Basic design of the assessment in an entire course

After you have formulated your learning objectives and expectations about what students need to know and be able to do at the end of the course, you can get started on how you will assess the learning objectives. You determine the assessment methods and look at what learning activities are appropriate to achieve the learning objectives.

To determine the basic design of the assessment in a course, you can ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • What is the function of the assessment (formative versus summative) in this course?
  • What am I going to assess (content and level)?
  • Who am I going to assess (group or individual)?
  • When will I assess (frequency and moment)?
  • Who will give the assessment (lecturer, student or fellow student)?
  • How will I assess (assessment method)?
  • How will I organise the different steps in the assessment process (organisation)?

After the general assessment design of the entire course, you will make a design per assessment method within the course. In this assessment design there you will, besides the assessment itself, pay attention to the planning, construction of the questions, putting the assessment together, the review, the revision process and the prevention of measurement errors.

Quick links:

Functions of an assessment

An assessment can serve different goals and functions:

  • As a selection tool for admission (summative).
  • As qualification to determine a level (summative).
  • As a learning tool to guide the learning process (formative).
  • As a progression check to adjust the learning process (formative).
  • As an instrument to (intermediately) adjust your education (evaluative).


Summative function

An assessment with a summative function is about making a decision. A student can get into a study programme or course or successfully complete a course or study programme. The final mark of a summative assessment is in the form of a grade or another judgement, such as: insufficient/sufficient/good/excellent or fulfilled/not fulfilled. In the case of a sufficient grade or a fulfillment, the student will receive EC or a diploma. In other words: the assessment has a certain consequence.

Formative function

An assessment with a formative function only gives the students feedback on their progression and shows what the student still needs to do to reach the final level. This way, as a lecturer, you can adjust and students can adjust their learning process. Every assessment with a summative function does in one way or another also serve a formative function. After all, you want to inform the student about their development after doing the assessment.

Evaluative function

An assessment with an evaluative function gives you as a lecturer a view of the learning process of students within the course with the goal to adjust the education. The result of the assessment of students gives the lecturer information to adjust their education.

Determining the content and level of an assessment

To determine what you are going to assess and at which cognitive or action level, you can use Bloom’s taxonomy and/or Miller’s pyramid. These models help you to make explicitly clear what (or which) level or skill of students you want to assess

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Within the world of academic education, Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) is a generally well-accepted classification consisting of six cognitive levels: from remembering or recognising facts, to evaluating and applying new knowledge.

There are six columns representing Bloom's Taxonomy. The columns are remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate and create.

Miller’s pyramid

Miller’s pyramid (1990) describes the development of a learning person from the level of novice to that of a professional. It shows how a competency is constructed, ascending from relatively simple to a complex level. The pyramid works constructively: it consists of four layers, where each previous layer forms the foundation for the next.

This image contains a pyramid with four layers. Each layer contains a step of Miller's Pyramid. These steps are as follows, from the bottom up: knowing, knows how, shows and does.

Assessment methods

What assessment method you choose depends on the level and content of the learning objectives and the goal of the assessment. Additionally, you can choose whether to assess with or without digital assessment software. 

We differentiate the following main methods of assessment:

Choosing to take an assessment digitally

Some assessment methods can be taken digitally, for example a digital written exam or digitally handing in and reviewing essays or video assignments. The decision to use a digital written exam is always taken in consultation with your faculty’s digital assessment coordinator. 

The following aspects are taken into consideration when making this decision:

  • Does taking an exam digitally fit into your course design?
  • Does the assessment software support your chosen question types?
  • Are you prepared to attend a training on the usage of the digital assessment software?
  • Are you prepared to invest in the construction of a digital database with questions?


For more information, please contact the Teaching Information Point at your faculty or the team at Educational Advice & Teacher Development.