Most academics are involved to some level in teaching classes and evaluating students. I never got a proper education in teaching, unlike what we had for research, and neither did any of the lecturers and professors in my community: we learnt on the job, and for the most part reproduce what we have seen others do.

There is one area where I feel this is not enough, and I could be better: evaluations. We mostly do two sorts of evaluations: written exams (exercises with series of questions) and short bibliographic or research projects (ending with a short oral defense). In addition, many high school teacher friends tell me that research on the evaluation of knowledge acquisition (or student assessment) has made huge progresses in the last 20 or 30 years, that have completely changed the way they teach and evaluate students. Yet, I don't think things has changed so much in higher education, and I don't find around me any tools (lectures, seminars, tutorials, what-ever) to learn of this topic.

So: How can one learn to better evaluate student’s skills and knowledge acquisition? What are good (and modern) resources out there on educational assessment as applied to higher education?

  • I'm still not sure what you're asking. Are you looking for resources to evaluate students or teaching methods?
    – eykanal
    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 12:46
  • @eykanal I am looking for resources on students evaluation. I have modified my final question to hopefully make that clearer…
    – F'x
    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 12:50

2 Answers 2


A good place to start to fill gaps due to lack of teacher training is with a general book or two on the topic. I was surprised when I read these at how different current attitudes and approaches are compared to when I was a student. Consider:

One of the key issues these books talk about regarding assessment is the notion of constructive alignment, which is ensuring that the assessment aligns appropriately with the learning outcomes of the course. In these books (and others) plenty of advice is given to help you better align your assessment.

Another important issue is that assessment guides the approach to learning. If students know that they only need to learn a whole bunch of facts, perhaps based on their examination of past exams, then they will adopt a shallow approach to learning and not really understand the material. Trying to encourage students to adopt a deep approach to learning is extremely important and is strongly influenced by the approach taken to assessment. These books also focus on this issue.

After reading those, I recommend the following books, which both focus on assessment. They have given me plenty of ideas:

They both written in the context of British universities, but I'm sure the ideas are fairly universally applicable.

There are also plenty of journals of higher education, if you want to get access to cutting edge research in higher education. Some are devoted to assessment, and others are more general:

I'm pretty sure that this only scrapes the surface.

Finally, the Google returned some resources, which lead to more detailed resources:


Depending on country, your university may provide training. In the UK all teaching staff must obtain a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education. While I still do not fully understand the process, it seems that this is nearly a Masters in Education. I would check with your office of professional development to see what courses they offer. You may also want to look at auditing a course in the Department of Education. Although in my experience Departments of Education are often rated as having poor teaching (this may obviously be due to student bias).

  • There's a Grad Cert; Grad Dip; Masters in Higher Education pathway in Australia available in distance modes, for example. Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 11:35
  • In case people care, I would down-grade the statement 'all teaching staff must obtain...'. For one thing, there are some variants on this course. Also, those who already have enough teaching experience are not necessarily required (or even allowed) to take the course. I think becoming a fellow of the HEA is the primary expectation.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 13:05
  • (continuing) The course is not a Masters as such. It is a post-graduate diploma. It is a level 7 qualification, which means it is considered to be at the same standard as the first year of post-graduate study, comparable to a 4-year science undergrad degree, a PGCE, or some other professional qualification. I would not expect it to be treated as being like a research MSc.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 13:09

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