Evidence of understanding involves the collection of performance tasks or other measurements of achievement obtained via quizzes, journals, homework, and tests. Instructors should generate ideas of the types of assessments that might be best suited to measure the success of a student’s learning. Instructors are encouraged to use a mix of approaches that suits the subject, course, students, and teaching styles. Additionally, instructors should consider how the approaches selected can be communicated to students to help them know how they will be held accountable for their learning.

Evidence of understanding



In the realm of collecting evidence of understanding, terminology abounds. It is useful to have a shared understanding of the ways in which we use related terminology. Below is a list of terms we use.

  • ASSESSMENT — Focused on measuring knowledge acquisition, performances, work products, or skills developed to determine the level of mastery or attainment of course outcomes and unit objectives. It is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of a learning activity.
  • EVALUATION — A systematic analysis about the quality of a unit, course, or program for the purpose of making improvements.
  • FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT — Conducted at intermediate points to give students feedback on their performance and to give students and instructors information on how students are learning.
  • SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT — Conducted at the end of a unit or course to assign a grade.
  • KEY ASSESSMENTS — Activities that measure and document students’ completion of program and course outcomes. Key assessments can be activities like tests, quizzes, papers, case studies, presentations, or any other activity in which each student receives an individual grade.



“Teachers whose only feedback and assessment procedures are, for example, two [tests] and a final [exam] exemplify the perspective of audit‑ive assessment. When this is the only feedback and assessment that occurs in a course, it serves only one function: to audit student learning as a basis for [assigning a grade]. This approach to feedback and assessment is typically based on backward-looking assessment, with exams that look back on what was covered during the last several weeks and aim simply at determining whether the student got it or not” (Fink 93).


“The primary purpose of educative assessment is to help students learn better…The problem is that most teachers do not know how to go beyond grading to being able to provide the kind of feedback and assessment that will enhance the learning process itself, that is, to do more than simply record the results of the learning process” (Fink 93).


When designing assessments to match unit objectives, consider the guidelines below:

  • “An assessment should align firstly with the overall desired unit objective and secondly with the more detailed content of the course.
  • Be clear about what you are trying to assess. Most courses will need a range of assessment methods to adequately assess the content and desired learning outcomes.
  • Pay attention to the cognitive level of the assessment task or question…Some tasks operate at a low level of factual recall, while others asks students to analyze, synthesize, or evaluate information. The cognitive level of the task or question should match your goals in the desired learning outcomes or curriculum plan” (Schwartz).
  • Question types: define, label, list, reproduce
  • Question types: describe, explain, summarize, identify, or select
  • Student presentations
  • Question types: apply, use, solve, demonstrate, employ
  • Problem sets
  • Student presentations
  • Question types: analyze, compare, distinguish, examine, test
  • Portfolio entries focused on analyzing case studies or clinical experiences
  • Essays
  • Student presentations
  • Question types: evaluate, argue, assess, defend, judge, predict, rate, support
  • Student presentations
  • Question types: develop, plan, prepare, propose, construct, design, formulate, create, assemble
  • Student presentations
  • Portfolio
  • Design or build a model
  • Create a work of art
  • Develop a unique plan to serve some purpose


REMEMBER Label the parts of the human eye.
UNDERSTAND Trace the path the stimulus takes from the time light enters the eye to processing in the visual cortex.
APPLY Apply the Opponent Processes color theory to predict how the world appears to the major varieties of color blindness and vision anomaly.
ANALYZE Compare and contrast Hemholtz’s (1865) “Place Theory” to Rutherford’s (1886) “Frequency Theory.”
EVALUATE Evaluate the ADA guidelines in light of what you have learned about blindness and critique its strengths and weaknesses. Do you believe the guidelines are effective?
CREATE Choose a perceptual disorder and create a device that would mitigate its effects.


When considering assessment types in your course design, brainstorm options in terms of the assessment methods and characteristics that contribute to the students’ understanding of their progression toward course outcomes and unit objectives. The information below is a suggested framework for brainstorming ideas and weighing characteristics of assessment types before choosing and developing assessments.

  • POTENTIAL ASSESSMENT METHODS – List ideas for potential assessment types that are appropriate for measuring or observing students’ progression toward course outcomes and unit objectives — both formative and summative.
  • GRADED/SCORED — Would this assessment be graded or scored? Graded with number or letter? Pass/fail? Participation points? Ungraded, but with score?
  • CRITERIA FOR GRADE/SCORE — What type(s) of criteria would inform the grade/score? Correct/incorrect? Quality? Participation? Improvement shown?
  • FEEDBACK TO STUDENTS — What type(s) of feedback could the assessment provide students? When would the feedback be delivered? Immediately/delayed? Correct/incorrect? Grade/score? Programmed feedback? Brief written comments? Rubric? Detailed written comments? Verbal comments in class?
  • STUDENT AWARENESS — In what ways could this assessment help students assess their knowledge, apply their understanding, and/or judge the quality of their work? Grade/score? Comments on work quality? Suggestions for improvement? Encouragement to reflect on work processes? Exposure to other students’ understanding?