Grading and Course Design

Grading & Assessment

As with teaching, assessment is a form of deep and engaged two-way communication. With well-designed assessments, faculty can learn more about how students are progressing in courses (as well as how teaching methods are being received), and can provide one of the most important channels of communication between faculty and students about students’ progress, and their development as scholars. If these assessments are well-designed, teaching will be improved and students will also have a clear and accurate guide that will help them grow intellectually.

The below are some critical resources that you may be able to use to design and improve your assessment and grading methods.

Tips and Ideas

Reading Student Essays

Grading can be challenging, but reading through student essays might be even more daunting. After all the time and effort put in, you really want your students to be able to benefit from them. The article below provides useful tips and strategies for giving effective responses to student papers and an idea of what papers of different grades look like.

  1. Harvard Writing Project Brief Guide Series: A Brief Guide to Responding to Student Writing.

Peer and Self-assessment

Although grades are primarily assigned by you, the course instructor; sometimes, there are merits to having students go through either their own or each other’s papers, as a complementary exercise to your grading. This might promote critical self-reflection as well as allowing them insight into what a reader or marker is looking for. Below are some self and peer assessment sheets for your perusal.

  1. Dubnoff, J., Self-Assessment (Short).
  2. Dubnoff, J., Self-Assessment (Long).

Yale-NUS Reports and Resources

Yale-NUS Assessment and Grading Report

The Yale-NUS College Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is delighted to see the release of Yale-NUS Assessment and Grading Report. The document, produced as of 25 Sept 2015,  reflects many hours of thoughtful discussion and hard work among the Yale-NUS community. The Report lays out the basic principles of designing effective assignments, communicating clearly to students the goals of a course and of their work, and learning about students’ learning performance efficiently from their assignments.

Based on the findings of the report, the Centre has worked on Grading and Assessment, a sourcebook intended to serve as living document that embodies the culture of teaching and assessment at Yale-NUS College. Hard copies of this booklet may be obtained from the Centre.

Journal Papers on Grading & Assessment

The following are recommended journal articles that provide insight into various assessment methods, the impact they have on students, and how they influence teaching.


Author(s) Title Institution/publisher/journal
Birenbaum, Menucha Toward adaptive assessment — The student’s angle Studies in Educational Evaluation
Boud, David Sustainable Assessment: Rethinking assessment for the learning society Studies in Continuing Education
Boud, David; Falchikov, Nancy Aligning assessment with long-term learning Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
Dochy, Filip J.R.C; Moerkerke, George & Martens, Rob Integrating Assessment, Learning and Instruction: Assessment of Domain-specific and Domain-transcending Prior Knowledge and Progress Studies in Educational Evaluation
Elbow, Peter Ranking, Evaluating, Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgment English Department Faculty Publication Series, ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst
Gallagher, Chris, W. Kairos and Informative Assessment: Rethinking the Formative/Summative Distinction in Nebraska Theory into Practice
Loacker, Georgine Faculty as a force to improve instruction through assessment New Directions for Teaching and Learning
Maddalena, Tara
Summative assessment: the missing link for formative assessment
Journal of Further and Higher Education
Reese, Michael & Levy, Ron Assessing the Future: E-Portfolio Trends, Uses, and Options in Higher Education EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research
Sadler, D. Royce Grade integrity and the representation of academic achievement Studies in Higher Education
Wen, Dunwei; Graf, Sabine; Lan, Chung Hsien; Anderson, Terry; Kinshuk; Dickson, Ken Supporting web-based learning through adaptive assessment FormaMente Journal

Policies and Guidelines from Other Universities

Grading and Feedback
From Harvard’s Derek Bok Centre for Teaching and Learning

This is a great online resource that runs you through the nuances and steps of grading and gathering student feedback.

Assigning Course Grades
From University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning

This online resource provides a comprehensive and detailed discussion of various issues associated with grading and assessment. In each case, alternative viewpoints are described and advantages and disadvantages noted. Topics include Capricious Grading, Grading in Multi-Sectioned Courses, Grading Comparisons, Grading Guidelines, Course Grading Schemes, Grading vs. Evaluation, Evaluating Grading Policies, and What Not to Base Course Grades On.

How to Assess Students’ Learning and Performance
From Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation

This resource provides suggestions and strategies for assessing student learning and performance as well as ways to clarify your expectations and performance criteria to students. This website is especially useful for concrete examples of different assessment methods. Topics include Creating assignments, Creating exams, Using classroom assessment techniques, Using concept maps, Using concept tests, Assessing group work and Creating and using rubrics.


Other Policies and Guidelines

Author(s) Title Institution/publisher/journal
Collins, Jannette Writing Multiple Choice Questions for Continuing Medical Education Activities and Self-Assessment Modules The American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS)
NA Standard Operating Procedures for Assessments (Confidential) National Unversity of Singapore
NA 7 steps with Plymouth University Plymouth University
NA Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy  University of Adelaide
NA Assessing Learning  University of Kansas
Banks, Bob E-portfolios: Their Use and Benefits, a white paper Tribal Technology
Boud, David and Associates Assessment 2020: Seven Propositions for Assessment Reform in Higher Education Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
NA Guidelines on Marking Standards & Classing Conventions Cambridge University
NA Assessment Primer: Assessment Planning  Unviersity of Connecticut
NA Institutional Principles for Assessment and Feedback in Taught Programmes Bristol University
Stassen, Martha L. A.; Doherty, Kathryn; Poe, Mya Program-based Review and Assessment: Tools and Techniques for Program Improvement University of Massachussetts
NA Assessment University of Melbourne
NA Assessment Guidelines program_based.pdf University of Queensland
NA Assessment Handbook Ulster University
NA CTL Resources: Assessment The University of Newcastle

Books on Grading & Assessment

The following books are readily available in the Yale-NUS library as a resource for faculty seeking expert knowledge on grading and assessment.

Author(s) Title Publisher ISBN
Walvoord, Barbara E. Assessment Clear and Simple: A Practical Guide to Institutions, Departments, and General Education Jossey-Bass 9780470541197
Walvoord, Barbara E.; Anderson, Virginia Johnson Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment in College – Second Edition Jossey-Bass 9780470502150
Middaugh , Michael F. Planning and Assessment in Higher Education: Demonstrating Institutional Effectiveness Jossey-Bass 9780470400906
Davis, Barbara Gross Tools for Teaching, Second Edition(Chapters 32-33) Jossey-Bass 9780787965679
Nilson, Linda B. Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students and Saving Faculty Time Stylus Publishing 9781620362426
Ory, John C.; Ryan, Katherine E. Tips for Improving Testing and Grading SAGE Publications 9780803949744

Course Design and Planning

Whether you are designing a new course or adapting course material, taking the time to think through your expectations of students and the learning outcomes of your course will help you be a more effective instructor. Below are some guidelines and resources for course design and planning that may help you in this process.

Yale-NUS College Suggested Syllabus Template

The syllabus is an agreement between the faculty member and the students for your course. The syllabus should tell the students what the course is about, what you expect them to learn, and how they will demonstrate what they have learned through assessment assignments. It should highlight expectations for assignments and guidelines for grading. The syllabus should also include language on core policies on academic integrity, late assignments and discipline-specific issues.

Click here to download the template in Word format.

Consultations on Course Design and Course Planning

Course Planning — We are available to help faculty design new courses or revise existing ones. Consultations may cover any issue related to planning the semester, including:

  • Clarifying goals for student learning
  • Effective course organization
  • Developing new approaches to subject matter that was previously taught
  • Methods for assessing student learning
  • Designing learner-centred syllabi
  • Innovative teaching strategies
  • Creating engaging assignments, projects, and activities

Course Design — If  you are teaching a course for the first time or inventing an entirely new course, we would like to help! We can help you with literature to design the best possible syllabus, using “assessable learning outcomes” and research-validated techniques. By designing your class from the first with these principles in mind, your students will learn better, and your experience teaching will be better! We can also help you design assessments within your course to assure student learning, document shifts in attitude, and create results from your course that will inform modifications in the course. This could even enable possible publication of your results in teaching in educational journals. Please contact us at for more information!

It is the policy of the Yale-NUS Centre for Teaching and Learning to respect the confidentiality of the consultation process. All correspondence and information associated with these consultations are confidential. The Centre’s feedback process has no bearing on promotion or tenure decisions and is in no way associated with division-based evaluative reports.

Proposed Module‐Level Distinctions

Numerical module codes indicate the progressive levels at which the content, methods, aims and outcomes are presented in a module. This document offers general guidelines for module structure, organization and degree of difficulty or sophistication at each of the levels, 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000. Since these are general criteria across all majors, specific module pre‐requisites, co‐requisites, or necessary skills, if any, should still be clearly stated in each module description. Individual majors may wish to supplement these guidelines by specifying particular learning objectives, skills and intellectual priorities for their own modules on their websites.

Common Curriculum (CC) Modules

Year 1 CC modules are taught at the 1000‐level, second-year CC modules are taught at the 2000‐level. Historical Immersion is at the 3000‐level and all capstone modules are taught at the 4000‐level.

Non‐Common Curriculum Modules

1000‐level modules are presented at an introductory level without prerequisites or expectations of previous experience. They can be surveyed modules or modules defining basic concepts and/or presenting the terminology of a discipline.

2000‐level modules may have 1000‐level modules as prerequisites or require some specific skills. They may be inter‐disciplinary or survey modules devoted to particular areas or fields within a discipline or topic area and related majors. 2000‐level modules help students understand material – through summarizing, classifying, and clarifying basic content, concepts, and procedures in and related to the discipline. Assignments should correspond to these learning objectives.

3000‐level modules, including Research Seminars required by some majors, will require more complex and sophisticated deployment of intellectual competences exercised in 2000‐ and 1000‐level courses. They will often be more specialised in their content, and expect a familiarity with a broader background than is treated in the course directly. Students enrolled in a 3000‐level module should be prepared to produce some substantial independently‐conceived work (such as a term paper, a creative work, or experimental project) in anticipation of 4000 level modules and Capstone research.

4000‐level modules are advanced modules usually to be taken in Year 3 or Year 4, most likely by students who are pursuing a particular (or a closely allied) major in which the module is listed. These are advanced modules involving specialised and independent work which presumes experience dealing with areas of the discipline: final projects should demonstrate a student’s independent intellectual interests and capacities within the field.

Books on Course Design and Planning

Below are some books and readings that you may consult as you think about designing your courses.

Author(s) Title Publisher ISBN
Stavredes, Tina; Herder, Tiffany A Guide to Online Course Design: Strategies for Student Success Jossey-Bass 9781118462669
Smith, Robin M. Conquering the Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Online Course Design Jossey-Bass 9780787994426
Klaus, Carl H., Jones, Nancy Courses for Change in Writing: A Selection from the NEH/Iowa Institute Boynton/Cook Publishers 867091215
Fink, L. Dee Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An integrated Approach to Designing College Courses Jossey-Bass 9780787960551
Fink, L. Dee Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An integrated Approach to Designing College Courses (Revised & Updated) Jossey-Bass 9781118124253
Caulfield, Jay How to Design and Teach a Hybrid Course Stylus Publishing 9781579224233
O’Brien, Judith Grunert; Millis, Barbara J.; Cohen, Margaret W. The Course Syllabus: A Learning-Centered Approach – Second Edition Jossey-Bass 9780470197615
Wiggins, Grant; McTighe, Jay Understanding by Design, Expanded Edition Pearson 9780131950849

(“Yale-NUS Assessment and Grading Report” contributed by Bryan Penprase, CTL Director (2015-2017). “Tips and Ideas” prepared by Hai Guang Lian, Dean’s Fellow (2014-2016). Page edited by Joanna Lee, Dean’s Fellow (2016-2018).)