Why am I doing this assessment task?


Extract from Issue#21 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

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

Why am I doing this assessment task?

By: Margaret Bearman, Phillip Dawson, David Boud, Matt Hall, Sue Bennett, Elizabeth Molloy and Gordon Joughin.

Source: Guide to the Assessment Design Decisions Framework
The Rationale performs a pivotal function in ALL assessment in that it allows us to ask and answer the questions

  • For teachers: “Why am I setting this task and what benefit does it provide to the students in my subject/course?
  • For students: “Why am I doing this assessment task”?

With this week’s focus on Question 9 of the SES in mind, the Rationale and the Goals of assessment tasks can be regarded as interchangeable terms. We can classify assessment as being of (summative), for (formative) or as learning (Dann, 2014). Our CSU Subject Outlines Policy requires “for each assessment task … a brief rationale for the task which reflects the learning outcomes for a subject”. Reflecting on the Rationale allows us to clarify the goals of the assessment task. This INSIGHTFUL approach helps teachers and subject designers with the important elements of assessment design and it tells students about the knowledge, skills and discipline applications in the assessment task that will allow them to achieve their desired learning outcomes.

Page 36 of the “Guide to the Assessment Design Decisions Framework” includes the following list of assessment considerations:

  • Which purposes of assessment and outcomes does this task address?
  • Why does this task exist? Are there other tasks that would achieve these goals better or more easily?
  • Is this task a good use of everyone’s time?
  • Who benefits from this task?
  • What do learners think this task is for?
  • How will you communicate the rationale of this task to learners, colleagues and the broader community?
  • How does this task’s rationale connect to the overall rationale of the unit and program?

This resource contains expanded considerations and further links to other key questions to ask yourself as you develop assessment tasks.

Providing yourself with clear answers to these questions will provide you with the means to communicate a clear rationale for each assessment task to your students.

And remember: TELL STUDENTS that the Rationale will explain the GOALS of the assessment tasks, so that when this question appears on the Subject Evaluation Survey they should be in no doubt that “The goals of the assessment tasks in this subject were made clear to me”.


Bearman, M., Dawson, P., Boud, D., Bennett, S., Hall, M., & Molloy, E. (2016). Support for assessment practice: Developing the Assessment Design Decisions Framework. Teaching in Higher Education, 21(5), 545-556. doi:10.1080/13562517.2016.1160217

Bearman, M., Dawson, P., Boud, D., Hall, M., Bennett, S., Molloy, E., & Joughin, G. (2014). Guide to the Assessment Design Decisions Framework. Retrieved from http://www.assessmentdecisions.org/guide/

Dann, R. (2014). Assessment as learning: Blurring the boundaries of assessment and learning for theory, policy and practice. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 21(2), 149-166. doi:10.1080/0969594X.2014.898128