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NSW Syllabuses

Designing effective learning and assessment

Designing effective learning experiences requires selecting activities that develop students’ knowledge, understanding and skills, and provide opportunities for evidence of learning to be gathered. Methods of gathering evidence may include informal teacher observation, questioning, peer evaluation and self-evaluation, as well as more structured assessment activities.

When designing assessment activities, teachers should consider whether the activity:

  • shows a clear relationship between the syllabus outcomes and content being assessed
  • is integral to the teaching and learning program/cycle
  • provides opportunities for students to demonstrate the extent of their knowledge, skills and understanding across a range of known and unknown contexts
  • focuses on what was taught in class and what students were informed would be assessed
  • provides opportunities to gather information about what further teaching and learning is required for students to succeed
  • includes questions or activities that have the potential to engage students in discussion and/or reflection about their strengths, areas to develop and learning goals
  • includes strategies appropriate to the outcomes being addressed, including how students can improve their learning as a result of assessment and feedback
  • provides valid and reliable evidence of student learning, and is fair.

Selecting assessment activities

The following table may assist teachers to plan effective learning and assessment activities. The strategies may provide opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know and can do individually and collaboratively.

Area for assessment

Assessment activities may include:

Knowledge, recall and understanding

These relate to what a student knows.

  • background knowledge quizzes, multiple-choice questions, true/false questions, pen-and-paper and electronic tests
  • outlining key ideas using words, short phrases and brief sentences
  • defining key terms and concepts
  • comprehension and interpretation exercises
  • cloze and matching exercises
  • labelling a diagram
  • making a timeline
  • classifying types of processes or events
  • sharing ideas and information 
  • retelling stories
  • making a podcast/vodcast
  • activities that incorporate digital literacies
  • recalling and recognising terms and facts
  • recording learning using diaries, journals and blogs

Skills in analysis and critical thinking

These skills relate to learning about ‘how’ rather than ‘what’.

  • classifying, categorising and sorting information
  • comparing and contrasting two events, theories and/or processes
  • analysing, evaluating and expressing opinions
  • investigating, collecting and analysing data
  • conducting interviews
  • researching
  • predicting the outcome of an event and testing theories
  • debating
  • participating in group discussions
  • rewriting stories from a different perspective or point of view

Skills in synthesis and creative thinking

These skills relate to the ability to combine the familiar with the new in different ways and in unfamiliar contexts.

  • summary writing and/or journal writing
  • devising analogies
  • creating concept maps
  • creating a website design
  • interpreting information from a range of sources
  • compiling portfolios
  • writing poems and narratives
  • rewriting stories from a different perspective
  • designing solutions
  • conducting experiments

Skills in problem-solving

These skills relate to recognising problems and determining possible solutions.

  • problem-recognition and problem-solving
  • brainstorming
  • generating questions
  • selecting and applying appropriate strategies to a context
  • researching
  • simulations and problem-solving scenarios
  • game-based learning

Skills in application and performance

These skills relate to the application of knowledge, skills and understanding, through performance.

  • paraphrasing and editing
  • creating and using models
  • making a diorama to illustrate an event
  • producing a poster
  • presenting group and individual performances
  • role-playing
  • participating in debates
  • peer tutoring
  • explaining and demonstrating to others
  • inquiry, practical and research projects
  • making a video or podcast (including writing a script and film/audio production)

Skills in evaluation

These skills relate to applying knowledge and understanding to make judgement.

  • short-answer questions, including oral and written responses
  • concept and mind mapping to show generalisations and relationships
  • self-reflective evaluation, including journals, reflections on processes, blogs and wikis
  • participating in self-assessment, peer assessment and peer feedback activities
  • creating and interpreting graphs and diagrams
  • posing problems in a range of contexts
  • evaluating research 
  • writing reviews
  • critiquing the value of ideas, concepts, materials and methods using criteria
  • designing a questionnaire to gather information
  • making a flow chart depicting critical stages


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