DCU Learning Innovation Unit: Focus on Assessment and Feedback

Learning Innovation Unit

Methods of Assessment


Exams are one of the most commonly use method of assessment and are generally used as a means of summative assessment at the end of a module or course of study. In DCU, module co-coordinators are responsible for setting the exam paper for their modules in accordance with the regulations and guidelines set out by Registry. The following link to Registry outlines the timelines for submission of exam papers, guidelines for setting exam papers and templates for cover sheets for submission.


Written Essays

This is also a common method of both continuous and summative assessment at university. The written assessment is set by the module coordinator and given to students at a relevant time during the course of the module. The type and style of essay required will be determined by the learning outcomes it intends to meet and the discipline for which it is being submitted.

Some basic guidelines for writing assessments:

  • Ensure questions or tasks reflect the learning outcomes as outlined in the module descriptor and that these are available to students at the beginning of their module.
  • Ensure all instructions are clear and unambiguous and have been checked for clarity by a colleague or objective party.
  • Ensure that the assessment requirements are achievable within the time allowed for completion – get a colleague to review/test the paper/brief.
  • Weighting of marks and marking schemes should be clear and available to all students. See Marking Schemes/Rubrics [hyperlink to relevant page] for information on devising marking schemes for assessment.
  •  Confidentiality should be maintained at all times during preparation of assessment papers.
  •   Ensure that any equipment or resources required by students to complete their assignments are available and in working order.
  • The exam paper or assessment brief should have a cover sheet that gives details of; the date, duration of exam/deadline for assessment submission, method of submission and any other relevant details for the student. For exam purposes see the guidelines and templates set by Registry. For other assessments check with your School administrator for relevant procedures.

Portfolios and E-portfolios

Portfolios are becoming more and more used as a method of assessment at third level and are an effective assessment for learning approach. The term portfolio refers literally to a collection of papers or artefacts and in the case of portfolios for assessment these are gathered with a view to demonstrating evidence of stated learning outcomes with clear guidelines for students on content and how it is graded.

The following two articles discuss the use of portfolio assessment at third level:



The following link for Park University offers useful tips and guidelines on using portfolios for assessment.


An e-portfolio is a collection of artefacts gathered and managed by the user in web format.  Artefacts can include text, uploaded files, images, multimedia, blogs and hyperlinks. The student determines how their site is displayed, the content it holds, and who can access it. When used for assessment, the student gives access to the lecturer and the layout and content are driven by the assessment brief and the learning outcomes that the portfolio assessment aims to fulfil.

Youtube presentations on the use of eportfolios by Dr. Helen Barrett


Dr. Helen Barrett’s web collection of eportfolio resources


Mahara eportfolio software

DCU eportfolios are created using Mahara, a fully featured electronic portfolio, weblog, resume builder and social networking system, connecting users and creating online communities. Mahara provides you with the tools to set up a personal learning and development environment.

Log on to DCU Mahara using your Novel user name and password http://eportfolio.dcu.ie/.


Online quizzes are a useful means of formative assessment, particularly for large classes. The lecturer can set questions on specific areas of a course that may be difficult and require the student to go over a particular area of learning. Results are therefore also useful for the lecturer in evaluating any areas that need to be readdressed. Quizzes offer an alternative and fun method of learning and revision and allow the student to evaluate their own progress.

The following resources relate to methods of creating student quizzes:

Creating quizzes for assessment in Moodle - slides


Moodle teacher site:


Co-operative Quizzing is an approach that uses the traditional approach of quizzing for the individual with a group quiz approach as a combined method of assessment that involves assessment for learning through groupwork. The following link from University of Minnesota explains the approach with video and quiz examples