Curriculum and assessment

Resources for the following PLaCE sub-domains:

C1. Curriculum design

A1. Assessment

A2. Feedback to students

  • Curriculum is a formal academic plan for the learning experiences of students working towards a university degree.
  • Assessment shapes students’ learning experience and strongly influences what and how students learn and should be closely aligned with the unit and course outcomes.
  • Feedback is a consequence of performance and can be conceptualised as information provided regarding aspects of students’ learning performance or products including corrective information. Macquarie University aims to provide a learning environment in which students receive ongoing feedback throughout their studies.
Read more about the importance of curriculum and pedagogy, assessment and feedback

Curriculum, Pedagogy, Assessment and Feedback.

Curriculum has been extensively defined in the literature (Glatthorn, Boschee & Whitehead, 2005) as a complex construct including content that is intended, explicit, designed, taught, written, assessed, but also includes elements that are hidden, tacit or unintended. To simplify matters, ‘curriculum’ can be thought of as being ‘what is taught’ in a broad sense.

Curriculum is differentiated from Pedagogy, with the latter being contested in the literature (Watkins & Mortimore, 1999; Young 2011) as being the art, science, theory, methods and profession of teaching with varying philosophical stances taken. In essence ‘pedagogy’ can be conceptualised as being ‘how we teach’.
In order to be most effective, teachers must have knowledge of both their topic manifest in the curriculum, the “what” and of pedagogy, the “how” (Barkley & Major, 2016). In PLACE, Pedagogy is addressed in the “Student learning and Support” domain.

Assessment is where curriculum and pedagogy meet for students. Doing assessment well is important because as Ramsden (1992) argues, assessment largely defines the curriculum from a student’s point of view and is the mechanism through which students progress at university. Delclos, Vye, Burns, Bransford and Hasselbring (1992) and Poehner (2007) define assessment as a process for evidencing, documenting, in measurable terms, the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs of the learner. Assessment can occur at any stage of a learning episode including before (for diagnostic purposes to inform future learning), during (as formative to assist current and future learning via feedback and feed-forward) and after (as summative to evaluate learning). As such assessment can be said to serve one or more purposes. In assessment for learning the aim is to assist students improve current and future learning, then assessment as learning aims to enhance the learner’s ability for self judgement, and the more familiar, assessment of learning is used to measure learning that has already occurred, often to assign grades (Yan and Boud, 2021).

Feedback and the related idea of feed-forward are key elements in effective assessment, but are the elements students tell us are the most lacking in higher education. At a minimum feedback apprises the learner of their current performance but more importantly, feed-forward is needed to provide guidance to improve future performance.

Sadler (1989) outlines three conditions for effective feedback: “the learner has to (a) possess a concept of the desired standard (or goal, or reference level), (b) compare the actual (or current) level of performance with the standard, and (c) engage in appropriate action which leads to some closure of the gap” (p. 121).


Sadler, D.R. (1989). Formative assessment and the design of instructional system, Instructional Science, 18.
Barkley, E.F. & C.H. Major (2016). Learning Assessment Techniques: a handbook for college faculty. Jossey Bass.
Delclos, V. R., Vye, N., Burns, M. S., Bransford, J. D. & Hasselbring, T. S. (1992). Improving the quality of instruction: Roles for dynamic assessment. In Haywood, H. C. & Tzuriel, D. (Eds.) Interactive assessment (pp. 317–331). New York, NY: Spinger-Verlag.
Glatthorn, A. A., Boschee, F., & Whitehead, B. M. (Eds.). (2005). Chapter1: The Nature of Curriculum. In Curriculum Leadership: Development and Implementation (pp. 2–35). SAGE Publications.
Poehner, M. E. (2007). Beyond the test: L2 Dynamic assessment and the transcendence of mediated learning. The Modern Language Journal, 91, 323–340.
Watkins, C. & Mortimore, P. (1999). Pedagogy: What do we know? In Mortimore, P. (Ed.), Understanding Pedagogy: And Its Impact on Learning. SAGE.
Yan, Z. & Boud, D (2021) Conceptualising assessment-as-learning, in Yan, Z. & Yang, L. Assessment as Learning: Maximising Opportunities for Student Learning and Achievement. Routledge.
Young, N. (2011). Pedagogy: A lexical oddity. Teach, 5(2),
Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to teach in higher education. London: Routledge.

C1. Curriculum design
Constructive alignment diagramA diagram from UTAS to represent the cascading nature of the constructive alignment of course learning outcomes, unit intended outcomes, learning activities, assessment tasks and resources.
Curriculum design for assuring learningThis OLT fellowship report outlines a whole-of-course (degree) approach to constructively align learning outcomes, learning activities and assessment tasks using a collaborative approach.
Design, Develop, Implement (DDI) A “Design Develop and Implement” (DDI) workshop support site from the MQ Faculty of Arts provides resources to guide learning design for a unit.
Designing for learningA booklet from Auckland University of Technology that introduces some key principles of curriculum design, including constructive alignment, deep versus surface approaches to learning, moving from transmission to learner construction of learning, writing learning outcomes using Bloom’s taxonomy, factors underpinning successful learning and then pulling the session design together using a basic planning template.
How to embed discipline specific discourseA guide from MQBS (FBE) on incorporating discipline-specific discourse in a unit, including in curriculum, learning outcomes, assessment tasks and activities, marking rubrics and student skills, with conideration of discourse for audiences from generalist to specialist.
Learning outcomes guidelinesA web page from MQ Faculty of Arts that presents considerations and a ‘Formula’ to writing learning outcomes.
MQCMS WikiA comprehensive list of knowledge articles to guide and inform staff who engage with curriculum development, management, support and quality at Macquarie University.
Program-based designA overview of program-based design of curriculum and assessment design (MQ TECHE Blog).
Writing learning outcomes guideA guide to writing learning outcomes based on Bloom’s taxonomy from University of Melbourne including problems, suggestions and examples.
Writing student-friendly unit descriptionsUnit descriptions provide future students and other stakeholders with important information about the unit. This is a template to help draft an effective and impactful unit description. (MQ PDF)
A1. Assessment
Adapting assessment to online deliveryA 1 hour webinar recording from English Australia on how to adapt assessment tasks to online delivery.
Assessing learningA booklet from Auckland University of Technology that introduces principles and practice in assessment design, formative and summative assessment, assessment ‘for’, ‘as’ and ‘of’ learning, student engagement, alignment, examples and checklists.
Assessment, learning and teaching in higher educationA website by Phil Race (UK) which featured articles on assessment related topics. (Website)
TEQSA resources on Assessment integrityA list of curated resources from TEQSA on assessment integrity that includes guides, webinar recordings and articles with a focus on online assessment.
Blooms TaxonomyInformation on Bloom’s Taxonomy for writing learning outcomes.
Designing assessment for learningA Macquarie guide to designing assessment ‘for’ learning including consideration of the benefits and limitations of different types of assessment.
Digital assessment toolkitWebsite from UNSW containing a number of online assessment examples and cases.
Embed discipline specific discourseA guide from MQBS (FBE) on incorporating discipline-specific discourse in a unit, including in curriculum, learning outcomes, assessment tasks and activities, marking rubrics and student skills, with conideration of discourse for audiences from generalist to specialist.
External peer review of assessmentCAULLT guide to external peer review of unit assessment, including review questions, reviewer guidance and how to give feedback on the review.
How to align assessmentA guide from MQBS (FBE) on designing assessment at the class, unit, and program levels, including alignment of learning outcomes to assessment tasks, marking, rubric design, feedback, reflection and an assessment glossary of terms.
How to create examsA guide from MQBS (FBE) on designing exams, aligning exams to learning outcomes, structuring, setting out and wording questions, and exam document structuring and presentation.
iLearn FILT Assessment and FeedbackA brief overview of assessment, student comments about assessment, rubrics and feedback (by Macquarie).
In class assessment techniquesCollection of quick classroom knowledge checking activities.
Principles of inclusive design for the MQ context5 principles for designing inclusive curriculum, learning experiences and environments at MQ. (MQ PDF)
Transforming assessmentWebsite with webinars and resources focusing on rethinking assessment in a participatory digital world – sharing innovative assessment in Higher Education. (An ASCILITE SIG)
Writing effective multiple choice items: Do’s and don’ts’A quick recap on writing multiple choice items to make your next quiz more effective at assessing student outcomes. (TECHE article)

Access resources for RUBRICS including:

  • Rubric examples and templates
  • Guidelines for using rubrics, including:
    • Developing and (re)designing rubrics
    • Rubrics for specific types of assessment,
    • How to co-develop rubrics with students
A2. Feedback to students
Assessment and feedbackA brief overview of assessment, student comments about assessment, rubrics and feedback (by Macquarie).
Designing feedbackA booklet from Auckland University of Technology that introduces principles of feedback design, what it is and is not, sense-making, effective practices, feedback elements, purposes, effects, as dialog, and feedback examples.
Feedback for Learning: Closing the assessment loopThe OLT project site for ‘feedback as learning’ explored conceptions of feedback by staff and students, developing a looped approach to feedback as feed-forward with capacity building advice for institutions, educators and students to stimulate and leverage assessment feedback.
Feedback on learningA 3 minute video by Dylan Wiliam summarising strategies and research on framing and targeting feedback.
Feedback resources for your studentsA annotated list of resources for use by students, on using feedback effectively, from the Higher Education Academy UK (Advance HE).
Good feedback practice and suggested strategies A table linking good feedback practice with suggested strategies or techniques, from the ‘Contemporary Approaches to University teaching’ MOOC.
How to give effective feedback to your studentsAn e-book by on feedback practices, types and purposes, effective written and oral feedback, adjusting for different learners, having students use feedback, from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development USA.
How to give quality feedbackA guide from MQBS (FBE) on designing and using feedback effectively, including for written, oral, individual or unit wide, for grading, annotating, modelling, peer feedback, on exams, online feedback and tips for better feedback.
Strategies for efficient feedbackA one page list of suggested strategies or techniques for effective feedback practice, from the ‘Contemporary Approaches to University teaching’ MOOC.

Home | Learning and teaching scholarship | Student learning and support | Curriculum and assessment | Reflection and feedback on practice | Developing self and others