Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students complain about grades.

Students don’t understand the rationale behind our assessment strategies.

When this happens, students may think they should be able to replace or compensate for poor performance on one kind of assignment with strong performance on another assignment, even when those assessments test different knowledge and skills.


Describe your assessment strategy in your syllabus or other course documents.

Explain the purpose of the different assessment activities, linking them to different course objectives if appropriate. Show how they may address different kinds of knowledge or skills and thus performance on all of the different components together provide a valid measure of mastery of the course material.

Provide opportunities to fail without cost.

Many instructors provide more assessment opportunities than they will need to evaluate a student, providing students with practice and feedback on the different kinds of assessments and scoring criteria. For example, if exams are used to assess conceptual knowledge and homework is used to assess procedural skills, you could count the best 3 out of 4 exams and best 5 out 7 homework assignments. When using this kind of a strategy it is important to be sure that students are still demonstrating their proficiency on all the learning objectives that are considered critical for the course.

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