Course Resource Kit

Choice in Assessment

Student centered learning is the underpinning pedagogical reason for offering students choice in responding to assessment questions. The belief is that students are more engaged with the content and therefore learning when they are able to choose the topic of the response.

Allowing students the ability to choose the topic of response is a common way of assessing higher level cognitive learning objectives:eg. analyze, assess, propose, or design. However, student choice can be used appropriately in lower level learning outcomes as well eg. discuss, describe or explain.


  • Research a company. Analyze its marketing strategy according to the 4 P’s.
  • Read a book. Describe the protagonist and antagonist and the main conflict they are involved in. 

It may also be good to offer students the choice in how to present the information. Our default requirement is that students write assignments. This was based on centuries old technology for both the student and the instructor. Modern technologies now exist that allow students to easily create presentations and for instructors to view and grade them. So in the interest of variety and engagement, asking students to create video presentations can be a welcome break to the monotony of writing everything, all the time. 

TRU has recently purchased a video streaming and archive system called Kaltura. It is directly linked to the Moodle system so instructors can assign video assignments and receive them from students through a specific upload portal as they would a written assignment. 

A corollary beneficial outcome of a student choice assessment, whether written or video based,  is that it may be easier to detect academic integrity infringements. Where every student chooses their own topic, if the instructor receives two assignments covering the same topic and where the content, wording and/or arguments are similar, this could be a sign that some form of collusion has taken place.  

The most commonly noted disadvantage, is that instructors have a more difficult time grading the assessment because by definition, they are not the same or routine. While this may indeed be the case, a well-constructed rubric can mitigate this issue by identifying objective criteria for the instructor to identify

More information about rubrics is found later in this document.

A more radical approach to the issue of choice in assessment, is to allow students to choose how to be assessed. A study by Garside, Nhemchena, Williams and Topping noted that students responded very positively to the offer of being able to choose the mode of their summative assessment. Modalities included: an essay, an exam or a presentation.

Within this model, modes of assessment were designed to be equivalent. Given that some students felt they perform better in some assessment situations than others, providing a choice to them allowed students to feel like they were be given their best chance to succeed. 

Clearly this opportunity for students takes considerable thought and time on part of faculty to constructive each formative assessment and to ensure equity between them. However, the pay-off in successful students may make it worth the effort.