Course Design

At the Islamic Azad University (IAU)-UAE Branch, the design/redesign of the courses are defined by the model of blended learning (Brown, Kregor, & Williams, 2013) and the framework of constructive alignment (Biggs & Tang, 2011). In consultation with the faculties and teaching staff, the course coordinators develop the final draft of the course outlines.  Then the draft of the course outline undergo revision and receives the final approval from the relevant department, academic affairs and the Standardization and Quality Assurance Department.



Blended Learning Model

According to Brown, Kregor, and Williams (2013), Blended Learning Model aims to provide students with a learning experience that reflects their expectations of 21st-century technology. Students should access core information about their courses, receive feedback on their learning progress, and communicate with their lecturers and peers, regardless of their location, timetable, and mode of study.  Some features of the IAU-UAE Blended Learning Model are:

  • Online resources, developed by the IAU-UAE staff and faculties and administrative and student support resources
  • Opportunities for synchronous and asynchronous interactions between students and their lecturers
    • Providing student to student, student to the lecturer, and lecturer to student communication is essential for any course at the IAU-UAE. Academic success requires a sense of belonging to the learning community, which rely upon interaction with lecturers and peers (Satariyan et al., 2018).
    • Students should view IAU-UAE LMS as a communication hub for the study courses regardless of whether the learning activities occur on campus or online.
  • Opportunities for practical learning, which could be delivered on-campus or online (through the IAU-UAE LMS[1]).

[1] The Learning Management system (LMS) at IAU is based on Moodle software.

The high impact learning experiences will differ depending on the mode of study. For example, moving a course to a fully online mode may use the same resources as an on-campus course. However, the course would be designed differently to meet the course learning outcomes. If the course’s learning outcomes cannot be met online, the unit should be delivered with on-campus attendance. Although providing high-quality resources, on-campus courses may not follow a traditional pattern of weekly lectures and tutorials. Instead, where appropriate, they may include peer meetings, debates, panels, or other activities instead of lectures delivered online .

Brown et al., 2013

Constructive Alignment

According to Biggs and Tang (2011), Constructive Alignment is a design for teaching considering that students should learn according to the intended learning outcome, and the learning content should be clearly stated before teaching. The teaching content is then designed to engage students in learning activities that increase their intended learning outcomes. The assessment tasks are also designed to enable explicit judgments about how well those outcomes have been achieved.

The constructive alignment approach admits that the knowledge is constructed through the learner’s activities (Biggs & Tang, 2015) rather than a direct transfer from lecturer to a student. Tyler (2013), likewise, postulates that learning takes place through the student’s dynamic (active) behaviour. In other words, it is what the student does that he learns, not what the lecturer does.

A constructively aligned course invests in the effect of assessment on students’ learning experiences. Students are most likely to achieve the course’s intended learning outcomes if the assessment drives students’ learning and is aligned with our intentions. Alignment occurs when the learning activities help the students develop the knowledge, skills, and understandings intended for the course and are measured by the lecturer’s assessment.

The IAU-UAE’s constructive alignment framework recommends that the course outlines include:

  • The intended learning outcomes
  • Assessment tasks to measure the learning outcomes achievements
  • Learning activities to enable students to develop the skills, knowledge and understandings described in the intended learning outcomes and measured by assessment

The teaching session contents (i.e. topics, examples, resources, and materials) required to support the learning activities

Course Evaluation

Why evaluate

It is desirable to seek feedback on the success of the pedagogy and the quality of students’ experience for two main reasons:

  • As academia, lecturers have a desire (indeed an obligation) to critically reflect on their teaching practice, judge the quality of their pedagogy and seek quality improvements.
  • The IAU-UAE Branch is accountable to its various stakeholders, particularly its students. Course evaluation is one crucial component of the University’s quality assurance system to examine the quality of learning outcomes.

Quality assurance and quality improvement in connection with student participation and achievements are thus the reasons for evaluation.

What to evaluate

This depends on the evaluation purpose, i.e. for a course and teaching improvement, benchmarking against specific standards, or other purposes. You will need to find out the focus of your evaluation to define the purpose of it, including:

  • The impact of ones’ teaching
  • The effectiveness of a course design, including the course content and assessment methods
  • The adequacy of the academic, technical and administrative student support
  • The issues concerning the course delivery

When to evaluate

Probably all the time!. Gathering informal feedback as a classroom activity helps us to adjust our teaching accordingly. Informal feedback, however, tends to be brief and anecdotal and gathered in an ad-hoc fashion, i.e. when necessary, or needed.

We, therefore, need to combine informal evaluation with a more formal (i.e., structured and planned) one. The decisions on when to formally evaluate a course depend on several factors, such as:

  • At what stage the course is concerning its development cycle. For example, it is often wise to evaluate a course that has been offered for the first time
  • The last time the course was reviewed by the faculty and SQUAD
  • The evaluation purpose. There are two types of evaluation based on their timing:

Formative evaluation

This evaluation is carried out during teaching and mainly for diagnostic purposes, i.e. checking the course’s progress and making adjustments accordingly.

Summative evaluation (End of Semester)

Summative evaluation can be used for quality assurance purposes. This evaluation is carried out after the course and is mainly for judgemental purposes, i.e. whether the course objectives have been achieved. Student surveys can also be a part of summative assessment.

Findings from both assessment types can inform quality improvements for the following teaching period.

How to evaluate

It is always wise to use Peer review of the teaching method to evaluate your teaching. This involves academic colleagues giving and receiving unbiased feedback on their teaching and its effectiveness in developing students’ learning skills. Peer review of teaching focuses on students’ experience in the classroom and could be through classroom observation and can cover a wide range of teaching activities, including assessment and teaching and learning resources development .

Harris et al., 2008

Evaluation should involve collecting data from a range of sources over time, including

  • The students and their work using:
    • surveys during the semester (or even at the end of the semester)
    • Groups meetings or individual interviews with students
    • discussion board topics- this must be encouraged through the IAU-UAE LMS
  • The assessment results
  • The Completion rates
  • The formal and informal feedback from the students
  • Your files and records (e.g., self-evaluation, logbooks)


You may wish to check out the Evaluation Cookbook- Editor Jen Harvey (PDF) produced by the Learning Technology Dissemination Initiative (LTDI) in the UK for a range of evaluation methods. The Cookbook helps you specify the resources and time needed to use each method. Visit the website.

As mentioned earlier, the evaluation method(s) you choose will depend on the data you wish to collect, which is your evaluation purpose. We recommend you collect both qualitative and quantitative information.

Adopting an Inclusive Approach to Teaching

The Islamic Azad University (IAU)-UAE Branch expects all lecturers to embrace an inclusive approach to teaching. This includes:

  • identifying, accommodating and meeting students diverse learning needs and preferences
  • acknowledging students learning needs and backgrounds
  • avoiding stereotyping students that have various approaches to learning

Here are some suggestions to help you understand and practice inclusiveness in your teaching:


1.   Being Approachable

  • Introduce yourself to students so that they accept you as a lecturer in the field
    • You can share one of your teaching experience
  • At the first session, you can introduce the course intended learning outcomes and expectations
    • You can talk about your teaching style and how you intend to cover the course topics 
  • Develop a rapport with students to reduce the barriers between you and your students
  • Listen to students talk and their needs
    • You should not underestimate the power of “Just Listening”!


2.   Being Proactive

  • Communicate with students with special needs where possible
    • You can, for example, timetable the classes to cater to disadvantaged or vulnerable students (could be students with disabilities or special needs).
  • Provide alternatives that might complement all students, not just those with a disability or special needs.
  • Develop your course outlines early so students can access them before the semester commences.
    • This may assist students in making informed choices when they are unsure if they would meet any inherent requirements and if they require to adopt any assistive strategies.
  • Be aware of the support services available at the university and how they may be accessed


3.   Being Flexible

  • Provide alternatives to the assessment tasks and course delivery methods considering the intended learning outcomes.
  • Be open to ideas proposed by students who may have challenges addressing assessment criteria or completing an assessment task requirements due to their conditions.
    • Example 1- if a student in your class has anxiety and does not tend to disclose their disability, you can offer more than one way to demonstrate knowledge or evaluate them, rather than just through a class presentation.
    • Example 2- if a student has restricted fine motor skills to collect data and cannot complete the assessment task requirements. You can pair them with another student to collect the data and to complete the analysis required in the assessment task.


4.   Being Planned

  • Develop the course content materials before the semester so students who need extra time to complete their readings or assessment tasks can access them early
    • Example 1- if a student is an ongoing health issue and has a weekly regime of medical attention, you can publish the course reading materials before the course starts so the student can have more time to study the materials
  • Ensure your course materials are in electronic formats to cater to the disadvantaged or vulnerable students
    • Example 1- if a student has a print disability and cannot read standard-sized fonts, you can provide students with electronic format materials. This can help students use screen readers or increase the font size of the text on their computer screens.
  • Consider individual needs of students when conducting a group work activity
    • Example 1- you can get students to self form groups. This way, students would feel comfortable and meet the activity outcome.
    • Example 2- you can randomly assign students to groups. This could be stressful for some students. You can, therefore, allow students to approach you with specific concerns and consider this in the allocation. You will need to give advice and support where needed. You can allow peer review or self-review feedback.


5.   Being Human

  • You can acknowledge your limitations as a ‘human being’ to the class
    • You need to understand that we are not experts in all fields and situations. When we are unsure of advising students, we can always refer them to an expert.
  • Arrange your teaching schedule to meet the needs of disadvantaged or vulnerable students
    • Example 1- you can at least manage a one to one support for a student who has severe arthritis in their knees and cannot attend a class scheduled on the second floor without a lift.

Designing for Student Engagement

One of the essential tools in enabling students to succeed in achieving the course learning outcomes is the feedback from and to students about their progress in a course. This could include students’ understanding of their expectations and what they can expect from their lecturers. Collecting data about how students engage in a course early on is obtaining such feedback for both lecturers and the university.

Course Coordinators are responsible for ensuring that their courses have at least two methods of evaluating engagement built into the first four weeks of the semester. Here are some ideas that may help you design engaging activities for the course.


Step 1: Consider how to identify student engagement

You will need to consider some activities that help students succeed. This could be done in the first few weeks of the semester. Then you will need to find two activities that focus on various aspects of the course. For example, one activity focuses on the administrative aspects of the course (contact details, assignment due dates), and one focuses on the content of the course (information supporting the achievement of the intended learning outcomes). Here are some sample activities that could be used to evaluate student engagement:


Feedback on Progress

You should check whether students have the prerequisite knowledge and skills required to succeed in the course. This information can be helpful feedback for you as a lecturer and the student to decide on their chance of success and whether or not they should continue in the course now or later. These activities include prerequisite knowledge quiz, early, low-stakes assessment (presentations, short answer questions, and class discussions).


Step 2: Provide students with information about their engagement

Students should be informed that there will be processes for evaluating their engagement in the course. Here are some notes you can add to your course outlines:


Online study Mode

As a student, you are expected to participate actively and positively in IAU-UAE LMS’s teaching/learning environment. Your lecturer will monitor your participation and engagement in the course. You will need to complete two activities during the first four weeks of this semester to evaluate your engagement in this course.


You must complete these activities to demonstrate engagement with this course. The two activities that will be used to evaluate your engagement in this course are:

[Activity name and instruction]


On-Campus study Mode

As a student, you are expected to participate actively and positively in the teaching/learning environment, including the on-campus environment and IAU-UAE LMS. Your lecturer will monitor your participation and engagement in the course. You will need to complete two activities during the first four weeks of this semester to evaluate your engagement in this course.


You must complete these activities to demonstrate engagement with this course. The two activities that will be used to evaluate your engagement in this course are:

[Activity name and instruction]


Step 3: Collect student engagement in the course

You will need to plan to collect information about whether or not students have completed the identified engagement activities during the first four weeks of the semester.  

If the activities occur on campus, the easiest way to record this is to note attendance and class participation during or after the class.

If the activities occur in IAU-UAE LMS, you will need to know where to find data about who has completed or not completed those tasks.


Step 4: Report student engagement data

You will need to report the student engagement data to the Department of academic affairs or the Quality Assurance Department.

Course Intended Learning Outcomes

The course intended learning outcomes describe what a student is expected to know, understand, and demonstrate after completing a learning process.

Vlăsceanu et al.,2004

The course Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) are statements about what a student will attain upon completing a unit of study. Learning outcomes could identify the minimum requirements to award a pass for a course.

The course Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) establish a foundation for the rest of the course:

  • The assessment tasks are designed to evaluate student achievement of the course intended learning outcome
  • The learning activities are designed to teach students what they need to do the assessment tasks and demonstrate achievement of the course intended learning outcome, and
  • The course content and materials are chosen to support student engagement in and completion of the learning activities that will assist them to achieve the course intended learning outcome

Components of an Intended Learning Outcomes

A study course typically includes 3 to 6 Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs). Each learning outcome will communicate one of the core course purposes. The course intended learning outcomes will tell the students what they can do upon completing the course that they could not do when they started.

The course Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs):

  • are written from the students’ perspective with a simple language
  • should identify the knowledge to be learnt and the level of performance or understanding expected from the students
  • should be measurable (i.e., they should be measurable)
  • should be aligned with the Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

The course Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) should include a verb, content, context and clarity. Here are some examples illustrating how these components work together.

Upon the completion of this course, students will be able to:


Example ILO1:

Apply your knowledge of anatomy and essential functions to identify abnormalities in clinical scenarios.


Verb: Apply your knowledge of

Content: anatomy and essential functions

Context: to identify abnormalities in clinical scenarios.

Clarity: anatomy and essential functions

This intended learning outcome informs the students about what they will need to know (anatomy and essential functions) and what they will need to do with this knowledge (apply it in clinical scenarios to identify abnormalities) to meet the course’s expectations.

Example ILO1:

Apply the process of critical reflection to your learning and teaching practice.


Verb: Apply the process of

Content: critical reflection

Context: to your learning and teaching practice.

Clarity: critical reflection

This intended learning outcome informs the students about what they will need to know (critical reflection) and what they will need to do with this knowledge (Apply this process to your learning and teaching practice) to meet the course’s expectations.

How to Write the course Intended Learning Outcomes

You can consider using the following steps to design the Course Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs):

  • Identify the purpose
  • Identify the content
  • Identify an appropriate verb
  • Identify the context
  • Ensure the clarity

ILO Purpose

The first step in developing the course intended learning outcomes is to identify the course purpose by answering the following questions:

  • Why is the course being offered?
  • What do students need to learn in this course to progress and attain the course learning outcomes?
  • What would you like the students to say if you asked what they learnt in the course?
  • What practical skills will a student leave the unit that they lacked at the beginning of the course?
  • What do students understand and be able to do after completing the course requirements?


Example- Purpose 1:

Students will learn about anatomy and its essential functions. They will also learn about the clinical scenarios and some information to identify abnormalities.

Example- Purpose 2:

Students will understand critical reflection to monitor, evaluate and improve their practice. They will know how to evaluate their teaching and will be able to review multiple aspects of their teaching practice.

ILO Content

To develop a course’s intended learning outcomes (ILOs), you should begin by defining the course content. You can merge the content with a similar purpose into a single intended learning outcome. According to the course purposes (Examples above), the content will be:

Example- Content 1:

Anatomy, essential functions, clinical scenarios

Example- Content 2:

Critical reflection, the skills for teaching evaluation

ILO Verb

You have defined the intended learning outcomes content you should consider the cognitive activity level, which the students are engaged with. This is the level of thinking you want your students to be about the content? In an intended learning outcome, the cognitive engagement level can be stated with a verb. This could identify what the student is expected to do with the content.

It will help if you use a taxonomy of learning behaviour to select an appropriate verb that communicates the students’ cognitive level, i.e. SOLO taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 2014), and Bloom’s revised taxonomy (as cited in Wilson, 2016). Other factors that affect the best choice of verb include the course’s location and whether the knowledge is declarative or functional.

Location in the Course

The course’s location within the broader program and the Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) will be pretty important when considering these taxonomies and your students’ expectations. It is also essential to review the PLOs to determine the cognitive activity levels expected of students at the course completion as a whole and how your course needs to contribute to students’ development. For example, a first-year, first-semester course would expect a lower level of cognitive activity, a more specific context, or a less complex set of content than a second or third-year course.

Declarative, or Functional Knowledge

In order to select the most appropriate verb for your course Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO), it is essential to consider whether students should know about the content (declarative knowledge), or they should know a bit deeper; perhaps about how to deal with a problem (functional knowledge). In other words, do you want students to consider what they know (declarative knowledge), or do you want them to show you the knowledge in practice (functional knowledge)[1]? Each ILO must clarify the types of knowledge that the lecturers expect the students to learn, and this has to be done by an action verb.


[1] Declarative knowledge is a product of declarative learning, which occurs most often through memorisation. For example, ‘J’ is the tenth letter of the alphabet in English, or Paris is the capital of France. Declarative knowledge can become functional knowledge eventually. Functional knowledge can be perfomed without a conscious thoughts or attention given to a process like riding a bike.

Taxonomies of Learning Objectives with Useful Verbs

SOLO Taxonomy

Humans learn by associating new and unknown information with old and known information, or that we build new information on top of old information (Biggs & Collis, 2014; Biggs & Tang, 2011). When teaching the organisation of academic essay writing, it may not be clear what the students know or how they know it. The point is that knowledge is constructed as a result of the learner’s activity. Active knowledge construction is through learning, and learning takes place through active student behaviour, and that is what a student does that he learns, not what the lecturer does (as cited in Satariyan et al., 2018). However, activation itself is not enough. We also need a theory of understanding to take into consideration how students’ knowledge is activated. Biggs (1999, 2014) has such a theory. The SOLO taxonomy (Biggs, 1999; Biggs, 2014; Biggs & Collis, 1982), short for Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome, distinguishes five levels according to the cognitive processes required to obtain them, including pre-structural, uni-structural, multi-structural, relational, and extended abstract. SOLO is one of those teaching initiatives that work, in a real classroom, with real students to see real improvements. Embedding SOLO within teaching will lead to more engaged, higher-achieving, interdependent students who can lead their learning (Satariyan et al., 2018).

The table below describes each stage of the SOLO has been illustrated. Biggs and Collis (2014) refer to levels four and five as ‘deep understanding’, and Levels two and three are considered as ‘surface understanding’. You can also refer to John Biggs’ website for more information about SOLO Taxonomy.  

Level 1: Pre-structural

Learning outcomes show unconnected information, no organisation ( )

Level 2: Uni- structural


(define, identify, do the simple procedure)

Level 3: Multi- structural

Learning outcomes show connections are made, but the significance to overall meaning is missing.

(define, describe, list, do an algorithm, combine)

Level 4: Relational

Learning outcomes show complete connections made and synthesis of parts to the overall meaning.

(sequence, classify, compare/contrast, explain causes, analyse- part/whole, relate, analogy, apply, formulate questions)


Level 5: Extended Abstract

Learning outcomes go beyond subject and make links to other concepts- generalises

(evaluate, theorise, generalise, predict, create, imagine, hypothesise, reflect)

As cited in Wilson (2016), educational learning objectives have two dimensions, i.e. the cognitive process and the knowledge.

The cognitive processes dimension involves six levels of complexity:

  • remember,
  • understand,
  • apply,
  • analyse,
  • evaluate, and
  • create

The knowledge dimension includes four categories:

  • factual,
  • conceptual,
  • procedural and
  • metacognitive

You can choose the proper verb to explain the course Intended Learning Objectives, considering the level of complexity of cognitive processes you expect from your students and the type of knowledge they engage with. For more information about developing course intended learning objectives, you can read about Heer’s Interactive Model, which combines cognitive and knowledge dimensions and suggests simple learning objectives.

Example 1

We consider a graduate course in law for the first semester. The course purpose does not require the students to use the knowledge. Therefore, declarative knowledge verbs are most appropriate to develop the learning outcomes. As this course is offered in the first year of the graduate program, the students are not expected to demonstrate the highest level of cognitive activity relatively; a deep level of understanding will suffice. Therefore, some possibilities for appropriate verbs might include, from lowest to highest:

describe, explain, generalise

Example 2

We consider a postgraduate course in Architecture and Urban Planning, which requires functioning knowledge and the highest level of cognitive activity. Some of the appropriate verbs to develop the course learning outcomes might be:

Reflect and improve, critically reflect, apply a process

ILO Context

After you have decided what you want the students to learn and the purpose of their learning (what they will do with knowledge), you need to think about a context in which the students can relate the verb with the content.

You also need to consider the course contributes to student development towards the general program learning outlines, just like selecting verbs. Context can help you put limits around what you teach the students within the course.

When the verb and content identify the level of students performance, there is no need to specify the context directly.

Example 1

We consider an ILO where the verb and the content provide sufficient and clear information to understand the expectation of students without the inclusion of a context.


Students will understand the concept and revolution of Newton’s laws of motion. They will also understand the relationships between motion, force and energy. At the end of the semester, they can explain the concept of objects in linear motion and rotational motion.


Newton’s laws of motion including what they are, what impacts they had, the concept of objects in linear motion and rotational motion, the relationships between motion, force and energy


describe, explain, generalise


Explain the concept of objects in linear and rotational motion and the relationships between motion, force, and energy according to Newton’s laws of motion.

Example 2

We consider an ILO, which needs further clarity to identify for students to know how, where, and when they will be expected to make use of the chosen verb. Depending on the verb, appropriate contextual information could be:


Students will learn about anatomy and its essential functions. They will also learn about the clinical scenarios and some information to identify abnormalities.


Anatomy, essential functions, clinical scenarios


apply, dramatise, interpret, solve problem, assess


identification of abnormalities or clinical scenarios

ILO Clarity

In the final stage, you must put the three elements (content, verb, and context) together and ensure that the sentence makes sense to a novice student in the course area.

  • You need to use plain language so that students grasp the meaning of the learning outcomes expected.
  • It would be best if you avoided jargon, unnecessarily complex language, and any unexplained terminology. Lecturers could use a more technical language for the junior and the senior students in the programs, i.e. a language that students are familiar with from the previous courses. 

You may wish to use a tool to examine the readability of your newly written ILOs on The Readability Test Tool.  If you choose to use this website, the result should be “18 to 19-year-olds should easily understand it”.

It is also wise to get a colleague from a different discipline to review the course  ILOs (peer review).  A person from a different discipline is more likely to identify the discipline-specific language in your ILOs.

Assessment Policy Guidelines


Assessment, in education, refers to the processes employed by the academic staff to judge students’ achievement in units of study and throughout the study. These processes include making decisions about relevant evidence for a particular purpose, collecting and interpreting it, and communicating it to the intended users (students, academic colleagues, university administrators.

Harlen, 2005

This Assessment Practice guideline provides a printable version of assessment guidelines at the Islamic Azad University (IAU)- UAE Branch as of September 2021. This version of the Assessment Practices guidelines was endorsed by University Standardization and Quality Assurance Department (SQUAD) in June 2019.

Islamic Azad Unversity- UAE Branch Assessment Policy guidelines provide a vision to the promotion, measurement, and fairness of assessment, described as follows.

Assessment must be designed to:

  • are designed to develop student’s learning skills
  • evaluate student’s achievement against learning outcomes of the course
  • are impartial, transparent and equitable

This document provides background information and recommends the processes to help the practitioners ensure that assessment in their courses enacts IAU-UAE policy and guidelines.

For more information and support resources relating to using IAU- UAE Learning Management System (LMS), go to the, or take a look at IAU-UAE online assessment policy.

Click Here


In alignment with the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, the objectives of the Assessment Policy Guidelines are to ensure that the assessments:

  • are designed to develop student’s learning skills
  • evaluate student’s achievement against learning outcomes of the course
  • are impartial, transparent and equitable


This assessment policy guidelines apply to all coursework programs offered by the Islamic Azad University (IAU)-UAE Branch. These guidelines apply to all faculties; all staff undertaking teaching and assessment; including casual and visiting staff, and all coursework students.

Policy Provisions

1.   Develop student’s learning skills

  1. Assessment tasks should link with the course learning outcomes, which should be made explicit to students before the commencement of the semester.
  2. Students should be given timely, constructive and continuous feedback on their learning, fostering their future
  3. Formative assessment should be used to assess and monitor student learning following an ongoing feedback 
  4. Assessment tasks should be developed to ensure a clear progression through a course towards achieving Program Learning Outcomes (PLO).
  5. Assessment tasks should be developed to encourage Academic

2.   Measurement of student achievement

  1. The assessment method should be consistent with the learning outcomes being evaluated
  2. The staff should provide the students with opportunities to demonstrate achievement against all learning outcomes through various assessment methods. Staff should also consider the external accrediting bodies’ (i.e. KHDA and Islamic Azad University; Central Organisation) requirements where
  3. The assessment in each program must comply with clearly articulated
  4. The assessment standards should be monitored through internal (SQUAD) and external (preferably with international standards) benchmarking where applicable.

3.   Impartial, transparent and equitable

  1. Students must be notified about the assessment tasks’ requirements in the course outlines.
  2. Assessment in the same course across different semesters and HEP Home must be equitable.
  3. Assessment load must be appropriate with the weighting of the course (Credit hours), and staff should take into account student workload.
  4. Reasonable adjustments can be made to assessments for disadvantaged students (could be students with disabilities and special needs).
  5. The assessment in courses should be regularly reviewed to ensure the alignment with the Higher Education Standards Framework of accreditation bodies i.e. the KHDA, the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Research and the Islamic Azad University; Central Organisation requirements.
  6. All departments should be consistent with the assessment policy within the IAU-UAE.

IAU-UAE Policies for Personalised learning and support for Students with Special needs

At IAU-UAE, we shall support students with additional special needs through personalised learning and support. This refers to the students with conditions that may require additional assistance, help, and/or technology being referred to as “special need students”. The support for special needs students at IAU-UAE is carried out by the evidence of four areas of activity:

  • Assessing the educational needs of the individual student
  • Arranging adjustments or support to meet the student’s assessed needs and demands
  • Monitoring the results of the adjustment or support provided to the student
  • Consulting and collaborating among the faculty/staff members to take required actions

Assessing the educational needs of the individual student

The followings may advise careful assessment of a student’s learning and support needs:

  • curriculum and extra-curricular activity assessments
  • Initial students’ enrolment form
  • knowledge of the student from interviews (faculty members and students themselves)
  • assessment of data specific to the individual student, such as student’s communication skills, social/emotional behaviour, health care history, and their personal and cultural context
  • documentation from medical practitioners, other medical specialists, other health or allied health professionals and therapists.

Arranging adjustments

Their implementation supports personalised adjustments based on the assessed needs of particular students and consultation with their lecturers and IAU-UAE academic head. Examples of evidence of adjustments may include:

  • Adjustments to teaching and learning considering the course outlines
  • Records of support history were provided to the student
  • Individualised or personalised plans that address specific learning and support needs of the student and records of their implementation, such as plans to arrange any special care and individual student learning
  • Adjustments to learning materials by the lecturers such as providing learning materials in an alternative format (such as digital formats including videos,…), adjusted worksheets or class activities, formative assessments
  • Environmental adjustments at IAU-UAE premise such as personalised learning spaces and instruments
  • Records of meetings’ minutes of any professional development training for faculty/staff members to support students with special needs.

Monitoring the results of the adjustment or support provided to the student

SQUAD at IAU-UAE shall regularly monitor adjustments made for a special needs student. The quality assurance department of IAU-UAE shall revise and adopt any updated arrangements made to the student with special needs. The following shall help the IAU Education Compliance and Quality Assurance Department monitor and review the impact of the arrangements made to the special needs student.

  • Student progress reports, including both formative and summative assessment
  • Progress or file notes kept by the thesis advisors (for graduate and postgraduate students), any faculty/staff members at IAU-UAE
  • Review of any information related to planned, personalised adjustments or interventions, such as student’s behaviour, health condition and learning achievement
  • Records of meetings’ minutes with individual especial need student, lecturers and support and specialist staff members.
  • Records of adjustments to assessment processes, activities and responses such as scaffolded instructions and simplified language

Consultation and collaboration

IAU-UAE Faculty/staff members and families work collaboratively to identify and respond to the special needs student’s additional learning and support needs. This includes consultation and collaborative planning between the IAU-UAE academic head, faculty/staff members, special need students, and their families within and outside education where individual students’ needs should be addressed. Examples of ways in which this collaboration is recorded may include:

  • Records of meetings’ minutes held at IAU-UAE premise to plan for and review adjustments. The members of the meetings may include lecturers, students, their families and other specialist staff members and professionals, such as the learning and support team
  • Any records of communication, discussions and decisions made at the meetings by the academic head and relevant faculty/staff members about the provision of adjustments for the special needs student
  • Documented student plans signed by the special needs student and their families/careers

Criterion-Referenced Assessment

Criterion-referenced assessment (CRA) is the process of measuring the students’ learning against a set of criteria without reference to the others’ achievement. The criteria are what students must do to demonstrate the achievements of the course Intended Learning Outcomes during an assessment (performance descriptors). Therefore, Criterion-referenced assessment has standards referenced to some specific criteria.

Brown, 1998; Harvey, 2004

Criterion-referenced assessment is an essential foundation to engage the students in their learning process. It

  • provides a shared language between the students and lecturers
  • ensures the alignment between the assessment task and the skills defined by the intended learning outcomes
  • Clarify to students the evidence of achievement at each of the grade standards (Scale of 20 at the Islamic Azad Unversity (IAU)-UAE Branch)
  • enables reliable and valid judgements about the student work
    • Through the moderation processes
    • Through feedback to students about their work and to facilitate the improvements
    • Through transparent and defensible grades
  • enables the evaluation of how well students have achieved the course’s ILOs
  • supports students to develop their metacognitive strategies

Criterion-referencing assessment can also enable student achievement or progress reporting on a series of criteria rather than a single grade.

What does CRA involve

Criterion-referenced assessment involves:

  • Rubrics: The lecturers need to provide students with a criteria sheet when they assign an assessment task.
    1. criteria for each assessment task that enable the course Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) measurement
    2. Assessment criteria description (standards descriptors)
  • Moderations of Criteria: The lecturers need to undergo a moderation process before submitting their assessment tasks to the Department of Examination.
  • Rubric to Assign the Grades: The lecturers need to develop an assessment rubric to assign the grades and give feedback and feedforward to students.
  • Review of the Assessment Criteria: As lecturers, you should review the assessment criteria, including the standard descriptors and make improvements, if necessary, for the next time the course is offered.

For criterion-referenced assessment to be a practical part of a constructively aligned course, the assessment criteria of each assessment task need to be aligned with the course’s Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO). In addition, the criterion description should be specific to the assessment task and reflective of the intended learning outcome being measured. The generic criteria and standards do not help communicate what is required for a specific assessment task.

Designing Assessment Tasks

The purpose of the assessment task is to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate how well they have attained or are progressing towards achieving the course’s intended learning outcomes.

There should be a relationship between the assessment task and the criteria used to measure student achievement. The process to define criteria to measure ILOs is cyclical, i.e., decisions about assessment design influence and lead to modifications of the assessment criteria, leading to modifications of the assessment design. When designing or modifying the assessment task(s) for a course, you should evaluate them against the following criteria (as outlined by Boud, 1998):

  • The task is authentic (set in a realistic context)
  • They are worthwhile activities that contribute to learning
  • The assessments task is based on a holistic rather than a fragmented/atomistic approach to learning
  • The assessment tasks prompt student metacognitive skills, including self-assessment
  • The tasks are flexible, tailor the students to their needs and interests
  • The assessment task language of instruction should be clear and understandable
  • The assessment task does not make assumptions and judgments about the subject matter, which various students differentially perceive (e.g., use of unnecessarily gender-specific examples, assumptions about peoples’ characteristics)

Maintaining Integrity of Assessment

The following statements can ensure the integrity of the assessment tasks:

  • Assessment tasks should be designed to encourage academic integrity
  • Students should demonstrate attainment against course Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) through a range of assessment methods
  • Assessment Moderation should be undertaken, and
  • Students must be made aware of the assessment task requirements.

Promoting Academic Integrity

Designing out plagiarism and cheating

In order to ensure that the assessment tasks genuinely evaluate the student’s achievement against the specific course intended learning outcomes, the work must be undertaken by the student who is being assessed. We need to be thoughtful about designing the assessment tasks to avoid plagiarism/cheating and promote academic integrity. The most effective approach to reducing cheating and plagiarism is to educate students about academic integrity and develop assessment tasks that minimise cheating opportunities.

Teaching strategies

Informing students

Some students have no idea what it means by academic integrity and plagiarism. You can:

  • Clarify to your students what plagiarism means, why it is essential to promote academic integrity, what constitutes plagiarism. Clarifying these concepts can support students welfare as well as their learning and achievement.
  • Include a brief academic referencing and academic misconduct sections in the course outline.
  • Ask students to sign a plagiarism statement upon submission of an assessment task
    • You can refer to academic integrity policies in the class and provide opportunities for students to raise their questions and concerns about academic integrity
  • Include learning activities that enable students to develop their critical thinking abilities and academic writing and referencing skills. Moreover, you should provide constructive feedback on students’ attempts. This can develop their critical thinking and metacognitive skills (Satariyan et al., 2018).

Assessment design strategies

You can maximise the potential for academic integrity through the following (adapted from Carroll, 2002):

  • You can often change the assessment task content or type (e.g. from semester to semester)
  • You can use the assessment tasks that require students to think, reflect, analyse, evaluate, or create
  • You can use tasks (e.g., current or recent events) that require students to integrate, reflect, or apply their experience.
  • You can ask students to submit the evidence of their information gathering and searching
  • You can set a staged assessment, i.e. students to submit partially completed work before the final submission
  • You can ask students to include the drafts process into the task completed
  • You can use the tasks that are interdependent and tie in the classroom experience. For example,
    • Include class discussions in the assignments,
    • Use presentations in class ask the students to report on the work in class.

Assessment Moderation

The purpose of the assessment moderation task is to ensure that lecturers make consistent judgments about standards. Moderation begins with a shared understanding of each standard’s expectations so that a level of achievement (e.g. a mark) is awarded to student responses with the same characteristics, regardless of who marks the assessment.

Moderation can be an essential part of ensuring integrity in assessment tasks. Through the moderation process, the issues of assessment validity and reliability are identified and improved.

Validity in assessment

Validity is about making sure that the assessment task assesses what you intend. For example, if the purpose of an assessment task is to assess the students’ content knowledge, but it assesses the synthesis of ideas, it lacks validity.

The rubrics, including the assessment criteria and standards descriptors, also must be valid. For example, if a descriptor indicates that the lecturer will assess a concept for a project but are also implicitly assessing the use of literature, then validity is reduced. This could mean that the students cannot confidently rely on the rubrics to guide their efforts. Therefore, validity is about fairness and transparency in designing students’ tasks, criteria, and standards descriptors.

Reliability in assessment

Reliability, in assessment, means that a second assessor who acts independently uses the same assessment task description and comes to the same judgment about a given assessment task or student response. Reliability, in simple words, could imply fairness to students based on comparability between assessors. The assessment rubrics related to the assessment tasks must also be reliable. This can be achieved when the assessors use rubrics to make judgments about students’ grades. Although complete impartiality between the assessors could be impossible, reliability practice aims to make rubrics as reliable as possible.

In this context, the assessor who equates to a second marker should be trained to use the assessment rubrics to judge student work so that they come to the same understanding of the descriptors as other assessors or lecturers.

Good moderation practice may include:

  • Involving all teaching staff in the development and review of assessment criteria and standards descriptors;
  • Cross-marking with follow-up meetings for discussions and comparison;
  • Using one lecturer to mark/grade all responses for a section of an assessment task, (e.g. The first two questions of an examination paper)
  • Holding moderation meetings to confirm the marking consistency among the lecturers, including:
    • Discussing any confusions or difficulties about the standards descriptors in an assessment task when making judgments
    • Developing solutions to these confusions or difficulties, (e.g. modifying the assessment rubric if necessary to avoid any problems arising from misinterpretation)
    • Reviewing the student responses and their results history (in the same semester) if you notice significant differences in marking. This could help you fine-tune your judgments.

Moderation of Results

A foundation of criterion-referenced assessment is the moderation practice. This practice is essential to ensure the fairness, transparency, validity and reliability of the assessment task. Moderation of practice could also ensure that the level of complexity of learning outcomes increases throughout a program.

There are three moderation stages of assessment at the Islamic Azad University (IAU)-UAE Branch.

  1. Assessment design (pre-assessment stage)
  2. Making judgments (while-assessment stage), and
  3. Grading outputs (post-assessment stage).

Assessment design (Pre-assessment stage)

In this stage, the assessment design should ensure:

  • An alignment with the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)
  • A range of various assessment tasks- not only one descriptive exam!
  • Opportunity for feedback on an early formative assessment task,
  • A well-adjusted number of tasks,
  • Articulated assessment criteria and assessment standards for the assignments
  • Peer review of the courses,
  • Benchmarking between courses at the same level
  • the course complexity progression in the courses at successive levels, and
  • A benchmarking practice to compare IAU-UAE with other higher degree institutions

Making judgements (While-assessment Stage)

Heads of School or Faculty Coordinators ensure that all teaching staff are informed about the moderation process. This would include, as a minimum:

  • developing interpretive marking guidelines,
  • An assessment rubric, and
  • A representative work sample where possible.

Best practice for the point of assessment stage includes:

  • A group marking exercise between the lecturers of a course to agree on standards,
  • Double marking a random assessment tasks, and
  • Reviewing the grades before returning the work to the students, including:
    • Discrepancies between grade allocations of individual lecturers,
    • A balance between the highest and lowest score- could be through measuring Standard Deviation and Coefficient Variance
    • Discrepancies between grades allocated to students in the assessment tasks.

Grading outputs (post-assessment stage)

In the post-assessment stage, markers should review the assessments if there is/are

  • A disproportionate allocation of grades
    • Students’ grades may be skewed depending on the type of distribution
    • Some significant variance can exist in core units between years
  • Large numbers of failures amongst students
  • Large numbers of students who received the exact grade
  • Discrepancies between students’ grades among the courses of a program, and
  • Considerable late submission of assessment results

Grading System at Ialsmaic Azad University (IAU)- UAE Branch

Untitled 1

Letter grade

Scale of 20

Scale of 100

Rationale of grading




It is an excellent work demonstrating advanced knowledge of the empirical background and theoretical/conceptual frameworks. The work is underpinned by a remarkable capacity for learning, mastering relevant literature, and the ability to gather and independently evaluate relevant sources beyond required studying levels. The analysis is based on solid, critical and original analytical and critical thinking skills. The analysis relates theoretical knowledge to empirical cases. The work demonstrates a pertinent and original ability to communicate complex dynamics. The referencing systems are based on the standards.




It is an advanced piece of work demonstrating advanced knowledge of the empirical background and theoretical/conceptual frameworks. The work is underpinned with relevant theoretical literature and a coherent attempt to apply the literature to empirical phenomena. Strong critical thinking skills is seen. There is evidence of adequate reading levels and the ability to communicate key findings effectively. However, some shortcomings can be identified regarding language, referencing, depth of sources, the profundity of analysis and organisational structure.




It is a good piece of work and has adequate analytical skills. It demonstrates a good understanding of the relevant theoretical literature and critical thinking skills to apply these frameworks to the topic at hand. Written and oral expressions are acceptable, the references are based on standards. The work could be further improved (minor flaws in the argument structure and the minor theoretical gap), but it remains a good work.




This work meets the requirement of the assignment. It demonstrates a reasonably good level of knowledge of both background information and provides some analytical framework. The work shows a reasonably good mastery of the literature and learning outcomes. Language and references are reasonably based on the standards, although some mistakes are seen. This work could be significantly improved (there are some flaws in the organisational structure, literature and resources, clarity and accuracy of the language issue, theoretical and conceptual gaps and coherence issues).




This work meets the basic requirements demanded by the assignment. It shows the attempt to relate to relevant theoretical literature and apply theoretical frameworks to analysing the cases. The work, however, is not adequately engaged with the critical assessment of either relevant theoretical frameworks or the topic at hand. The work is marked by some combination of flaws in the organisational structure of the paper; theoretical/conceptual gap, sub-optimal focus or coherence of the argument, clarity and accuracy of language and inappropriate selection of sources.




This work meets the assignment’s requirements imprecisely and incompletely. It shows basic knowledge of both theoretical frameworks and the topic at hand. The proposed analysis is marked by flaws (e.g. poor structure, theoretical or conceptual coherence; limited analysis; fundamental engagement with the literature).




This work engages with the assignment and meets the satisfactory requirements but is marked by several pitfalls and shortcomings. The work lacks focus. It is poorly structured. The literature is not embedded in the work sufficiently. The argument is hard to follow, and the references are overall incorrect.




This work does not meet the requirements of the assignment. It engages with the question primarily, superficially and inadequately. A lack of coherence, loose expression, inadequate coverage of the literature, poor referencing, and scant ability to critically assess the topic at hand are seen.




This work does not meet the requirements of the assignment. It remains unfocused on the assessment task requirements and is loosely structured. There is an apparent lack of reading and ability to relate to relevant literature and engage critically with the topic. Language is insufficient. The referencing are incorrect and incomplete.




This work is below an acceptable level and standard. The rationale of the assignment is not justified nor addressed. It demonstrates an insufficient understanding of the topic and the course learning outcomes. The answer is unfocused; expressions are unclear. There are severe flaws related to the coherence of the argument. The engagement with the literature is minimal. The references are lacking.


0- 9.9


This work does not meet any of the course and learning objectives requirements. The argument is loose; the language is inadequate. There is no evidence of knowledge of relevant theoretical and empirical dynamics. There are incorrect and incomplete references and likely instances of plagiarism.

The passing scores for program levels at Islamic Azad University-UAE Branch

A score must be equal to or greater than the passing score for that student to pass the assessment task and complete the requirements of a course.

The Program Level

Passing (Cut-off) Score (Scale of 20)

Associate Degree


Undergraduate Degree


Graduate Degree


Postgraduate Degree