Mix it up: Assessment alternatives


Extract from Issue#34 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

Assessing students through alternative methods

By: Deborah Murdoch, CSU

Assessing subject learning outcomes is the main focus of assessment, so analysing what you are looking for in the outcomes can help you define what skills and knowledge you are asking students to demonstrate. You can also include other academic skills such communication, digital and information literacies, ethics and reflective practice. These skills are often blended into subject learning outcomes and can encompass other graduate learning outcomes as well.

Subject learning outcomes include

  • student action, usually identified through a verb such as describe, analyse, evaluate, design or create;
  • a content area of knowledge; and
  • a context or professional environment or practice in which the student can apply the skills and knowledge.

If your criteria and standards have been focused around the skills and knowledge to be assessed, you have the opportunity to find different methods and formats of assessment that still assess them without having to do much, if anything, to change your rubric.

The first step in changing your assessment type is to analyse your learning outcome.

  • Examine each of your learning outcomes for a selected task and identify the skills you are asking students to demonstrate.
  • Think about the level of thinking you want students to demonstrate, are they lower order thinking skills or higher order thinking skills? Look at Revised Bloom’s taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002) or SOLO taxonomy (Biggs, n.d.) to get a sense of what each level might be expected to do in relation to your learning outcome.

SOLO taxonomy developed by Kevin Collis and John Biggs in 1982 to describe levels of understanding based on complexity.


This table gives some examples of terms that fit with each level of the taxonomy:

Once you’ve analysed your learning outcomes and identified the skills students will demonstrate you need to think about how you want students to communicate their learning.

Communication can take many forms and utilise many skills. Your assessment planning provides an opportunity for you to think about what students will need to do in their professional life and how to relate their university learning to professional practice through student assessment tasks.

Communication of learning can be written, pictorial, graphical, through audio or video, all of which develop academic literacy in some way. Related academic and professional characteristics such as academic writing, digital literacy, and information literacy allow students to demonstrate these skills as graduate learning outcomes and as professional skills.

There are many possible assessment types for students to communication their knowledge, skills and application of learning. At CSU, about 75 different assessment methods are used. Check out some of these in the list below for inspiration as you brainstorm ways of assessing the skills and knowledge in professional context.

Alternative Assessment Types to Include Specific Skills

The same content of the subject is used to demonstrate knowledge but alternative task formats allow students to demonstrate different academic and professional skills that assist in achieving Graduate Learning Outcomes.

For example:

  • If you are assessing the ability to research and present information you can ask students to present the information through audio, video, presentations, information sheets, data representations in graphical form, or report or essay format.
  • If you were developing communication skills through digital literacy you might ask students to use an online format such as a blog, a wiki or a journal. The scholarly information can be presented, using an alternative form to an essay or report.
  • An eportfolio might be used to ask students to reflect on their practices,
  • Social media could be used to encourage students to develop skills in ethical, legal and safe use of the online environment.


Biggs, J. (n.d.).SOLO Taxonomy. Retrieved from John Biggs: http://www.johnbiggs.com.au/academic/solo-taxonomy/

Krathwohl, D. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 212-218. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15430421tip4104_2