Principles of Assessment: Updates

By Ashley Weleschuk, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

Last summer, I shared a progress update for the Principles and Practices of Student Assessment website, a collection of assessment practices used by University of Calgary instructors in a variety of disciplines. As I mentioned in the previous post, this website is based on the work of Lynn Taylor and Gabrielle Lindstrom. They conducted a literature review on assessment in higher education and summarized their findings in the Principles of Assessment. We have searched for the theory of assessment in practice at the University of Calgary and collected many examples from a large range of disciplines, levels, and class sizes. Looking back, we have had quite a busy summer working on this project, and I am excited to update you on what we have done during that time.

1. Representing more faculties, departments, and assessment methods.

While we made great progress last summer, there were still a few “holes” in the website. Some major disciplines and areas of focus were underrepresented or completely absent. This summer we tried remedying this by collecting examples from missing faculties, including Nursing, Law, and Medicine. The website now features 12 faculties and 30 departments or academic areas. We also worked on emphasizing some of the most in-demand areas of teaching and learning, such as online and blended courses. We also tripled the number of graduate and post-graduate courses.

2. Focus on students’ mental health

One of the principles of assessment is that “[a]ssessment is designed to motivate and foster student learning and confidence, rather than be solely a source of anxiety” (Lindstrom, Taylor, Weleschuk, 2017). We made the connection between this principle and the University of Calgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy. Although we had a few examples from last year, we found several additional strategies that promote resilience, reduce anxiety and create an inclusive classroom environment.

3. Course design strategies

Many examples on the website mention teaching and learning models such as experiential, inquiry-based and case-based learning. Some instructors are not entirely familiar with these terms’ meanings and scopes. Instructors might also like the strategies that fit into the models, but not know how to introduce them into courses. We created several Course Design pages providing resource links and examples to help instructors confidently implement new assessment strategies.

4. Navigating the examples and meeting specific needs

There are now more than 60 individual examples on the website, along with many additional articles, websites, guides and other links. This may be overwhelming for someone who is just starting to think deeply about course and assessment design. In our interviews, we noticed common themes in instructor motivation. Some noted that they teach foundational courses with lots of content to cover and assess. Others mentioned wanting to increase engagement without having to completely redesign their courses. We added a page to the website listing 10 common assessment motivations that instructors mentioned and several examples to go with each. We have also been working on a few related projects outside of the website that we are excited to share.

5. Student Assessment Workshop

We created an assessment-specific workshop based on the student assessment website. We presented it for the first time at the Taylor Institute’s May 2018 Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching and Learning. The conference theme “Students as Partners” was especially meaningful for me, as I was one of several undergraduate student presenters who had the opportunity to take part. You can read about the session outcomes here. We ran the session again at the Taylor Institute’s Teaching Days in August.

6. Companion Website: Flipped Learning Community of Practice

We worked with Dr. Isabelle Barrette-Ng to create a similar website highlighting the work of our Flipped Learning Community of Practice (CoP). It follows a similar format to the student assessment website, but it outlines flipped learning strategies used here on campus. Again, it features profiles of courses taught by instructors from a variety of disciplines. While there are only a few posts so far, we are excited for this website to evolve over time. Dr. Barrette-Ng and Patrick Kelly included this website in a poster presentation about the CoP at the STLHE (Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) conference in June 2018.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the student assessment project over the past two summers. It is because of the dedicated teaching and learning community here at the University of Calgary that we are able to create these resources. It was a great pleasure to work with so many passionate, engaged instructors. I know our campus community will continue to benefit from hearing the experiences of such a diverse group.

Still not sure where to start? A few favourite posts from this summer include:


Lindstrom, G., Taylor, L., Weleschuk, A. (2017). Guiding Principles for Assessment of Student Learning Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning Guide Series. Calgary, AB: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary.

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