TLARC Assessment Review

In the 2021-22 school year, TLARC completed a review of common assessment practices in Higher Education globally and changes to assessment theory. The review determined there were four key reasons to consider changes:

1. Research: A large body of research evidence now describes the impact of outcomes-based and formative assessment practices on the quality of learning in Higher Education. Strong consensus has developed that these newer assessment practices yield higher level learning outcomes.

2. Accreditation Requirements: Practices are changing in some colleges, particularly externally accredited ones, where common competencies exist that need to be assessed by faculty members for the college to remain accredited. These common competencies often have outcomes and competency levels that are the same in all programs across an entire country, or even globally, and require outcomes-based or competency-based assessment processes.

3. Strong Graduates: Employers prioritize graduates who can describe and demonstrate their competency in complex problem solving, collaborating, digital literacies, etc. Newer forms of assessment tend to provide learning tasks and assessments that teach and grade those skills, and support students in being able to describe their own competence in them, making graduates more successful.

4. Unconscious Bias/EDI: Institutions of higher education are seeking to become more equitable, diverse, and inclusive. Many conventional approaches to assessment present systemic barriers to first-in-family and equity seeking students. Processes of accommodation and an understanding of socially constructed narratives of disability are also shifting how and what we assess.


Over the course of the 2022-23 school year, a working group of TLARC including representatives of faculty, academic leaders, sessionals, student leaders and staff developed a set of 10 principles and began the process of faculty focus groups and presentations to seek feedback. The principles were refined after the feedback.


USask Assessment Principles

Effective assessment of students

1. Is aligned with learning outcomes and instructional strategies (assessment of learning).
2. Is inclusive and transparent, so students have equitable opportunities to demonstrate their learning.
3. Gives students multiple opportunities to learn through practice and feedback, so they have sufficient time and support to reflect and improve (assessment for learning).
4. Develops student's ability to learn effectively and prepares students to be self-directed, reflective, and engaged learners (assessment as learning).
5. Is designed so students apply disciplinary learning under authentic, or as close to authentic as possible, circumstances.
6. Is designed and sequenced to optimize students' success.

Effective assessment is embedded in departments, colleges/schools, and system-wide when it:

7. Provides a valid and trustworthy representation of student achievement that students, educators, disciplines, accrediting bodies, and employers can have confidence in.
8. Is manageable and sustainable for educators, and appropriately facilitated by policy and resourcing.
9. Provides useful information for ongoing course and program enhancement.
10. Forms an integral part of program design, aligning with what programs of study are aiming to achieve within disciplinary communities.


Ongoing work on Assessment

In response to the development of the principles, 4 key areas of work were established:
  • TLARC and APC struck a joint working group to examine assessment policy and process on campus relative to the principles. This work is ongoing in 2022-23.
  • Academic leaders were invited to consider implications of the principles for their colleges and schools.
  • TLARC directed GMCTL to start working with individual departments on assessment based on departmental interest and direction from their academic leaders.
  • TLARC directed GMCTL to offer a series of workshops related to the principles.