Creating Effective Assessments: A Case Study

by Elizabeth Lemke

One of the hallmarks of a quality online course is alignment among learning objectives, instructional materials, and assessments to ensure critical course components work together so learners can achieve desired learning outcomes. This post illustrates how alignment drives the development and implementation of effective assessments. Assessment is the method we use to gather data about students in order to evaluate, measure, and document their learning progress, such as exams, papers, and discussions. Let’s dive deeper into alignment and creating effective assessments by examining course- and module-level learning objectives and a potential assessment strategy for one of our SPS online courses.

The example below has been adapted from IDS 435: Persuasion, a course from the new Information Design and Strategy program in the Content Strategy specialization. Faculty developer and Distinguished Teaching Award winner Jennifer Baker partnered with the Distance Learning team to develop this course. Before we get into the assessment strategy, we’ll review the course description and some of the course objectives to get a little context.

IDS 435 Course Description and Objectives

Acts of persuasion influence us in all aspects of our lives. This course will examine the different ways in which we observe and use persuasion in the communication we have with our families and friends, our workplace, and the general public. How effective are we? How are we affected by persuasion? We will explore how we use communication strategically to facilitate persuasion, both in thought and in action. We will look at the foundations and ethics of persuasion, including how we process persuasion, as well as how digital media affects the use of persuasion. In addition, we will explore various mediums and modes of persuasion through a variety of written and creative projects. The course will culminate in an overall assessment of how persuasion impacts us, as individuals and as a society, in a project that reflects the theories we have discussed, as well as influence in the workplace.

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Determine how and when to use persuasion successfully in your professional life.
  • Apply persuasion in a larger context, such as work, media, and current events.

Examples of Module-Level Assessment Strategy

The content below illustrates the alignment among learning objectives, instructional materials, and assessments for two learning objectives from IDS 435. The course-level objectives act as the foundation on which the module-level objectives, instructional materials, and activities and assessments are built. The module-level objectives describe mastery in more specific and discrete terms. The instructional materials present students with an opportunity to engage with the knowledge, facts, and criteria they will use to complete activities and assessments. The activities and assessments align with learning objectives and provide an opportunity for the student and instructor to identify how and when mastery is achieved.

Example 1

Learning Objectives: In this example, students are being asked to evaluate and identify the value of ideas.

  • Course objective: Determine how and when to use persuasion successfully in your personal and professional life.
  • Module objective: Evaluate the principles behind the science of persuasion in your professional life.

Instructional Materials: In this example, the instructional materials present students with a set of criteria and established knowledge about persuasion and provide a basis on which to make judgments and develop opinions. Through various readings and media, students are introduced to the foundations and ethics of persuasion and the six principles behind the science and social influence that drives persuasion, developed by Robert Cialdini.

Activities and Assessments: In this example, students use the provided criteria from the materials to answer the two discussion questions. In the written assignment students are then asked to present and explain their opinion and identify the relationship between the the science and principles of persuasion and their professional experiences.

  • Discussion topic: how can we be ethical when using persuasion techniques.
  • Discussion topic: Identify and explain which principles of persuasion resonate with you in the context of your work and professional life.
  • Written assignment: Watch Cialdini’s Science of Persuasion video and explain when you have seen three or more of the six principles being used in your professional life.

Example 2

Learning Objectives: In this example, students are being asked to apply knowledge and facts in a new situation or in a different way.

  • Course Level: Apply persuasion in a larger context, such as work, media, current events, and/or advertising.
  • Module Level: Construct a persuasive campaign for a product or service.

Instructional Materials: In this example, the instructional materials provide students with the knowledge and facts that they will apply to the activities and assessments. In this example, students engage with various readings and media that highlight persuasion in the context of advertising and marketing, the psychology behind motivation, and using persuasion to ethically influence consumer habits. Students also engage with a custom-created Image carousel that includes examples of successful advertising campaigns (Got Milk, Apple, Dove, Nike) and short captions describing why the campaign was successful.

Activities and Assessments: In this example, students are asked to apply the provided knowledge and facts from the materials by identifying effective campaigns and explain why. In the written assignment, students are then asked to apply the provided knowledge and facts in a completely new context of their choice. This assessment also includes active, student-centered learning and reflective components by incorporating peer review and feedback. Through peer review students acquire even more knowledge and apply that to a second draft of the written assignment.

  • Discussion topic: Describe an advertising campaign that was particularly effective (one different from the examples provided) and identify why it was so effective.
  • Written assignment: Create a real or imagined advertising campaign for a product or service that describes the message and audience, incorporates a visual logo and tagline, and assesses advertising concepts. Peer review a peer’s campaign based on a rubric provided. Revise and submit final advertising campaign based on the peer review and write a short reflection that addresses how and why you did or did not incorporate the peer review feedback.

For more information about alignment and creating effective assessments, talk to your Learning Designer or contact the Distance Learning team. Happy aligning and assessing!



One response to “Creating Effective Assessments: A Case Study

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *