Course-Embedded Assignments

Course-embedded assignments is the term used when assessment information is collected for programs or institutions within the classroom, commonly through capstone courses or portfolios. It generally involves a process by which reviewers take a second look at materials generated by students in a course to see what evidence it reveals that students have met specified student learning outcomes.  It may also involve the design of new exam questions and/or assignments for the explicit purpose of providing group level information on the achievement of student learning outcomes associated with an academic major or the general education program.

Related Articles and Books

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (2016, May). Organizing assignment-design work on your campus: A tool kit of resources and materials. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

As part of its Assignment Library Initiative, NILOA has organized and sponsored a series of assignment-design “charrettes” for faculty from around the country who have applied to participate. But what has become increasingly clear is that institutions are interested in organizing their own such events. The purpose of this toolkit is to provide materials and resources that can be borrowed and adapted to local circumstances.


Ammons, J. L., & S. K. Mills.  (2005). Course-embedded assessments for evaluating cross functional integration and improving the teaching-learning process. Issues in Accounting Education 20 (1): 1-19.

“This paper offers a case study of the process of defining a competency, specifying intended learning outcomes, selecting course-embedded assessment methods, evaluating the results, and using that information to guide changes in the teaching-learning process.”


Driscoll, A. & Wood, S. ( 2007) Developing outcomes-based assessment for Learner-centered education: A faculty introduction. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

In this unique collaboration, Amy Driscoll (a former director of a learning-outcomes assessment organization, and Swarup Wood (a professor of chemistry at California State University), provide a guide for faculty members new to an outcomes-based education (OBE) approach to assessment on how they may better understand how to use this type of assessment model to better understand assessment administration and results, as well as how to use this model to develop their instructional strategies. The collaboration between assessor and faculty member provides a wealth of examples and anecdotes from a variety of perspectives within education to help further the discussion on how outcomes-based assessment can be better integrated into their programs.


Hanstedt, P. (2012). General education essentials: A guide for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Although Hanstedt focuses on creating a theoretical framework for general education courses/curricula, he also touches upon the importance of assessment in education; specifically the value of course-embedded assessment. Through making note of various faculty objections against assessment, Hanstedt makes a case for an assessment method that is more interactive between the various levels of an institution, including students, and one that should be integrated into coursework from the start.


Melzer, D. (2014). Assignments across the curriculum: A national study of college writing. Boulder: Utah State University Press.

In this book, the author presents a study about writing among students in colleges, essentially examining the question of what type of writers are colleges creating through their assignments. The author takes on the issue of writing across different disciplines. Towards developing his argument, he relies on data from collecting syllabuses, assignments and additional information through online sources. This book helps to engage the question of student learning in light of what it means to write in college.


Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993).   Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

“This revised and greatly expanded edition of the 1988 handbook offers teachers at all levels how-to advise on classroom assessment.”


Brookhart, S. M. (1999). The art and science of classroom assessment: The missing part of pedagogy. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report (Vol. 27, No. 1). Washington, DC: The George Washington University, Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

“Discusses the quality of individual student assessments in higher education courses and their composite effect on course grades. Reviews the literature on making classroom assessments and their impact on the science of student assessment.”


Diamond, R. M. (2008). Designing and assessing courses and curricula: A practical guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This book discusses “course and curriculum design and connects this knowledge with the critical task of assessing learning outcomes at both course and curricular levels.”


Farmer, D. W. (1993, Jan.-Feb.). Course-embedded assessment: A teaching strategy to improve student learning. Assessment UPdate (5), 1, pp. 8, 10-11.

Using King’s College as an example, Farmer discusses how students and faculty are involved in assessment activities.


Gerretson, H., & Golson, E. (2005). Synopsis of the use of course-embedded assessment in a medium size public university’s general education program. The Journal of General Education, 54, 139-149. Retrieved from: Source

This article discusses how the institution implemented assessment on its campus and how they are using the data collected.


Maki, P. L. (2010). Assessing for learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution. Second edition. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

“This book offers colleges and universities a framework and tools to design an effective and collaborative assessment process appropriate for their culture and institution.”


Suskie, L. (2009).  Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. Boston, MA: Anker.

A practical how to guide for anyone interested in assessing student learning


Walvoord, B. E. & Anderson, V. J. (1998). Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

“The book offers a hands-on guide for evaluating student work and examines the link between teaching and grading.”


Kim, Y., & Yazdian, L. S. (2014). Portfolio assessment and quality teaching. Theory Into Practice, 53(3), 220-227. doi:10.1080/00405841.2014.916965. Retrieved from EBSCO.

This article takes focus on course-embedded assignments, via student portfolios, in English language courses. Through offering both the key aspects of utilizing portfolio assignments to assess student learning and the pitfalls of such endeavors, as well as implementation procedures, the article can help offer overall insight on this type of assessment.


Kinzie, J. (2015). DQP case study: American Public University System. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Retrieved from: Source

This DQP Case Study of the American Public University System (APUS) explores how APUS engaged the DQP in crafting signature assignments, in its program review process, and more.


Multi-State Collaborative: Retrieved from: Source  

This resource includes links to download various resources of the Multi-State Collaborative during its pilot year.


Multi-State Collaborative webinars. Retrieved from: Source   

This link leads to the various webinar presentations centered on the Multi-State Collaborative.


AAC&U (n.d.). Integrating signature assignments into the curriculum and inspiring design. Retrieved from: Source

Signature assignments are explained, and various presentations on signature assignments are provided.


Hutchings, P., Jankowski, N. A., & Ewell, P. T. (2014). Catalyzing assignment design activity on your campus: Lessons from NILOA’s assignment library initiative. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

This NILOA Report summarizes the lessons learned from NILOA’s Assignment Library Initiative.


Features of Excellent Assignments. Retrieved from: Source  

This handout describes the key elements of Excellent Assignments as identified by NILOA Charrette, or assignment design session, participants.


Resources for Developing Effective Assignments. Retrieved from: Source   

This document points to resources that can support the development of effective assignments.


Scientific Thinking and Integrative Reasoning Skills (STIRS) – Case Studies. Retrieved from: Source

This page includes a description of Scientific Thinking and Integrative Reasoning Skills (STIRS) case studies, examples of STIRS cases, and a supplemental resource.


Eubanks, D., & Gliem, D. (2015, May). Improving teaching, learning, and assessment by making evidence of achievement transparent. (Occasional Paper No. 25). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

This Occasional Paper provides a guide for implementation of new high-impact practices, including structured assignment creation.


Organizing Assignment-Design Work on Your Campus: A Tool Kit of Resources and Materials. Retrieved from: Source

The purpose of this tool kit is to provide tools, materials, and resources that can be borrowed and adapted to local circumstances for institutions that wish to organize an assignment-design charrette (a collaborative design process) on their campus.


Sample Resources/Handbooks