what each level might be expected to do in relation to your learning outcome.

SOLO taxonomy developed by Kevin Collis and John Biggs in 1982 to describe levels of understanding based on complexity.


This table gives some examples of terms that fit with each level of the taxonomy:

Big picture

Once you’ve analysed your learning outcomes and identified the skills students will demonstrate you need to think about how you want students to communicate their learning.

Communication can take many forms and utilise many skills. Your assessment planning provides an opportunity for you to think about what students will need to do in their professional life and how to relate their university learning to professional practice through student assessment tasks.

Communication of learning can be written, pictorial, graphical, through audio or video, all of which develop academic literacy in some way. Related academic and professional characteristics such as academic writing, digital literacy, and information literacy allow students to demonstrate these skills as graduate learning outcomes and as professional skills.

There are many possible assessment types for students to communication their knowledge, skills and application of learning. At CSU, about 75 different assessment methods are used. Check out some of these in the list below for inspiration as you brainstorm ways of assessing the skills and knowledge in professional context.

Alternative Assessment Types to Include Specific Skills

The same content of the subject is used to demonstrate knowledge but alternative task formats allow students to demonstrate different academic and professional skills that assist in achieving Graduate Learning Outcomes.

For example:

  • If you are assessing the ability to research and present information you can ask students to present the information through audio, video, presentations, information sheets, data representations in graphical form, or report or essay format.
  • If you were developing communication skills through digital literacy you might ask students to use an online format such as a blog, a wiki or a journal. The scholarly information can be presented, using an alternative form to an essay or report.
  • An eportfolio might be used to ask students to reflect on their practices,
  • Social media could be used to encourage students to develop skills in ethical, legal and safe use of the online environment.


Biggs, J. (n.d.).SOLO Taxonomy. Retrieved from John Biggs: http://www.johnbiggs.com.au/academic/solo-taxonomy/

Krathwohl, D. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 212-218. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15430421tip4104_2


Assessment types at CSU list

For some ideas, think about developing the capacity to communicate to different audiences by considering assessment types such as

  • posters,
  • audio descriptions,
  • videos for teaching skills to others,
  • essays,
  • short answer questions and
  • reports.

Each of these requires a form of academic writing that is clear, succinct and informative but needs to be formatted to reach the appropriate audience. The verb in the outcome will influence the level of thinking that will be expected by the criteria and standards regardless of the format. The verb identifies the communication skills required by the task.

Some quick readings about assessment

From Vanderbilt University:
Beyond the Essay: Metaphor Maps, Student Anthologies, Poster Presentations

Subscribe for free to the Faculty Focus newsletter. Some of the assessment articles:
Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Types of Test Questions - evaluates common question types used in exams.

An Innovative Quiz Strategy - incorporating collaboration into quizzing. Also known as two-stage exams.

Making Multiple-Choice Exams Better - every aspect of multiple-choice exams. Review of the reference Reference: Xu, X., Kauer, S., and Tupy, S. (2016). Multiple-choice questions: Tips for optimizing assessment in-seat and online. Journal of Scholarship on Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2(2), 147-158.

Which Assessment Strategies Do Students Prefer? - surprising results with 12 different assessment strategies. From the Reference Bailey, S., Hendricks, S., and Applewhite, S. (2015). Student perspectives of assessment strategies in online courses. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 13(3), 112-25.


Assessment Learning Opportunity ... this week

Transforming Assessment: Mindful assessment design
7 November 6:00 pm AEDT
Presenter: Dr Samuel Elkington (Higher Education Academy, UK / Teesside University)

This session explores the concept of mindful learning as it applies to assessment design. It will cover the current thinking and evidence for promoting self-regulatory practices to reframe student-centred assessment as a primary vehicle for authentically personalised learning.
Register for FREE at http://transformingassessment.com/


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1....Teaching support resources at CSU
2....CSU Professional Learning
3....Bonus CSU resource - Lynda.com
4....Magna Commons Subscription
5....Links to previous bulletins


1. Teaching support resources at CSU

You have access to a range of quality CSU resources to help you incorporate educational resources and techniques into your teaching. Check out the following:


3. Bonus CSU resource - Lynda.com

All CSU students and staff members have access to Lynda.com,

an online subscription library that teaches the latest business,

creative and software skills through high-quality instructional videos.

Why not take a course at your own pace?

One example: An interesting course with videos averaging about 5-min in length that together deliver more than 2 hours of learning is Communication in the 21st Century Classroom. This course covers "basic theories of communication and power tips for essential collaboration tools like Google Drive, Gmail, Google hangouts, Collaborize Classroom, and more".


4. Magna Commons Subscription

All staff with a CSU email address have free access to our annual

CSU subscription to the Magna Commons series of online seminars

Presentation handouts, full transcripts and supplementary resources are available for download if you don't have time to listen to the seminar.

How to subscribe

Staff with a CSU email address can obtain the Magna Commons CSU subscription code from Ellen McIntyre elmcintyre@csu.edu.au

Magna Commons suggests seminars to watch this month related to QUALITY: assessments, evaluations, schools, and courses. Seminars you might want to review as you focus on quality:


Upcoming Teaching Tuesdays issues...

Suggest topics that you would like for Teaching Tuesdays; or
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Contact Ellen McIntyre elmcintyre@csu.edu.au to offer your suggestions.

5. Links to previous bulletins

Folder with all previous issues.

Issue 1 Group Work; Issue 2 Engagement; Issue 3 Engagement;

Issue 4 Academic Integrity; Issue 5 Feedback; Issue 6 Feedback;

Issue 7 Active Engagement; Issue 8 Building on Prior Learning;

Issue 9 Student Diversity; Issue 10 Learning Outcomes;

Issue 11 Deep Learning; Issue 12 The Teaching-Research Nexus;

Issue 13 Improving Student Learning; Issue 14 Planning for Effective Student Learning;
Issue 15 Feedback for Teaching; Issue 16 Gamification;
Issue 17 Activities for Effective Learning; Issue 18 Dialogic Feedback;

Issue 19 Student Evaluation; Issue 20 Enhancing Learning;
Issue 21 Rationale for Assessment; Issue 22 Motivating Learning; Issue 23 Peer Learning;
Issue 24 Improving Online Learning and Teaching; Issue 25 Teacher Presence;

Issue 26 Teaching Current Content; Issue 27 Online Learning Model;

Issue 28 Maximising Subject Experience Survey Response Rates; Issue 29 LEGO for Learning;

Issue 30 Intercultural Awareness for Learning; Issue 31 Reflective Teaching Practice;
Issue 32 Reflective Teaching for Learning; Issue 33 Teacher Presence Online

FoBJBS Newsletter: BJBS-News

FoA&E Newsletter: NeXus

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