Assessment Methods

Assessment Methods

Assessment Methods

Range of assessment methods

Opportunities for innovation in assessment are boundless, though assessment usually reverts to one (or all) of the Big Three – essay questions, multiple choice questions, or reports).

Continually using the same small range of assessment methods not only results in the same skill set being assessed over and over, but also serves to disadvantage those individuals who find these methods more challenging. Over-reliance encourages a surface approach to learning, with the student focusing on strategies to pass rather than mastering the subject matter.

The assessment methods should be aligned to ensure that the skills and abilities developed by the students are assessed in a manner consistent with the design and delivery of the course as a whole. The choice of assessment method should therefore be influenced by the learning outcomes and the type of skills you are seeking to engender in the learners. A course designed to teaching problem-solving skills and group interaction should have a problem-solving-type assessment rather than an essay on how a problem could be overcome.

Assessment Methods - Overview

Annotated bibliographies

Case studies

Concept maps

Direct observation


Group Work

Logs/diaries/reflective journals

Work based Assessment




Reflective Practice

Simulated interviews

Two-part assessment

Web page creation


Competence checklists

Critical incident analysis


Eye-witness testimonials

In-tray exercises



Participative online discussion


Problem work

Research enquiry



Website review

Book review

Computer-based assessment

Diagram Sheets


Field work

Learning contracts

Model construction

Open book

Peer assessment



Self- assessment

Structured summaries

Viva/Lab defence

Objective Structured Clinical Examinations

Some Less Familiar Methods

Competence checklists

Used in number of professions to ensure particular abilities have been undertaken & assessed. Grid in which students identify when they observed an activity, rehearsed it, estimated themselves ready to be assessed, date the assessment took place, outcome, tutor’s name, and any further comments.

Case studies

Used to enable student to demonstrate skills learned in professional contexts to other settings. This can involve requiring them to provide recommendations or solutions, or to write their own case studies based on their own experiences

Logs/diaries/ reflective journals

All used where students are marked on practice and reflection. Can range from simple logs/checklists to more detailed reflective journals


Widely used to provide evidence of competence from their practice. Good method to help students assess their own level of competence, by asking them to select evidence that best demonstrates their ability. Strong guidelines required though to prevent it from becoming a collection of random and irrelevant info.


This refers to the observation of the skills in practice, watching a professional and learning from the experience. Can be simple checklists or more detailed (requiring subjective responses)


Tend to be physical products of students’ professional practice (e.g., art work, models, computer programmes, dental bridges etc). Important to have clear criteria established beforehand. Good idea to have sample artefacts before students begin, and frequent checks throughout (so time & resources aren’t wasted)

Eye-witness testimonials

Can form part of a portfolio, or a separate way to evidence technical competence. May be a statement by a tutor or placement supervisor who has been observing/responsible for the student.

In-tray exercises

Students are presented with a dossier of paper which they have an opportunity to peruse before the question is presented. The dossier includes a range of information (some relevant, some not, some a total red herring) but the student must use it to solve a real world problem. Can last for an hour or all day, and may include the option to consult with other students if desired.

Objective Structures Clinical Examinations

Involve students undertaking a set of prescribed tasks (for example, 9 in 90 minutes) at a series of assessment stations often placed around a large room. These provide opportunities to demonstrate their skills in a range of areas in a practical way.

Posters/ presentations

Used by individuals or groups to demonstrate work undertaken individually or collectively. Can be theoretical or reporting back on a practical activity. Useful because can be used in conjunction with peer assessment


Can be used to interrogate the understanding that underlies practice. Serves to introduce an element of performance into assessment, though due consideration should be given to criteria and weighting of marks.

Learning contracts

Used to involve students in setting their own learning goals. Generally have four stages: entry profiling; needs analysis; action planning; evaluation. Levels of relevant competence are set out at the beginning of the programme, and then they agree upon how best to develop these to satisfy these outcomes.

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