Principles of assessment

Constructive alignment

Constructive alignment is the practice of ensuring that intended learning outcomes for a course of study are effective, clear and purposeful and that learning activities and assessment tasks are developed in alignment with these outcomes. There are two basic concepts behind constructive alignment:

  • Learners construct meaning from what they do to learn.
  • The teacher makes a deliberate alignment between the planned learning activities and the learning outcomes and how to measure the achievement of those outcomes.  .

All assessment tasks need to be aligned directly to demonstrate the achievement of the intended learning outcomes, and supported by the learning and teaching activities within the course. At Federation University, the approach to assessment is based on the following principles, as per the Higher Education Assessment (inclusive of FedTASKs) Procedure AG1254.

  • Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning
  • Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance
  • Assessment practices must be fair and equitable for all students
  • Assessment must maintain academic standards

Considerations of design

Assessment tasks should comprise of an authentic representation of the course intended learning outcomes.  The tasks set must align with the learning outcomes and learning activities and be provided for students at the beginning of the course or unit. Designing an assessment task to achieve the intended learning outcomes is more than just choosing an assessment type or tool.

When designing an assessment task for your course, consider the following elements, which are based on the work of Race (2015):

  • Alignment – Does the assessment task address some/all of the course learning outcomes?
  • Validity– What evidence do you have that this assessment task is considered best practice in choice of task for learning outcome?
  • Authenticity – How well does the assessment correlate to the sorts of things students need in their career after leaving the educational institution?
  • Transparency – How clearly can students see how the assessment works in practice, and how marking occurs?
  • Inclusiveness – Can the assessment be taken by a range of students with additional learning needs to minimise unfair discrimination?
  • Veracity - To what extent can you be sure no plagiarism, copying or cheating occurs?
  • Feedback – Are the processes of providing formative and summative feedback clearly identified and within a reasonable time frame?
  • Reliability – Do the marking criteria within the marking guide or rubrics clearly differentiate and articulate the various elements required to achieve varying levels of learning?
  • Manageability – How much time will it take for marking and moderation to be done by the assessor, and how much time and energy are required for the students to complete it?
  • Evaluation - What tool will you use to evaluate, measure and/or review both the student and facilitator use of the assessment task in achieving alignment to the learning outcome(s)?


Federation University Learning and Teaching website

Federation University policies and guidelines


  • Biggs, J. & Tang, C. (2011) Teaching for quality learning at university. (4th ed.) New York: Open University Press
  • Fry, K., Ketteridge, S. & Marshall, S. (2015) A handbook for teaching & learning in higher education: Enhancing academic practice. (4th ed.) London: Routledge.
  • National Union of Students, UK. (2010) Assessment and feedback benchmarking tool. Retrieved from:
  • Race, P. (2015) The lecturers toolkit. (4th ed.) Oxon, UK: Routledge