What is it?

Examine the learning outcomes for your course and decide how you will assess them. The types of assessments that you plan will then inform the learning activities that you design, and these activities will serve to scaffold those assessments.

backwards design

Think of this process as designing backwards: Learning outcomes direct the assessment design, which in turn direct the design of activities.

Why does it matter?

By designing backwards, you will ensure that the assessments, activities, and learning outcomes are aligned in your course. This alignment highlights the connection and relevance of the activities and their purpose in scaffolding the successful completion of the assessment and learning outcomes. This approach leads to greater student success.

How do I get started?

Begin by reviewing the course learning outcomes and determine how they can best be assessed. It may be helpful to focus on the verbs in the learning outcomes – what are you asking the students to do? Consider incorporating formative assessments to guide the summative assessments. Formative assessments serve to improve student learning through a developmental process (one-minute paper, report drafts, self-assessments, etc.) by creating opportunities for practice and feedback, whereas summative assessments are final graded submissions (final projects, exams, etc.).

Non-disposable assessments (concept maps, info-graphics, video creations, reports to industry stakeholders, e-portfolios, etc.) document student learning, provide choice in how students demonstrate their learning, and may increase knowledge sharing by involving community partners. Authentic assessments (realistic tasks that require judgment and innovation) are a great way to engage students and promote academic integrity.

How are instructors using it?

Instructors use assessment design to plan for how the final project/exam assesses specific course learning outcomes and how the learning activities provide opportunities for students to develop the needed skills and competencies for completion of the final project/exam.

Where can I go for a deeper dive?


Capilano University is named after Chief Joe Capilano, an important leader of the Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) Nation of the Coast Salish people. We respectfully acknowledge that our campuses are located on the unceded sovereign Indigenous Nations of Lil’wat, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm(Musqueam), Shíshálh (Sechelt), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh(Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh).


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