Designing assessment templates with Jess Ashman

Learn more about how we create assessment templates for academics. Our Learning Support Manager, Jess, talks us through the process and benefits to teachers and students.

in Assessment Design
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One of the best parts of using Cadmus is having easy access to our range of assessment templates. They're designed to help you create best-practice instructions so that students feel more confident and supported in completing assessments. Over the years, we've created templates that cater to a range of disciplines and tasks. But as subjects adapt to more authentic assessment methods, we've seen exciting new iterations on standard assessment tasks.

No one knows templates better than our Learning Support Manager here at Cadmus, Jess Ashman. As our resident learning design expert (and a former university educator herself), Jess has a wealth of experience teaching and supporting diverse students. Lately, she's been contributing to our growing collection of templates in-app and working with academics individually to create custom templates. This week we chatted to her about all things templates...

Wait, what's a template?

Before we get stuck in — a quick refresher on templates! Our templates are structured task sheets that are designed to follow best practice teaching and learning principles. They provide students with a scaffolded process for approaching a task, embedding opportunities for feedback, learning support, and skill development frameworks. They all include a checklist that guides students through each stage of the assesment journey.

How do templates help teachers and students?

Jess: Most teachers don't have a heap of time, but still want to improve their assessment and teaching. It can be hard to know where to start or what to try. We've found templates to be a low-cost way to improve and tweak existing tasks. They set the foundations for delivering instructions to students and help teachers expand the way academics think about teaching and student experience.

Through the shift to online and hybrid learning, we’ve seen that templates have really levelled the playing field. Even students that can't attend classes live, still have a clear process to follow using the scaffolded checklists. It extends teaching out of the classroom and right to the point where students are completing their work. Students feel supported and guided throughout the whole journey.

One of my favourite things about templates for students is that every time they open an assessment, the first word they see is Purpose. It's so powerful in terms of helping them feel motivated. They're not just writing for the sake of it — they can connect what they're doing to greater course, career, and learning objectives.

An example of a purpose statement in a Cadmus template
An example of a purpose statement in a Cadmus template

How do you create custom templates?

Jess: We begin by chatting with an academic (in-person or via email) to understand their existing assessment and any challenges. There might be specific focus areas for improvement that emerge from this — a lack of engagement, academic integrity issues, or low submission quality, for example — or teachers may just want to provide more support and clarity to students.

From here, academics share their task description, rubrics, resources and any other materials they share with students. We then look at the assessment through the eyes of students, and from a teacher's perspective. It's about really understanding how students engage with a task and ensuring they're set up for success. This helps us map out a scaffolded checklist for students to follow.

Once we've created the template, we share it with academics to revise and make their own. Ultimately, we know that academics are the experts on the assessment and subject matter — we just provide a solid foundation for them to tweak and add to.

Can you tell us more about the scaffolded checklists?

Jess: The scaffolded checklists included in every template are a core part of how we increase a student's confidence and guide them through an effective learning journey. To create them, we break down the existing instructions into a series of stages (e.g. understanding the task, planning, research) and map out the steps students should take to complete the task successfully.

Throughout this process, we ask ourselves questions like:

  • What academic skills and capabilities do students need to complete the assessment?

  • What gaps could students have in their knowledge and skills?

  • How can we supplement these gaps or connect students to supporting resources?

  • How do we encourage informal feedback practices like self-assessment?

A scaffolded checklist from an Essay template
A scaffolded checklist from an Essay template

How have students responded to the templates?

Jess: Students have really appreciated the structured instructions and guided process to follow. From a practical point of view, creating checklists helps students map out milestones and stay motivated while working. Check out some of the feedback we've received from students:

I loved it, especially being able to access the notes section and have a list where I can cross off each step to my assessment as I go - It gave me some direction and I felt like I knew where I was up to with my assessment, so I didn't get lost with it all.

I really enjoyed it. I am a student that works well with templates and lists so the checklist really helped me finish my assessment.

I really enjoy the checklist option which crosses off the work completed. This is really satisfying.

Interested in getting your hands on a template for your next assessment? Get in touch with our Learning Support Team to schedule a catch-up. We'd love to work together to create something suitable for your subject!

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