The best assessment tasks are clearly aligned with subject learning objectives and supported by the learning activities students complete. Ultimately, they form part of the holistic learning experience within a subject, motivating and encouraging students to learn. And while there's a lot of work that goes into designing quality assessment, the way we communicate tasks to students is equally important.
The instruction sheet is the primary resource students have when trying to understand and complete an assessment task. When these are ambiguous, assume existing knowledge, or are difficult to follow, we can set students off on a path that makes it confusing and challenging to achieve learning objectives. More than this, the way we communicate with students sets the tone for how students communicate with us. If we want to encourage students to be thoughtful and to-the-point in their academic writing, we need to exemplify this.
To support teachers in overcoming these challenges, we've created Cadmus Templates.
With a range of assessment types available, you can quickly adapt existing assignment instructions into a learning-oriented format for students. Designed to follow assessment best practices, they provide a flexible framework for instructions that supports and guides students towards completing an assignment.
Students often miss essential information, simply because the way we communicate instructions isn't as obvious as it could be. Creating structured and well-formatted instructions can help break up an assessment task into distinct actions for students to follow. Let's run through how our templates are broken up and how you can get the most out of each section.
Our templates encourage you to start by providing students with context about how an assignment links to learning objectives and unit outcomes. You can then support this with information about how the skills or knowledge developed through completing the assessment will contribute to their course progression or future careers. With a clear 'why', students can understand the relevance of a task, keeping them engaged and motivated.
Use this section to provide a specific description of the task, and try to begin instructions with verbs (e.g. discuss, analyse, evaluate) that set expectations for students. Emphasise key information like the essay prompt or research topic and use this section to provide high-level guidance to students. Depending on your cohort, you may want to give more direction to students by unpacking specific instructions. For example, explain what it means to 'evaluate' in the context of your task. If students need to be aware of any other requirements, you can outline them in this section as well. For example, students may need to access a minimum number of resources or consider certain theories in their analysis. The best way to communicate this information is in a clear list of requirements, using action words to provide clear direction.
Often the instructions of an assessment aren't the extent of information we want to provide to students. Giving students easy access to marking criteria, background information, or university guides, can ensure they feel fully supported as they complete a task. Instead of overloading students with resources, it can help to be selective and targeted. Identify the purpose of each resource and the stage of the assessment journey students should engage with the material to encourage students to access the information proactively. You can then use a list to explain what resources are attached and how or when students should use the information.
Even with clear instructions, leaving students to their own devices to complete a literature review or argumentative essay can be a little daunting, especially in earlier years. Providing a structure for students to follow that scaffolds them through a task can keep them feeling supported and confident. Depending on the level of support your students need to complete the assignment, you can vary the level of detail and scaffolding you provide.
Our templates all come with a checklist of recommended tasks that encourage students to go through an authentic learning journey as they complete an assessment. Simple tasks like encouraging students to review the grading criteria before they begin can help them develop better academic practices. They're easy to adapt and form an excellent base for you to work off. You can even add recommended dates or checkpoints to the process, helping students stay consistently engaged and working.
To give you a head start, some of our templates include response structures you can adapt to suit your task. These are helpful for students needing extra support to plan out the sections of their written piece. Keep it simple by identifying the required sections and approximate word lengths. Alternatively, you can provide more guidance by using descriptions of the content expected of students for each part of their work.
Ready to check out some of our templates? Browse our templates now. Remember to keep an eye out as we continue to add new assessment types.
Head of Teacher Education
Main Illustration by Ouch
We've put together a few ideas for ensuring your students have a successful experience using Cadmus in their upcoming exam alternatives and major assessments.
Deakin University academic Ross Monaghan shares some advice for fellow teachers considering exam alternatives in light of recent COVID-19 changes to teaching.