Tasks > Activities which drive learning

Assessment tasks can be graded or non-graded. Only grade bearing assessment is ‘summative’ assessment, which is a formal record of achievement. All forms of assessment offer the opportunity to develop the learner’s capacities through receiving feedback on their performance. This is the ‘formative’ purpose of assessment. Assessment can be used as a strategic tool to guide learners through a series of tasks which optimise higher order learning beyond simple recall and recognition. To achieve this, educators focus on what they want students to learn, and the specific activities required by each assessment task which allow learners to develop skills but which also allow teachers or peers to judge and provide feedback on task performance. It is important that the assessment requirements superfluous to learning are not so onerous that they swamp the purpose of the assessment itself. Examples of activities which are helpful for learning as well as allowing judgement and feedback include problems where the learner must supply solutions, drawing from original thinking; written tasks which require synthesis and application of reflective thinking into concrete situations; or debates, role-plays and simulations where learners have to perform and respond to feedback in real time.

The creation of tasks can be the most enjoyable part of developing assessment and there is a significant amount of academic literature available to provide examples or discussion of how to design tasks which promote learning.

Assessment considerations:

  • How do the tasks align to learning outcomes? How will the activities lead to learning? How will you know?
  • What exactly will a learner need to do to satisfactorily complete this set of tasks?
  • What will learners be able to do on completing these tasks that they can’t do now? How will you cater for variable cohorts? Is it too hard/easy?
  • How much of the workload of these tasks engages students in meaningful learning towards unit, program or other outcomes? What can you do to remove workload that is superfluous to learning?
  • How does the design of the task discourage plagiarism?
  • Are there shortcuts students could use to bypass the learning but still complete the task?
  • What preparatory learning and teaching activities are necessary so students can commence these tasks?

Also refer to:

Purposes > Support learning

Context > Characteristics of enrolled students

Context  > Learning environment

Outcomes > Unit/module learning outcomes

Feedback processes > Multiple feedback opportunities

Educator experiences

Activities in tutorials

The conundrum I often face is that I want students to undertake a particular activity because I think it’s really important to their learning and to completing the tasks I’ve set, but I just don’t want to attach marks to it and proliferate a whole lot of little sub-tasks. My strategy is to build these activities into tutorials, which have an attendance requirement. That way the students can work towards their assignments in class and get these experiences that are so important. It takes a bit of preparation because you’ve got to spend time breaking down the tasks. The other benefit is that it helps me make sure my tutorials are focused on important activities and there isn’t anything unnecessary in there just taking up time. – Education lecturer

Integrating technology

In an effort to make tasks more interesting for students I’m always looking for ways to use new technologies. I do get concerned though about whether the technical side is going to get in the way of student learning. It’s easy to assume that all students know how to use the technology, but I often find that isn’t the case because students are so varied in their backgrounds. So I always spend some time to make sure that I know how the technology works and make sure there’s support for students in tutorials or online. That way I know the technology isn’t going to take over! – Education lecturer

Iteration within tasks

A couple of years ago I got interested in how I could build multiple iterations into tasks. It works best with tasks that students can work on over several weeks and I’ve done it a few different ways. Sometimes I structure it so students are just updating their ideas and progress of an assignment (e.g. on a blog or quick presentation in a tutorial), sometimes I give feedback in class or online, and other times I get other student involved in giving feedback too. It makes students start their assignment early then work on it progressively. Plus it discourages plagiarism because they have to show their work over time. That means it’s harder for students to copy someone else or submit an assignment from a past student. – Education lecturer