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Aligning assessments with learning outcomes

Ways of ensuring student assessments align with course learning outcomes.


A successful course starts with well-written learning outcomes that communicate clearly what students are expected to achieve through the course and how their learning will be assessed. The following steps can be used to ensure a clear assessment plan to guide students in their learning.


1) Review course learning outcomes

It is important to review your course learning outcome and ensure it is written in a way that shows it can be measured or observed in some way. Course learning outcomes should:

  • state what students are expected to know or be able to do upon completion of a specific course;
  • be clearly stated and relate specifically to the course's topics, assignments, exams, and other assessments;
  • be observable and measurable;
  • contribute, or map to, program-level learning outcomes; and
  • be outlined in the course syllabus, reviewed with students at the beginning, and referenced throughout the course.

2) Determine target level of a course learning outcome

Using Bloom's Taxonomy list, identify each course learning outcome level. This is the final target of our assessment plan.

bloom's taxonomy

3) Identifying methods of assessment

The following are some examples of ways of measuring or assessing students' success in achieving the course learning outcome:

assessment activities

Assessment Activities

Each level of Bloom's Taxonomy assesses different kinds of knowledge. Below are examples of activities and questions that align with each level of learning


Questions Activities
  • What do you remember about __?
  • How would you explain __?
  • Describe what happens when __.
  • Find the definition of __.
  • Identify, locate, or name __. 


Questions Activities
  • How would you sort/classify/categorize __?
  • Please tell me what you mean when you say __.
  • Use your own words to summarize __.
  • What is another way of saying __?
  • Compare/contrast __.
  • How can you explain __?


Questions Activities
  • Which factors would you change if __?
  • What questions would you ask of __?
  • Which approach would you use to __?
  • What actions would you take if __?
  • What would the results be if __?
  • Why does __ work?


Questions Activities
  • Is __ based on fact or opinion?
  • Explain what must have happened when __.
  • What conclusions can you draw from __?
  • What is similar/different from __?
  • What is the motive/underlying theme of __?
  • What is the relationship between __?


Questions Activities
  • How would you explain __?
  • What changes to __ would you recommend?
  • Do you agree with the outcome of __? Why?
  • What evidence supports your view?
  • What are the consequences of __?
  • How could __ be improved?


Questions Activities
  • What changes could you make to revise __?
  • What theory can you propose for __?
  • How many ways can you __?
  • What might be a solution for __?
  • Develop a plan/proposal for __.
  • Devise your own way to __.

4) Develop an assessment pathway

Once the target level of a course learning outcome is identified and the final assessment methods are determined, the next step is to create an assessment pathway that assesses student performance from their starting level to their target level points in their assessment pathway. The assessment pathway should identify the level of knowledge with which students enter your course and the final level at which students exit your course. At each level, assessment activities should be identified to measure student performance at that level. See an example of a completed assessment pathway below.

completed assessment pathway example

Download the Assessment Alignment Handout

Identify starting point

Using the diagram below, mark your target level for your course learning outcome. Next, determine the level of knowledge students should be able to perform upon entering the course. This is your starting point. Review program curricular maps, course requirements, and prerequisites. If unsure, consider starting with some diagnostic assessment at the beginning of the course to confirm the accuracy of your decision. 

assessment pathway

Identify exit-level assessments

Each time students move from or exit one level to the next or higher level of learning, there is an opportunity to assess their performance or mastery of that level. This will give you and the student some feedback on their performance and identify any serious gaps in learning that prevent them from moving forward successfully to the next level. Using the diagram above, identify the activities in your course that will serve as exit-level assessments.

5) Share your assessment plan

The final step is to share this assessment pathway with your students. This will help them see how activities fit together and contribute to their success in achieving the specified course learning outcome. It will also help them see where there are opportunities to gain insight into their progress to their final assessments.

Keywordscourse, learning, outcome, align, student, types, levels, activities, measure clo alignment of, assessmentDoc ID123871
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2023-02-06 13:34:27Updated2024-04-23 13:39:48
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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