Plan a paper

Imagine you’ve been assigned to teach a paper for the first time, or perhaps to teach a brand new paper, and you’re starting to plan it out.  What do you need to know?  If someone else has taught it before, you’d like to know their thoughts on what should be changed.  You’d probably also like to know something about the students whom you’ll teach: what can they already do, what do they need to be capable of when they finish, what content is required etc.  Finally, you’d need to know the purpose of the paper in the overall scheme of the programme.  All of this information will help you in the steps of your paper planning: writing learning outcomes, writing appropriate assessments, designing learning activities and formative feedback opportunities, and supporting development of access skills.

Creating learning outcomes

This is discussed in detail in the page on understanding learning outcomes.  For information on the how-to of managing them in Compass, please read this page instead.

Planning summative assessments

Summative assessments are those which tell the teacher about the final standard which a student has reached. They are the measurement of attainment, and are usually for the benefit of the teacher or an external person, not directly for the student.

Because summative assessments take place in the context of a paper, and papers exist as part of a broader programme or career path, it’s important to be able to consider the wider view before getting into the nitty-gritty of assessment questions.  In Compass, this wider context of assessments comes in part from the use of the paper as a milestone, or from the teachers’ understanding of its place in the programme.

Milestones – as explained elsewhere – contain two key pieces of information for the teacher: coordinates and context:

  • The coordinates are level at which students are expected to operate in the paper, on a scale of sophistication (according to Bloom’s taxonomy) and complexity (according to the adapted STRIP taxonomy).
  • The context is represented by a text field wherein the programme planners can expand on any details or specifics of content which are needed from the paper.

Compass interrogates its database for a list of assessments which are most appropriate for the level of sophistication and complexity, and shows these to the teacher as suggestions.  This is simply a filtering process; all we’re doing is narrowing down the total list of assessments to the ones which best suit the Bloom’s and STRIP level of the milestone.  Note that these are only a first cut, and at any time you can expand the list to show all assessment methods.

  1. Open the Assessment tab (a) on the paper planning page.  The first column shows the learning outcomes for the paper (b), as well as a list of any assessment suggestions you’ve already approved (c).  Clicking on any of the assessments in (c) will open a pop-up or detail page about them.  To select assessment ideas, click the Edit assessment list button (d).  Any assessments which exist in Canvas are shown on the right (e).

planning paper

  1. Clicking on the Edit assessment list button (d) will open the pop-up shown below.  If your paper is a milestone, then this list will be pre-filtered according to the assessments most relevant to the level of this paper.  From the list of checkboxes (f), just select the assessments which seem the most appropriate to your paper.  You can expand the list using the Show all button (g) or collapse again using the Show suggested only button (h).  Click Save (i) when you’re done.

What do I do if my paper is not a milestone?  That’s ok, you can still use the toolkit, it’s just that you’ll have a little less context from which to select your assessments.  By default you’ll see the whole list of assessment types rather than something filtered. It’s the equivalent to pressing the Show all button (g) instead of the Show suggested only button (h).

Your selections will be fed into the next tab, where you’ll see the related learning activities.

Planning learning activities, formative assessments and opportunities for feedback

The summative assessment types which you selected are used to create a list of suggested learning activities which will support students in these assessments.  The purpose of these activities is two-fold: firstly, to allow students to experience, have time with, interact with, and practise using the skills and ideas that they’ll be assessed upon.  The second is to give students formative feedback on how they’re progressing.

Activities are a collection of what the student will do during learning sessions, which will support their development and abilities before the summative assessment.
Formative assessments are those primarily of benefit to the student, and intended to inform on progress during the time in which skills are being learnt, practised and polished. They are an informal measurement intended to indicate direction, and possible areas for improvement before the “for real” summative assessment activities take place.  Formative assessments thus need to happen early enough to enable students to digest and incorporate the feedback, so that they can adapt and improve before any summative assessment occurs.  They should not be associated with large grade weightings, if at all – they are a chance to fail safely so that feedback and guidance can be given and improvement made.

On the Activity planning tools tab (j) you’ll find the list of your assessments, a list of any activities you’ve already selected (k), as well as the Edit activity selection button (l).  The activity pop-up which opens uses filters similar to those above to suggest activities which best support your assessments, but the list can be expanded or collapsed at any time using the Show all and Show suggested only buttons, as before.  Just select the ones you want to use, and push Save.

Planning support for access skills

Finally, the Access and support skills tab (m) shows the access skills which your assessments and activities require are listed on the final tab, with suggestions for how they could be developed and supported (n). These skills are also surfaced to the planners of any programmes which include your paper.  At any stage in this planning process you can save your notes under the Notes (o) button on the left hand side.

… and … go!

Finally you’re ready to start thinking about the content and subject matter of the assessments and activities.  Going through these steps first helps to ensure that there’s constructive alignment between your types of assessment and learning activities.  If you’d like to understand more about that please see the constructive alignment page.

I have an idea for an assessment, activity or access skill suggestion, can I add it to the database?  Yes, we welcome additions and suggestions!  Please contact us for more information on how to get the right permissions, and see the Contributor pages to see how it’s done.