Assignments & Assessments

The second-best way to grade exams“The second-best way to grade exams” by ilmungo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

GSC strives to create positive experiences for adult learners from New Hampshire and beyond. We do this by developing learner experiences that incorporate real-world practice and feedback, extending critical thinking throughout the curriculum, and cultivating collaboration and inquiry with faculty.

Assignments and assessments that clearly align with course learning outcomes, allow for student choice and discovery, and provide clear and iterative opportunities for learning and real-world application are all part of course designs that strive toward teaching and student success. The following resources are intended to help faculty at GSC develop and refine assignments and assessments for a high-quality learning experience.


When developing assignments, a Backward Design approach (Wiggins & McTighe) can help students demonstrate learning in a way that is intentionally linked to learning outcomes and assessment strategies. When planning your course, it can be helpful to explore:

  • What do we want our students to know?
  • How will we know when students know it and how can we help them enhance learning?
  • How will students known when they know it, and can it be applied?
  • What types of assignments can best facilitate and demonstrate student learning outcomes?

In addition, assignments should strive to be:

  • Strategically spaced to allow for formative feedback and student growth
  • Varied to allow for multiple means of expression
  • Relevant to learning outcomes and transfer knowledge into application
  • Accurate in terms of expectations, due dates, and how performance will be assessed

Read How First Assignment Helps Establish Expectations (Faculty Focus Article)


Using a Backward Design approach to identify how we will know when course / program learning outcomes have been met can be helpful. In addition, assessments should be:

  • Tied directly to course and program learning outcomes
  • Varied to allow for multiple means of assessment
  • Ecologically valid (they mirror what learners will be expected to do in real life with the knowledge)
  • Accurate in terms of how students will be assessed, with use rubrics that have clear criterion for competencies and grades

Learn more about assessments with Matt Rhoads and Bonni Stachowiak’s free OER book and the chapter on Assessing Learning.


Instructional Approaches to Streamline Grading for Student Success

  • Iterative Assignments: assignments that build upon one another and are strategically spaced allow for consistent and formative feedback. This approach encourages student growth and also reduces the need for high-stakes assignments toward the end of the semester.  
  • Varied Assessments: Using multiple means of assessment throughout the term can help students and faculty understand their academic progress earlier in the semester.
  • Rubrics: Rubrics provide a concrete and descriptive summary of grading for students, and they help streamline the process and save time.
  • Final Assignments & Reflections: When final assignments are due early in the last week of the course (e.g., Tuesday), there is more time for faculty grading and engaging activities that help students reflect on their own growth, learning, and application.
  • Learn from Other GSC Faculty: Many GSC faculty include iterative assignments, rubrics, and engaging final activities as a way to streamline grading and create a quality learning experience for our students. 
  • Work with the Instructional Design (ID) Team: GSC is fortunate to have a group of experts in instructional design who help our faculty evaluate and develop effective course design. Contact the ID Team Today.

Faculty Strategies, Resources & Tips

Final Grading – Steve Covello, MS

One approach I have used has been to assign a completed draft on the second to last week. All feedback is given in time for students to revise and submit their final draft by the end of the last week.

The key to making this method work is using a handy free online tool called a difference checker. Difference checkers are tools used by code programmers to highlight the difference between one set of code and another, but it can be used to compare term papers too!

The online tool I use is Diff Checker [ ]. It is very simple and does not keep a copy of anything posted into it. Nothing is saved unless you command it to be saved (which you wouldn’t do), and you don’t need an account to use it. There are others out there if you do a search under “difference checker”. The main thing to avoid is any tool that requires that you save the content – this would be a FERPA violation.

With a little tweaking, you can quickly use a difference checker to see where changes have been made and then determine whether the grade should be changed from the completed draft.

Iterative Assignments & Multiple Means of Assessment – Liz Gauffreau, MA, & Tamara Von George, Ph.D.

Course design plays an important role in creating a rewarding and effective learning experience that helps students succeed. Explore the following sample syllabi to see how courses can built in iterative assignments and multiple means of assessment.

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