Assessment Design: Perspectives and Examples Informed by Universal Design for Learning

Section 2.2: Assessment Methods and Examples – Exams and Assignments

Quizzes and Exams

Quizzes and exams can be formative or summative depending on the design and are considered necessary in many educational contexts. Common question types include multiple choice, true or false, matching, and short answers. Quizzes help learners practice existing knowledge and can be effective in recalling what they have learned. Other than mid or final exams, instructors can also design pre-tests or knowledge checks where learners can assess what they already know and don’t know. Applying UDL approach in quizzes and exams can provide a supportive environment for all learners.

Here is a UDL-informed example:

Tracy designed some quizzes and exams as a part of the assessment plan for her Organizational Behavior course. Considering that her course is fully online and students are joining from different time zones, here are the things she does to engage students while ensuring access:

  • She distributes some low-stake quizzes with automatic feedback during the term to check students’ understanding of some basic concepts.
  • She designs and releases a mini sample exam before the final exam so students can familiarize themselves with the question types, flow, and format of the test.
  • Her exam and quizzes are typically open for three days so students from different time zones have sufficient time to coordinate their schedules.
  • She has removed time limit for each attempt and therefore allows her students to complete their quizzes without worrying about internet disconnection or computer issues.
  • She allows multiple attempts and even encourage students to redo the exam if they need to, as she intends to use quizzes and exams to reinforce students’ learning.
  • In some cases, Tracy allows her students to opt out the final exam if they come up with an initiative or an assignment that is significant and meaningful for themselves.

Written Assignments

Written assignments are commonly used to assess learners’ ability to understand a topic in a text-based format. To be effective in this area, instructors need to be clear on what they are assessing and if written assessment is the most suitable format. From a UDL perspective, if you are assessing the students’ ability to understand the topic, you could allow the learner to demonstrate their learning in other formats such as in a video, podcast, or PowerPoint presentation. If you are assessing the students’ quality of writing, you may allow students to choose their topic of interest. As an instructor, you can add flexibility in the assessment choices once you identify the purpose of the assessment. As learners work towards the same learning goal, it is important that educators offer opportunities and methods for learning to be demonstrated in a variety of ways.

Here is a UDL informed example:

Trang is teaching Academic Writing this term. Students are required to write preparatory papers and learn to summarize and analyze resources applicable for an undergraduate academic environment.

  • Trang assesses the learners by their ability to write and the quality of their writing. She offers learners the flexibility to pick their topic of interest, but she wants to emphasize the importance of citation in their writing.
  • In the previous offering of this course, she recognized that the learners were often confused about the requirements of their written assignment, so she decides to include a detailed rubric that focuses on academic writing, grammar, and citation.
  • She also includes three examples of successful written assignments and makes time to discuss why they were successful.
  • Trang also allows several options for her students to choose how they would like to demonstrate their writing, limited in formats such as blogs, e-portfolios, or in a traditional essay format.
  • She also uses scaffolding exercises to help lower-level students improve on their essay structure and offer one-on-one editing during her office hours.
  • Finally, Trang requires the learners to submit two written assignments. The first assignment is for the learners to understand their errors and revise them. The second assignment is used as the final paper. Her goal is for her students to read her initial comments in the first assignment, understand their errors, make use of them, make changes, and improve their quality of their work.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

A Comprehensive Guide to Applying Universal Design for Learning by Dr. Seanna Takacs; Junsong Zhang; Helen Lee; Lynn Truong; and David Smulders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book