Teaching & Learning

Choosing and Designing Assessment Tasks

At the heart of designing or choosing assessment tasks for our unit is remembering that in addition to promoting student learning, their purpose is to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate how well they have achieved, or are progressing towards achieving the intended learning outcomes of the unit. 

Decisions about the sort of task to use, and the criteria to use to measure student achievement are interrelated. Therefore, you may find that defining criteria to measure ILOs comes first, and task design comes second, vice versa, or that the process is a cyclical one with each influencing and leading to modifications of the other.

When choosing the best assessment task(s) for your unit, evaluate their suitability against the following criteria (as outlined by Boud, 1998). These same criteria should be used to guide design or modification decisions.


The task is authentic and set in a realistic context (i.e., oriented towards the world external to the course itself) 
2. They are worthwhile learning activities in their own right. (i.e., each separate act of assessment can be credibly regarded as a worthwhile contribution to learning) 
3. The assessments permit a holistic rather than a fragmented approach           
4. The tasks are not repetitive for either student or assessor - they should work as a productive use of time for all those involved. (There are some limited situations in which practice, which might appear to be repetitive, can be justified.)
5. The assessment prompts student self-assessment. (i.e., the range of assessment tasks leaves students better equipped to engage in their own self assessment now and in the future. They shift the emphasis from students looking to teaching staff for judgements to looking to themselves and the nature of the task.)
6. The tasks are sufficiently flexible for students to tailor them to their own needs and interests
7. The assessment is not likely to be interpreted by students in a way fundamentally different to that of the designer
8. The task does not make assumptions about the subject matter or the learner which are differentially perceived by different groups of students, and which are irrelevant to the task (e.g., use of unnecessarily gender-specific examples, assumptions about characteristics, references relevant to upbringing in a particular country or state).

Maintaining Integrity of Assessment

Within the University Assessment Policy are some key statements that are relevant to the design of assessment tasks and ensuring integrity of assessment, specifically:

  • Assessment tasks should be designed to minimise plagiarism
  • Students should be provided with opportunities to demonstrate achievement against all learning outcomes, where practicable through a range of assessment methods
  • Moderation of assessment should be undertaken
  • Students must be made aware of the requirements of the assessment task

Minimising Plagiarism and Cheating

There are a number of steps that can be taken to enhance integrity of the assessment task, and the page Minimising Plagiarism and Cheating has more information about this aspect of assessment design.

Examples of Assessment Tasks

These examples are provided to give you some ideas about different approaches that can be used for assessment at UTAS.

Report writing with feedback

First Year Biology First half of semester

Context: Large (1200 students) first year biology unit with multiple tutors and lecturers. This assessment is seeking to support student development of writing skills, and in giving and responding to feedback.

Task Description: As part of a report writing module in the unit, students write a report on a lab experiment in the first weeks of the semester. Each student then provides feedback to two of their peers (online or in class) about their reports, using the provided feedback sheet. Students then have a week to respond to the feedback and redraft their report, which they submit along with a freshly completed feedback sheet. In the following lab session each student has a 10 minute discussion with their tutor during which additional feedback is added to the feedback sheet. Students then have an additional week to respond to the feedback and redraft their report before final submission and formal grading and feedback. Submission for, and completion of peer review has a nominal weighting of 3%, and submission of the draft report and feedback sheet has a weighting of 2%. The final report is weighted at 15%, for a total weighting of 20%.

Instructions to students: Students are provided with a step-by-step description of the process and access to the feedback sheet and the assessment rubric for the final report.

Criteria & Task Length: Information about the assessment criteria and standards descriptors would be need to be provided to students, and would mirror the core elements covered in the feedback sheet (e.g., style of writing, methods and results, discussion).

More information about this example assessment can be found on the bioassess website. This website, from 2009, contains a collection of assessment initiatives in the Biological Sciences.


First/Second Year Paramedicine Exam period after semester end

Context: Large.

Task Description: Ast.

Instructions to students: Stut.

Criteria & Task Length: Information .

Research Brief

Second/Third Year Agricultural Science During Semester (Early)

Context: The assessment can be used in either second or third year units. The assessment seeks to build capacity to apply information to multiple contexts, to provide an early opportunity for feedback on understanding, and to build secondary research skills.

Task Description: In the first weeks of the semester, students are asked to locate and read journal articles on topics relevant to the unit, and to use these to prepare a research brief suitable for non-academic audiences. The learning activities in the first two weeks include access to a selection of relevant articles, as well as instructions for using appropriate databases to find articles on particular topics. Students choose their own topic, for which they must seek and gain approval from the Unit Coordinator/lecturer. They then have a little over a week to prepare and submit their brief.

Instructions to students: Write a research brief on an agricultural problem of your choosing. The research brief will use information from detailed research reports or journal articles (that you will find and select yourself), and present this in a more concise form, suitable for readers outside of academia (e.g., the general public, farmers, other agricultural professionals).

You will need to gain approval for your research brief topic by Wednesday, Week 2. Please email the topic, and the full references of at least three journal articles that you will likely refer to when developing the brief, to the Unit Coordinator. You will receive confirmation, or a proposed alternative topic, via return email.

The final brief is due at 2pm on Monday, Week 4, to be submitted in the Research Brief MyLO Dropbox Folder.

** Students are also provided with example research briefs (e.g., Discovering the fuels of the future).

Criteria & Task Length: Information about the assessment criteria and standards descriptors would be need to be provided to students. The report brief would be approximately 800 -1000 words, and may contain diagrams or charts.

Letter of Advice & Oral Advocacy

Fourth/Fifth Year Law Week Three (+ weeks 6, 9, & 12)

Context: A compulsory unit, typically studied in the final semester of the degree, prior to entry into the Legal Practice course. Students are expected to have basic letter-writing skills on entry to the Legal Practice course. One of the Course Learning Outcomes for Law is that students can collaborate effectively, and this is mirrored in one of the unit's Intended Learning Outcomes. Students organise themselves into 'firms' of four at the start of the semester, and work in these same firms throughout. There are four assessments during the semester that require a written letter and oral advocacy - each member will represent the firm through the oral advocacy component at least once.

Task Description: Over the first three weeks of the semester, students are provided with the facts of a civil dispute, and each firm is assigned the same client in the dispute. During the three weeks they are able to clarify the facts by communicating with and asking questions of their client, using a Discussion Board. The Unit Coordinator responds to these questions in the character of the client. Each firm submits a formal letter to their client, advising of the dispute resolution options available. The firm then attends a seminar during which one of their representatives justifies and responds to questions from the lecturer about the advice given in the letter. Each of the three firms in the seminar engages in peer feedback on each others' letters, using the rubric, prior to the oral advocacy.

Instructions to students: The facts, instructions, and assessment rubric are available to view on this Letter of Advice and Oral Advocacy .pdf.

Criteria & Task Length: 

  1. Explain how courts contribute to civil dispute resolution 
  2. Advise a client about the options available to them within the civil justice and dispute resolution landscape
  3. Apply professional and ethical considerations
  4. Demonstrate respect and observance of legal formalities, etiquette, style, and presentation
  5. Communicate clearly, within word or time limits, and respond to the needs of the audience

These criteria provide a measure of the following Intended Learning Outcomes:
ILO1 Contextualise the role of courts that deal with civil disputes (criteria a, b, d, e)
ILO3 Apply principles of lawyers' professional responsibilities and legal ethics in the context of civil litigation and dispute resolution (criterion c)
ILO4 Collaborate effectively (embedded in quality of work)

Task Length: Letter 500 word maximum; Oral Justification 10 minute maximum + 5 minutes for questions.


Postgraduate University Learning and Teaching During semester, submission at end

Context: Fully online unit with the learning activities designed to ensure at least one opportunity each week for students to add an item to their portfolio. The majority of students are currently practicing lecturers, tutors, or teachers.

Task Description: Students are asked to provide a portfolio of their work that demonstrates achievement of the three Intended Learning Outcomes of the unit. They are provided with the assessment criteria and rubric against which they should prepare their portfolio. The learning activities and other two assessment tasks are designed to provide opportunities for students to develop work that could be used in the portfolio. However, there are no specific requirements about what must be included in the portfolio. It is up to the students to make a self-assessment about whether and how well the portfolio demonstrates achievement.

Instructions to students: Throughout this semester you will be provided with opportunities to demonstrate progress towards and achievement of each of the three ILOs for this unit. In the final week of the semester you will present an ePortfolio of work that you feel best demonstrates your achievement of these learning outcomes. In addition to the activities that you complete as part of this unit, you may wish to include work from your current practice, or anywhere else. Your achievement of the ILOs will be evaluated using the provided rubric, and you are encouraged to make reference to its elements (criteria and performance standards) throughout your portfolio, as relevant. The work presented in the portfolio can include any media type, and should include personal reflections. Where relevant, you may wish to cite literature, guidelines, quality standards etc. 

During the semester you will have opportunities (in the form of the weekly learning activities) to seek and provide feedback from your peers on your developing ePortfolio.

Criteria & Task Length:

  1. Explain how and why specified technologies are or could be used by you in your teaching (15%)
  2. Design learning activities and assessments that enact principles of good technology-enhanced teaching and learning practice (30%)
  3. Explain how a teacher could maximise the potential benefits of using the technology (15%)
  4. Reflect on how technology-enhanced learning and teaching principles have affected your teaching philosophy and practice (40%)

These criteria provide a measure of the following Intended Learning Outcomes:ILO1 Select technologies appropriate for your teaching context(s), and justify their use (criterion a)

ILO2 Design learning activities and assessments that utilise online technologies to enhance student learning and experiences (criterion b)

ILO3 Critically reflect on your role as a teacher in online environments (criteria c, d)

The ePortfolio can contain a range of media types and styles, equivalent to a maximum of 3000 words.


Boud, D. (1998, November). Assessment and learning– unlearning bad habits of assessment. Presentation to the Effective Assessment at University Conference, University of Queensland. Retrieved from http://damianeducationresearchlinks.wikispaces.com/file/view/unlearningassessment_Boud.pdf

For information and support resources relating to using MyLO for assessment, go to the MyLO site Teaching Online in MyLO, or take a look at Online Assessment

Desktop Guides with step-by-step instructions for the set-up and use of a number of tools in MyLO for assessment purposes can be found by searching in the University Repositories - try searching using the key word 'assessment' or other related terms.