Guide to OBE
Aligning Curriculum, Teaching and Assessment with ILOs
Aligning Assessment with Intended Learning Outcomes

Given that all-roundedness and professional competence are intended outcomes for all programmes:

  • How do we assess professional competence?
  • How do we assess the outcomes for all-roundedness set forth in the Strategic Objective 1?

This section attempts to guide you to:

  • Appreciate how assessment design relates to curriculum design, as well as teaching and learning design in an outcome-oriented educational framework.
  • Recognise a broad range of assessment options open to your selection.
  • Make informed selection of assessment methods appropriate for your programme.
  • Convincingly justify your assessment design to programme reviewers inside and outside PolyU.
  • Formulate meaningful criteria to assess learning outcomes in various domains - professional knowledge, generic skills, and attitudes, etc.
  • Design rubrics to provide feedback to students and to enhance the teaching and learning process.
Designing Your Assessment Plan
Effective assessment is inseparable from good teaching and learning. Just as a good teacher would use more than one method of teaching, a programme or a subject would normally employ more than one method of assessment. Furthermore, assessment activities, like teaching, are also carried out at different times throughout the semester so we can know how students are learning. An assessment plan lays out a well thought out selection of assessment methods that are aligned to the objectives and outcomes of the subject or programme. To help you evaluate your assessment plan, we suggest using
the three check questions for exemplary assessment design.
Selecting Appropriate Assessment Methods for Intended Learning Outcomes

Not every assessment method is universally valid for every type of learning outcome. For example, if an intended outcome for a Computer Programming course is to 'be able to design and develop webenabled software components using Java,' you cannot measure this outcome by asking the student to write an essay. Similarly most generic outcomes, with the exception of language competencies, cannot be assessed by objective tests.

In order to align assessment with a particular type of learning outcome, you need to select an appropriate method of assessment. In the following we shall introduce a range of different assessment methods and discuss their appropriateness for different types of outcome.

A university education goes beyond mastering factual knowledge into higher order thinking skills and real world competencies. We want to develop a student's ability to think critically and creatively and to solve problems. Thus, assessment methods which focus on lower-cognitive skills like memory are far less justifiable here. Instead, we need to design tests, exams, or assignments that can engage our students in thinking and doing things that will be valuable beyond their academic lives.

Recommended check question: What outcomes (in terms of level of understanding) are assessed?
Assessing Professional Competence with Authentic Assessment

In other sections, it is clearly explained that professional competence involves functioning abilities which are founded on a high level of understanding of academic knowledge and relevant procedural knowledge. Therefore, when selecting the assessment methods, we have to ensure they are able to assess the functioning abilities so as to develop students with competence in the professional context.

The real professional context, which is highly performance-based, is a complicated mixture of illdefined problems, uncertainties and unexpected outcomes that demand teamwork efforts, leadership and diverse solutions, etc. It is difficult to create a real professional context in the classroom. Yet, teachers can bring in authentic assessments to ask students to demonstrate functioning knowledge and skills by performing real-world or near real-world tasks, using real-world tools, in a real-world context, and judged by real-world standards. This may sound rather unrealistic. However, when we design our assessment plan, we should keep these in mind to make our assessment as authentic as possible. When students are doing the authentic assessment tasks, such as projects and placement, students virtually gain real-world experience through the integration of different kinds of classroom knowledge to solve the real problems in the near real-world situation.

Recommended check question: How authentic is the task?
Using Assessment for Both Grading and Support Learning

Take a minute to consider: 'What is the function of assessment?' Many colleagues may immediately respond that it is for giving grades to students. Indeed, this is an important function of assessment and educators call this 'summative' assessment. Summative assessment is usually carried out at the end of a subject or after the conclusion of a major topic. Therefore both the final examination and quizzes given during the term are summative assessments - as long as they are administered mainly for grading purposes.

Besides its grading function, assessment is a powerful instrument for learning. Recent research in education focuses a lot on using assessment creatively to enhance learning (Gibbs, 1995). The design of the questions asked in the assessment will send messages to the students about what kinds of learning are encouraged. For example, open-ended questions encourage students to move beyond book knowledge into the broader subject context. On the other hand, an over-dependence on objective tests promotes a culture of rote learning and memorisation.

Hence when designing your overall assessment plan, you should view it not only as building in check points to give grades to students, but to consider it integrally as part of the learning process for the students. It is important to see the assessment as an instrument for promoting desirable learning.

Recommended check question: What kind of learning is promoted?
Continuous Assessment or Terminal examination?
A common concern among colleagues when making decisions about the assessment plan is the percentage weightings to be assigned to continuous assessment (also called coursework) and to the final examination. The choice between continuous assessment or terminal examination should therefore be considered in the light of whether they are appropriate for the intended learning outcomes, whether they are appropriately scheduled for providing feedback etc.
Check Questions for Teaching and Learning Plan

In summary, keep asking the following questions about your assessment plan:

  • What outcomes (level of understanding/ performance) are assessed?
  • How authentic is the task?
  • What kind of learning is promoted?
Assessment Methods
This section explores different methods of assessment and uses the check questions to discuss conditions justifying their use. Each assessment method has three elements: (1) A description of what this method looks like in practice and its major variations; (2) Examples of how this method can be used; and (3) Review alignment using the 3 check questions. The assessment methods will be presented in this sequence: