student pointing to a conference poster 

Hannah Ferguson presents her undergraduate research project, 2018. 

Assessment is the process and method of gathering and evaluating evidence on students' knowledge, skills, and attitudes to monitor and improve learning. Assessments are how faculty and students monitor, improve and appraise the student’s learning experience.


Assessment Purposes and Types

Assessment is used to evaluate different levels of performance. Instructors create activities and assignments that collect evidence from individual students, then use that evidence to evaluate:

Individual student learning within a course

This is what the assessment area most students are familiar with, but it has two purposes:

  • Assessment for learning: Determine what students are learning to help move students toward the desired outcome (e.g., feedback and discussion). These are called formative assessments, because they help shape the teaching and learning.
  • Assessment of learning: Evaluate each student’s performance for grading purposes. These are called summative assessments, because they evaluate the result (or sum) of a student’s learning.

Course effectiveness

By aligning your assessments to learning outcomes, you can use students’ collective performance on an assessment to see how well your course helps them learn that outcome. Some instructors use a diagnostic pre-test and summative post-test to measure growth in an area. Others use quizzes to select topics to review before a larger exam, track the most common problems across a set of papers or projects to identify areas that need more explicit support next semester, or survey students about each section of the syllabus to learn where they felt over- or under-prepared.

Keep a copy of graded assessments (e.g., final exams or projects, your notes and feedback on student presentations, ePortfolios) that show your students have met the official student learning outcomes for your course. Departments collect this evidence regularly to demonstrate course effectiveness for the next two levels of evaluation.

Program effectiveness

This evaluation takes place regularly through the UAA Academic Assessment process. In addition to collecting assessments that demonstrate students are meeting the course-level learning outcomes, each year UAA collects assessments from across the curriculum that demonstrate student performance for the Core Competencies and General Education Learning Outcomes. Watch for evidence requests each year targeting a specific competency or learning outcome, such as Effective Communication.

Many of UAA’s degree programs have program or college-level accreditation. Your department will tell you what data you should collect to demonstrate program effectiveness for that process, if it follows one.

Institutional effectiveness

UAA is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Assessing institutional effectiveness is a key part of this process. Learn more at UAA Accreditation.

Designing Assessments

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to assessment. Our Track Learning Trail Guide walks you through the principles and design choices behind creating effective, meaningful student assessments. 

Formative (ungraded and low-stakes) assessments

Formative assessments can include low-stakes quizzes to help you and your students identify what to study for larger exams, but there are also lots of ungraded ways to measure student progress and direct their learning. Most instructors are already doing formative assessments in their courses, such as asking students for questions, checking understanding through discussion, and giving sample problems. Consider using pulse-taking surveys and short check-ins (1-minute papers, exit tickets, etc.) to gather broader feedback and adapt your course during the semester.

Learn more about formative assessments:

Summative (graded) assessments

Multiple assessments can better capture individual student learning:

  • Design assessments that closely fit learning outcomes
  • Check intermediate learning outcomes before asking students to put everything together
  • Show students their progress and areas for improvement
  • Let students show their strengths and minimize under-performance due to outside factors like test anxiety

Try mixing traditional assignments and exams with portfolios or self-assessment to see a broader range of performance.

Because graded assessments can have high stakes for students, consider these issues when designing them:

  • Does it assess what you’re teaching? Check whether it requires skills, knowledge, or personal beliefs that aren’t important to the course.
  • Could you give students a choice of assessments to minimize the effect of skills (like writing within a time limit) that aren’t part of your course’s student learning outcomes?
  • Does it require access to resources outside UAA? If so, are those requirements reasonable and necessary? Did you tell students in advance?
  • What are the underlying assumptions? How can you make those explicit?
  • Can you evaluate students fairly? Could you use anonymous grading to reduce potential bias?

Prepare your students for assessments:

  • Tell students which assessments will affect their course performance and final grades at the start of the course, usually on the syllabus
  • Provide clear and specific instructions. If possible, share examples of good (but reasonable) work. Try following your own directions to look for possible areas of confusion
  • Tell students how you will evaluate their work. Specify what success looks like, particularly where evaluation has a subjective component (e.g., performances or papers). Consider using a rubric to show how performance levels will translate to grades.

Assessment formats can include projects, exams, live presentations, presentation videos, annotated slide decks, ePortfolios, reflective essays, research papers, creative writing, infographics, flowcharts, conference posters, models, business plans, PSA videos, podcasts, websites, brochures, lesson plans, case studies, white papers, community-engaged service projects, experiments and lab reports, demonstrations, technical products (e.g., a repaired engine or fresh croissants), educational materials for future classes, interviews, debates, researched roleplays, and more.

Try to find ways to meet course requirements without overly burdening yourself or your students. Review the Alternate Assessment Resource Guide and Alternate Assessment recorded webinar (video, 38:10) to explore more ways to assess students.

Online Assessments

Learn more about assessment options on our Testing Resources page. 

Courses that are in-person, synchronous, or hybrid may require scheduled exams and other scheduled assessments. However, these must be held during a regularly scheduled session, as published in the official class schedule. Asynchronous courses must allow for asynchronous quiz and exam taking.

Assessment in Blackboard

Blackboard Assignments and Tests can be used to collect student work and provide feedback.

Use Blackboard Assignments to collect documents or have students write a single answer. Students can also submit images, videos, and links to ePortfolios or Google Docs this way. You can provide detailed inline grading and feedback for student documents submitted in most common file types. For more information, visit Blackboard Assignments

Use Blackboard Tests for quizzes, exams, and even ungraded activities where you want students to answer multiple questions. Some types of questions (e.g., multiple choice) are automatically graded; others will appear in your Grade Center for you to manually grade. Faculty can create tests, surveys, and pools (collection of questions housed so you can use them at a later date). Review the Converting Paper Tests to Blackboard webinar (video, 9:21) and Blackboard Tests Help for more information. 


UAA has its own eWolf (Digication) tool for ePortfolios. Students can create individual portfolios to collect course work and reflect on growth, or group/class ePortfolios. The tool includes grading and peer review/commenting features. Learn more about ePortfolios as a High-Impact Educational Practice at UAA.

Remote Proctoring

Remote Proctor Now (RPNow) by PSI is an online remote proctoring service that UAA contracts with to offer students a way to take online proctored exams at home with the proper equipment. Visit our Testing Resources page to learn more.




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