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Module 3 – Design a Task

In this module you will explore how to collect evidence of student learning in order to work out what students are ready to learn next.
There is a range of factors to consider when designing a formative assessment task. This module provides an overview of these considerations, highlighting decisions that you will need to make when designing your task. 
Before designing a task you need a completed learning continuum and formative assessment rubric, including organising elements, actions and quality criteria. Module 1 and Module 2 will support you in developing these elements.

The experience of writing a rubric before designing a task was one of the most valuable learnings.

Teacher-participant in the VCAA’s formative assessment rubrics workshops


1. Watch the video 'Design a task'

Watch the video on how to design an assessment task that will elicit evidence of student learning matched to your formative assessment rubric. Note, in this module and the other professional learning modules we refer to an assessment task, but this could easily be described as a teaching and learning activity. You are designing something that will enable you to gather evidence of student learning and there are many ways to gather evidence.

According to The Guide to Formative Assessment Rubrics (page 17), ‘The rubric is the starting point for gathering evidence. Refer to Modules 1 and 2 if you haven’t developed or completed a learning continuum and formative assessment rubric yet.  
The video duration is 9 minutes 15 seconds.


Module 3 - Design a task video transcript

Module 3 - Design a task PowerPoint

2. Decide which part of the rubric you want to target

You may want to assess all actions and phases in your rubric or a smaller section of phases and actions. The video explained the factors to consider when making decisions about how to match task design to a  cohort of students and the timing within your teaching and learning program. You need to think about whether it is better to design a smaller task covering only some of the phases (the columns within the rubric) and/or some of the actions (the rows within the rubric). Think about what you already know about the students in the class.

For example, a small group of Physical Education teachers designed an initial formative assessment task that targeted just one phase of the rubric. They then designed a range of other small tasks that could be administered depending on the results from the first task. The additional tasks were targeted to extended students where needed or remove some components for students who were challenged by the first task.

The decision you make about the focus of the task will also be influenced by the formative assessment rubric you have developed. If the rubric is very targeted and specific to a small component of the curriculum there may be no benefit in designing a task that targets a small number of phases or actions. If you have designed a larger, more expansive rubric then selecting a smaller section is practical and will make the task easier for you and the students.

3. Design your task

The task (teaching and learning activity) you design must elicit evidence of student ability that is matched to the learning continuum and rubric you have developed. You can find a list of possible methods on page 17 of the Guide. Some typical examples are performances, informal classroom conversations, answers to questions, observations, quizzes and short presentations. Consider the range of task options that elicit what students do, say, make and write. Think about a unit of work that your currently teach, and list all the opportunities you would have while teaching this unit (not at the end of the unit) to collect evidence of student learning. Are you surprised by the range of possibilities?

An important consideration when designing a formative assessment task is the time it takes to administer the task, mark against the rubric and give feedback to students. If it takes too long then you will miss the opportunity to use the evidence to target your teaching to progress student learning. This is why you may want to consider smaller discrete tasks. The formative assessment rubric will assist you to quickly mark the evidence gathered, which in turn supports you to get feedback to students in a timely manner.  

You must also make sure your task is engaging for students so that students will demonstrate their true level of development. Students may not take a task seriously if it is not going to be ‘reported’. Consider ways to engage and motivate students, such as explaining how the evidence will be used or giving students a choice about how to present information. Involving student in self-assessment is a good strategy to encourage engagement, but you will also need to mark the evidence against the rubric and not solely rely on the student’s interpretation of their own knowledge and skills.

4. Develop administration guidelines

You need to develop a guide for the administration of the formative assessment task. The purpose of an administration guide is to make sure that teachers manage the assessment in a way that will collect accurate evidence. Administration involves everything the teacher does to facilitate the students doing the assessment task. If you are going to be the only teacher using the formative assessment rubric and task, you may not see the importance of developing an administrative guide – but it is still important. Consider the development of the administrative guide as an opportunity to work through the logistics, including any materials needed for the task, when the task will be undertaken, how the evidence will be recorded, any requirement for ‘stop rules’, and how you will authenticate students’ work. The administration guide will also support you when you decide to use the task and rubric again.

Developing an administration guide also enables you to review the task you have designed. This process is explored in Module 9 – Refine the task.

5. Evaluate your work

Ask one of your colleagues to read your task and administration guidelines and give you feedback. Encourage them to be specific about whether the task is practical and will illicit the evidence of student learning described in your formative assessment rubric. Could they administer the task without any further information from you? A good task and administration guidelines should be usable without requiring further instructions or support.

Practice considerations

  • Think about the value of writing the formative assessment rubric before designing the task. You need to be clear about what you are trying to assess before you decide how to assess it. Teacher-participants involved in formative assessment rubrics professional learning have commented that this was one of their most important learnings:
    • Once we were clear on the rubric, it was easier to work through designing a task. The difficulty was designing to match language and verbs in the quality criteria.’
    • It was easier to design the task once I knew exactly what I was assessing.’
    • Designing the task after the rubric makes it a lot easier to effectively assess the students.
  • You may be able to use or refine a task or teaching and learning activity that you have already developed to gather evidence. If you are going to use an existing task, you must ensure it will enable students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills as described in the formative assessment rubric.
  • Be mindful of collecting specific evidence of learning against actions and phases, rather than gathering general information. A well designed task enables specific evidence to be gathered and used to:
    • give constructive and specific feedback that can be given to students to support them to progress
    • assist you in making decisions about what to teach next to the students in your class.
  • Formative assessment tasks can be quite short to complete. The length of the task is not a reflection on the quality of the evidence gathered. It is important that the task targets the actions and phases in the formative assessment rubric.
  • Think about how you will explain the task to students. It is important for students to engage with the task and demonstrate their true level of development.

Additional resources

Refer to ‘Further reading’ on page 25 of The Guide to Formative Assessment Rubrics for some references specifically related to designing tasks to gather evidence.

Move on to Module 4

You have now developed a formative assessment ‘kit’ comprising a learning continuum, formative assessment rubric, assessment task and administration guidelines. With this kit you are now ready to move on to Module 4, to administer the task and collect and record evidence to inform your teaching to support students in your class to progress.

These materials were prepared in 2019. Please note that this area of research is evolving fast, therefore these materials should be supported with additional evidence bases that more accurately reflect best practice after 2024. It is therefore recommended that these materials be used with consideration of updated research after this date.