Assessing Learning

As you design assignments we invite you to ask yourself: How will this assignment be valuable for my students to complete and for me to grade? How does it allow my students to demonstrate and deepen what they’re learning in my course? How will it generate interesting thinking or thoughtful engagement with course material? How will it give me insight into their development?

Types of Assessment

Types of Assessment

Throughout the semester, you can assess your students' development through formative and summative assignments. 

Formative assessment

No-stakes or low-stakes opportunities for your students, which often incrementally structure or scaffold the learning process. Including formative assignments throughout the semester gives students practice and allows you to provide your students with specific feedback on where they might need to focus their energies. 

Forms of formative assessments might include:

  • Assignments that are staged and scaffolded to prepare for a final project or paper: for example, an annotated bibliography, lab report, project proposal or abstract, etc.
  • Assignment drafts that students will learn from, receive feedback on (from you or from peers), and develop as they craft a more finalized version
  • Synchronous discussion contributions: "pair and share" activities, “fishbowl” style discussions, full group discussions, etc.
  • Asynchronous discussions using CanvasAnnotation of a reading using a social annotation tool such as Hypothesis or Perusall
  • Student-facilitated discussions, either synchronous or asynchronous
  • Products of collaborative projects or activities that students do in class
  • Response papers
  • Problem sets
  • Q&A or AI sessions where students work out problems together, observed by the instructor or AI
  • Blog posts, VoiceThread posts, digital mapping, or other purposeful use of technology

Summative Assessment

The projects, papers, presentations, or exams that allow you to evaluate student learning, normally at key junctures of the semester.

We move between formative and summative assessments throughout the course to both support student learning and then check on what they have learned.


Designing Exams

Regulations for Scheduled Exams

Scheduled exams given in person are best when students may not use outside materials, calculators, collaborate with other students, or consult other resources during the exam. Faculty should:

  • Distribute the exam and stay for a few minutes to answer questions.
  • In large classes, consider numbering exam booklets and recording which student takes a particular numbered exam booklet to ensure that all exams have been handed in at the conclusion of the exam period and to match a student with an exam booklet if it is missing immediately after the conclusion of the exam.
  • Remind students that phones must be turned off and to store phones away and out of sight for the duration of the exam.

Faculty are also permitted to give scheduled exams remotely provided they have arranged this in advance with the Office of the Registrar. Such exams are best if faculty are not concerned about students potentially consulting impermissible outside sources or collaborating with others. Faculty giving remote exams should:

  • Give the exam at the scheduled time for all students in the class.
  • Make the instructions regarding permissible outside resources, the citation of sources, and/or communication with others as clear as possible.
  • Give the exam in Canvas and use the timer in the LMS.

Designing Exams

Developing final exams, or assessments of any type, can be challenging under any circumstances, and take-home exams can require particular consideration. A take-home exam can raise concerns about academic integrity – both real and perceived – given that a take home exam is completed outside of a public, group setting.  On the other hand, exam design (or redesign) can present a great opportunity to create assessments that move beyond modalities focused on knowledge acquisition or retention, to those that truly evaluate student mastery of material, while reducing the likelihood of academic integrity violations.

Creating an exam that better assesses students' mastery of learning through application of knowledge or skills to problems or real-world scenarios may be a more effective way of evaluating student learning, a concept known as "authentic assessment" (Villarroel et al., 2017). Such assessments may require integration of multiple skills and concepts, such as written critiques of academic work in the style of a popular press article, investigative case studies and multimedia exhibitions. Oral questions in addition to written exams have been shown to enhance student learning, improving student performance in their long run (Luckie, 2013).  

From an academic integrity perspective, applied and integrative assessments reduce the risk of cheating or collusion, though the International Center for Academic Integrity makes the point that assignments can't be made cheat-proof. Rather, it is ensuring that students have the skills and confidence in their learning that reduces the motivation to cheat.   

Below are some suggestions and additional resources for creating exams with academic integrity in mind:

  • State clearly on course syllabus and/or assignment prompt what kind of help/sources/resources students may or may not consult on assignments and exams
  • Establish specific collaboration policies
  • Reweight assignments across the semester to lower the stakes on exams
  • Revise exams to be open-book/open-note
  • Write exam questions that ask students to synthesize course content in novel ways
  • Give oral exams

For take-home exams:

  • Use the timer function in Canvas and check the timestamp of submissions
  • Vary your exam structure in the Canvas – randomize the order of questions or divide exams into chunks that students submit in discrete segments
  • Do a test run of electronic submissions protocol with students

Page updated 11/30/22 by MF



Information About Final Assessment Formats and Policies

The following table provides an overview of final assessment types.


All written work (including term papers, homework, lab reports, projects) is due on Dean's Date (Dec 16)

Due during the first 6 days of
the exam period (Dec 17-23).
Faculty may permit students
to self-schedule exam during
this period or may indicate a
shorter window of time for
the exam.
Scheduled by the registrar at
a designated time and location.
(Full exam listing)
Scheduled by the registrar at
a designated time.
(Full exam listing)
DURATION Undefined

Faculty indicate a time-limit (not more than 8 hours) and may require use of the timer function in Canvas

Not more than 3 hours Not more than 3 hours
LOCATION Student's choice Student's choice Designated campus classroom Student's choice

Instructor may endorse a 24-hour extension; longer extensions (>24 hrs) require additional endorsement of college dean/assistant dean for studies

Instructor may endorse a 24-
hour extension; longer
extensions (>24 hrs) require
additional endorsement of
college dean/assistant dean
for studies
By authorization of the 
deputy registrar. Students
who cannot take the exam
within 24 hours must take a long-
term postponement (taking
the exam the week before the
start of the term)
By authorization of the
deputy registrar. Students
who cannot take the exam
within 24 hrs must take a longterm
postponement (taking
the exam the week before the
start of the next term).
JURISDICTION Committee on Discipline Committee on Discipline Honor Committee Committee on Discipline

Residential college dean (juniors and seniors); assistant dean for studies (first-years and sophomores)

Residential college dean (juniors and seniors); assistant dean for studies (first-years and sophomores) Deputy registrar
(Justin Bronfeld
[email protected])
Deputy registrar
(Justin Bronfeld
[email protected])
Get Help

For more information on creating exams in Canvas, check out the following pages on the Canvas website: 

McGraw's Mona Fixdal, Sr. Associate Director for Blended and Online Learning, is also happy to consult with faculty on how to use Canvas to mitigate issues with academic integrity.


References and Additional Resources

References and Additional Resources

“Assessment: Inclusive Pedagogy Toolkit.” Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS), Georgetown University. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

Fisher, M. R., Jr., & Bandy, J. “Assessing Student Learning,” Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, 2019. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

Formative and Summative Assessments,Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, Yale University. Accessed 13 Apr. 2023.

Henning, Gavin W., ed. et al. Reframing Assessment to Center Equity: Theories, Models, and Practices. Stylus, 2022. 

Honor Committee. Princeton University.

“Resources.” Office of the General Counsel, Princeton University. 

Walvoord, Barbara E. and Virginia Johnson Anderson. Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment. Jossey-Bass, 1998.