Texas Tech University

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Continuous Assessment: Let the Students Help!

Research has shown that continuous assessment provides the best learning opportunities for students (Hernández).

Naturally, when we think of assessment, we are thinking about quizzes, exams and other graded activities. So how can we have students help us do this? Effective module objectives are a key strategy.

Think of a module objective that states "At the end of this module, students will be able to. . .." We can simply rephrase that to the student's personal view: "At the end of this module, I will be able to. . .."

For example, when writing the objectives, think of them in these ways:

  • At the end of this module, I will be able to describe the elements of an atom
  • At the end of this module, I will be able to compare apples and oranges.
  • At the end of this module, I will be able to write a proper sentence.

What this small change does is enable the objective to be one that allows the student to ask themselves: "Can I do this? Or should I go back and review?"

When you have objectives written from the students point of view, it becomes much simpler to think of various manners of assessment you can use to make sure the student is coming away with everything that is needed in a module. But this simple tactic also provides the student a stronger sense of accountability in achieving it, especially if you emphasize the objectives to the student.

You can makes this even more effective by providing some short three- or four-question quizzes that the student can answer and check for understanding. In fact, this is common practice in quality online course design and are typically called "self-check" or "check for understanding" tasks. This provides you assurance that the students are achieving the outcomes, and are a confidence-building benefit as well, since the student will be reassured that meeting these objectives will help when it comes time for the formal assessments in the course.

Peer reviews can also provide an excellent learning opportunity. Letting your students use a rubric to assess one another is not just a great way to have them help with the grading, but the process encourages higher-level thinking in evaluating a classmate's work. Just be sure to monitor the process.

Just remember, the goal is for you to be reassured that the students are obtaining the desired outcomes so ultimately, the assessment of the learning is something you do.  

Hernández, R. (2012). Does continuous assessment in higher education support student learning? Higher Education, 64(4), 489-502. 


The Worldwide eLearning Instructional Design (ID) Team consults in collaboration with faculty and course developers to create quality online courses. The ID Team is well-versed in the best practices of instructional design, universal design for learning, educational technology, and issues such as compliance with the American Disability Act and copyright regulations. ID Team members are available for consultation by appointment: contact us via email or phone, (806) 742-7277, if you need further assistance.