In Assessing the Online Learner (Palloff & Pratt, 2012), the authors present effective assessment as not only an element of good course design but a key component in student engagement. During our time in the IDTE program, we have discussed student engagement concerning instruction, multimedia and technology, and other areas, but linking engagement with assessment is not only a new ‘wrinkle’ in the engagement conversation but an intriguing idea as well.

Palloff and Pratt (2012) do an excellent job of introducing key concepts related to instruction, alignment, and assessment that help understand the interrelated nature of each element in designing a quality learning experience. However, I appreciate how the authors include practical information that aids the reader in visualizing how the content works in real life. According to the text, instructors can engage learners in the assessment process by incorporating the following practices:

1. Aligning competencies, outcomes, objectives, activities, and assessments
2. Ensuring Student Involvement and the element of choice

a. McVay and Lynch (2002) notes that involving students in the assessment process can result in the student learning to use resources outside of the teacher for ongoing assessment after the course; the evaluation reflects a real-world environment instead of that in the classroom, and the use of higher-order thinking skills of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation in writing a reflection of the event.

b. Stein and Wanstreet (2003) indicate that providing choices in assessments is critical to learning success with adult learners.

3. include clear directions and rubrics for all assessments. Providing clear directions and rubrics that indicate the requirements and success measures can mitigate confusion and frustration for the student.

“Having clear expectations and grading criteria creates consistency in grading and helps to engage learners in their own learning process, as they know what they are aiming for and can assess their own progress along the way” (Palloff & Pratt, p. 24).

4. Utilize formative assessments throughout the course that:

a. Encourage students’ self-reflection by evaluating their own or a peer’s work and sharing what kinds of feedback they find most valuable.
b. Give students detailed, actionable feedback tied to predefined criteria, with opportunities to revise or apply feedback before final submission. Feedback may be corrective and forward-looking, rather than just evaluative.
c. Promote positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem – Students will be more likely to find motivation and engage when they are assured that an instructor cares for their development. This can be accomplished by allowing rewrites/resubmissions following personal feedback from the instructor.
d. Provide opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance – Instructors can improve student engagement by helping students identify gaps between current and desired performance.

5. Utilize well-designed summative assessments.

a. Because summative assessments typically represent higher-stakes tasks connected to a grade, it is essential to ensure that the assessment aligns with the goals and expected outcomes of instruction.

i. Use a Rubric that provides clear expectations for the assessment.
ii. Design effective questions that allow students to present their knowledge creatively and in ways that show how they mastered the content.


McVay L. M. (2002). The Online Educator: A Guide to Creating the Virtual Classroom. London: Routledge Falmer.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2012). Assessing the Online Learner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Stein, D., & Wanstreet, C. E. (2003). Role of Social Presence, Choice of Online or Face-to- Face Group Format, and Satisfaction with Perceived Knowledge Gained in a Distance Learning Environment. 2003 Midwest Research to Practice Conference in Adult, Continuing, and Community Education. 

Comments are closed