Supporting Postsecondary Educators to Develop Assessments for Student Learning Based on Backward Design

Anushree Bopardikar, Karen Mutch-Jones, Santiago Gasca, Melissa Csikari, Marjee Chmiel
Bopardikar, A., Mutch-Jones, K., Gasca, S., Csikari, M., & Chmiel, M. (2022). Supporting postsecondary educators to develop assessments for student learning based on Backward Design. The American Biology Teacher, 84(8), 459-466.


Assessment of student learning is crucial to capture accurately student understanding of core concepts and competencies as well as to provide relevant feedback for informing teaching and learning. Yet, many instructors in two-year and four-year undergraduate institutions rarely have pedagogical training to design fair instruction and assessments. This qualitative study describes changes occurring in the perspectives and practices of two postsecondary educators teaching introductory biology courses after participating in a one-day workshop on assessments and applying their new knowledge during course implementations. The assessment workshop emphasized the use of “backward design” for course planning and alignment. Learnings particularly focused on using Bloom’s taxonomy and best practices in assessment design. Data from educators’ interviews and samples of their course documents revealed encouraging findings. Even after a short intervention, the educators took initiatives to align course objectives, learning activities, and assessments. And notwithstanding the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, they also made some changes in formulating and communicating objectives with students, introduced relevant learning activities, and revised assessment questions to reflect best practices. The article discusses these findings and offers the next steps for research on supporting educators to design fair assessments and courses for undergraduate instruction.