Assessing learning outcomes

Formative Assessment and Feedback

In the process leading up to the formal, summative assessments, teachers certainly want to have confidence that students are being prepared to be successful. Assessing learning outcomes can be done by implementing some version of continuous assessment. The idea is that rather than using a series of high-pressure exams, assessment of student learning is done through an ongoing process, with formal assessment instruments being supplemented through other mechanisms.

This ongoing strategy for assessing learning outcomes can provide positive reinforcement for students, as the emphasis shifts from finding gaps in knowledge to demonstrating understanding—moving away from "can't do" towards "can do".

Here are some of the ways to think about implementing continuous assessment, in conjunction with delivering learning content digitally:

Frequent feedback

In online learning, one can provide multiple opportunities for self-assessment through the regular integration of tasks or questions.

In a multiple-page lesson, that might translate into inserting assessments or guided learning activities every few pages.

To help students be successful and retain learning, it can be helpful to allow students to retake individual assessment items. This shifts the primary focus from grades to learning.

Learner self-reflection

Many teachers these days – especially those using digital resources extensively in their teaching – have introduced reflective journals, learning logs, or personal blogs. These serve as a means for learners to engage in critical self-reflection on their learning, as well as to demonstrate how learned content is integrated into their previous knowledge or connects to their own lives.

This kind of reflective inquiry can be invaluable in assessing learning outcomes and following student progress. This may be time-consuming for teachers, as the value of journaling for learning is enhanced through students receiving regular supporting and guiding comments.

Student perceptions

It can be informative to conduct regular surveys of student perceptions of their learning and on the effectiveness of the learning materials provided. This can provide a quantitative set of data to complement or replace learning journals.

Learners as teachers

One of the approaches many have found effective is to assign students the task of designing ways to teach particular content.

Students will often have creative, student-friendly suggestions. Teaching is the best way to learn, but it's also the best way for learners to show the depth of their understanding.

This kind of activity fosters students' critical thinking and can build learner autonomy, as students gain insight into the learning process.


RUBRICS for assessment, usually in the form of a matrix or grid, is a tool used to interpret and grade students' work against criteria and standards. Rubrics are sometimes called "criteria sheets", "grading schemes", or "scoring guides". Rubrics can be designed for any content domain.

A rubric makes explicit a range of assessment criteria and expected performance standards. Assessors evaluate a student's performance against all of these, rather than assigning a single subjective score. A rubric:

  • handed out to students during an assessment task briefing makes them aware of all expectations related to the assessment task, and helps them evaluate their own work as it progresses

  • helps teachers apply consistent standards when assessing qualitative tasks, and promotes consistency in shared marking.

You can use rubrics to structure discussions with students about different levels of performance on an assessment task. They can employ the rubric during peer assessment and self-assessment, to generate and justify assessments. Once students are familiar with the idea of rubrics, you can have them assist in the rubric design process, thus taking more responsibility for their own learning.