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Effective Feedback and Assessment

Test design and fair grading

Writing fair test questions that assess what you want student to learn can be really tricky! Here are some resources to help you write good test questions.

Tips for writing and grading tests

Write your test or quiz before you start teaching a topic. You should know where you’re going before you begin.

Write the point values for each question on the test or quiz itself. This lets the students know which questions/topics have more weight, and it keeps you accountable to using the same grading scale when you are grading each paper.

As you grade, write down what you took off for each type of mistake on your key. That way, when a different student makes the same or similar mistake, you can be consistent in your grading.

Make sure that you include different types of questions on a test. That way a student is not penalized if s/he is not adept at answering a certain type of question or just doesn’t know the material.

Cover student names while you grade.


A rubric is a grading scheme that is defined to ensure consistent grading of assignments. They are particularly useful for written assignments like lab reports or projects. It is best to write the rubric when designing the assignment so you are assigning points to what is important, and those important features are clearly defined in the assignment description.

There are websites to help create rubrics, such as Rubistar. This gives a starting point to provide exactly the feedback you want to give to your students, and to create the grading structure needed for each assignment.

When design a rubric, think about what is most important for your students to learn. Adjust the weight for each component of the assignment accordingly.

Be careful with wording and the level of detail within categories of the rubric. Poorly worded or overly constrained formatting requirements can result in assigning too many points to unimportant things. Simple formatting errors can hurt an otherwise strong project, which can really deflate students’ enthusiasm for the topic.

Here is a sample problem solving rubric that shows how points can be assigned to various features of problem solving.

Here is a sample written report rubric that shows how a lab report can be assessed using a rubric.

Questioning Techniques

Tips for asking good questions

    • When students answer a question, always get them to include the “because” clause, telling why their answer is correct and how they know it is true. This will let you see misconceptions in even “correct” answers.
    • When a student asks a question, instead of giving the answer, give the information needed to find the answer, then ask the class.
    • Leading questions are needed to a certain extent, but be careful of leading students directly to an answer and then thinking that they’ve “got it.” Have them rephrase the answer to make sure they are not just repeating information back to you.
    • Questioning Techniques

Blooms Taxonomy is a way of categorizing learning objectives in terms of cognitive processes (thinking and learning) and knowledge types. It is a useful way to design questions either for tests or for in-class feedback. Tip: When posing questions in class, try to push beyond the “applying” level at least once during each class session.

The “Rigor/Relevance Framework” for designing questions: This framework was developed by the International Center for Leadership in Education as a professional development resource for K-12 educators. It provides useful question “stems” (wording at the core of questions) that are organized by what you want to assess.

Question matching exercise (completed in the GTA workshop)