Assessment Activity Plan

Course Name:

This assessment will occur in the online Botany course that I teach.  Botany is a 10 week online course offered as part of the Landscape Horticulture Certificate Program at the Pacific Horticulture College (PHC).  The course is offered entirely online but is equivalent to the face to face Botany course also offered by PHC.  The subject matter focuses on different aspects of plant biology including anatomy, physiology, and reproduction, and how these aspects relate to horticultural practices.  The Botany curriculum forms a foundational knowledge about plants that is built upon in subsequent academic and practical courses in the program.  The curriculum is set by the provincial trades training organization called the Industry Training Authority (ITA) in concert with HortEducationBC.

Learner Characteristics:

The learners enrolling in Botany are all interested in horticulture, so they typically prefer to work outside with their hands rather than sit at a computer.  The motivation for the learners is a combination of a desire to learn more about plants, a desire to gain a credential, or an incentive from an employer for professional development.  Nearly all of the learners live on Vancouver Island.  My learners are anywhere from 20 to 65 years old, which spans three generations.  This means that there is variability in technical knowledge and comfort with computers.  My learners are approximately half male and half female.  Most learners have full-time work or family commitments that dominate their time.  Also, my learners come from a variety of academic backgrounds.  Some have never finished high school, while some have graduate degrees.  It can be a challenge to deal with the vast diversity in age, technical knowledge, and educational experience.

Learning Objective:

Predict how changes to a plant’s environmental conditions will affect the reaction rates of photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration.

Assessment Strategy:

The purpose of this assignment is to assess your understanding of the key chemical reactions in plants and how these reactions are impacted by changes in a plant’s surroundings.  The assignment has two parts, both of which must be completed within 10 days.  The first part of the assignment is not graded, but the second part of the assignment is worth 10% of your course grade.

Assignment Components:

1. Self-Check Exercise:

Complete the multiple choice quiz posted on the course website to test your knowledge of photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration in plants.  There is no time limit for the quiz and you are allowed to attempt the quiz multiple times.  The outcome of the quiz will not affect your final course grade but will prepare you to complete the second assignment component.

2. Flow Chart:

Using a tool of your choice, create a flow chart that illustrates how three environmental factors of your choice will affect the reaction rates of photosynthesis, respiration, and transpiration in plants.  The design of the flow chart is up to you, as long as the information is scientifically correct and the relationships are clearly demonstrated.  Once completed, upload your flow chart to the course discussion forum so that other students may view it and add comments or questions.  I will so use this forum for grading the assignment.

Refer to the list of available online tools to create your flow chart, or choose your own tool.  Other options include using the tool on Microsoft Word (under the “Insert” menu select “Diagram”), or creating a flow chart by hand to be scanned and uploaded to the course website.  I’ve also posted a sample flow chart from last year’s class to help you get started.

The flow chart will be graded according to the rubric below:



(1 point)


(2 points)


(3 points)


(4 points)


Content Accuracy

Identified the effects of 3 changes in environmental   conditions on the 3 required plant chemical reactions with many inaccuracies,   incomplete work

Identified the effects of 3 changes in environmental   conditions on the 3 required plant chemical reactions with some inaccuracies

Identified the effects of 3 changes in environmental   conditions on the 3 required plant chemical reactions with few inaccuracies

Accurately identified the effects of 3 changes in   environmental conditions on the 3 required plant chemical reactions

____ /4


x 3 =



Numerous items out of sequence with no care taken on   placement within flow chart

Some items out of sequence with some care taken on   placement within flow chart

Most items in sequence with care taken on placement   within flow chart

All items in sequence with care taken on placement   within flow chart

____ /4


Writing Skills

Frequent spelling errors, inconsistent font

Some spelling or font errors

Few spelling or font errors

Free of spelling errors, consistent font throughout,   professional look and feel

____ /4


                     Total: = _______/20


This is a formative assessment, providing learners with the opportunity to receive feedback prior to the summative assessment for the course.  The cognitive level of this learning objective is Level 2 – Comprehension (Fenwick & Parsons, 2009).  The learning objective is declarative, requiring students to know about the topic in question.  Based on this, a cognitive assessment is appropriate (Shank, n.d.).

The informal self-check exercise provides immediate feedback to the learners and to me, answering the question of whether they have the foundational knowledge to proceed with the rest of the assignment.  The self-check exercise will also provide learners with the correct responses and a rationale for incorrect responses.  The formal portion of the assignment assesses the expected cognitive level – what the provincial trades curriculum demands and what the instruction provides.

This assessment strategy takes advantage of the online environment by providing immediate feedback on the quiz and incorporating the use of online tools to create and share the flow chart.  The assessment also allows for student choice with respect to which tool is used to create the flow chart and which three environmental factors are used in the flow chart.

The 10 day deadline is generous in order to accommodate those who are unfamiliar with the technology used to create flow charts.  The 10% value allocated to the assignment is significant but not overwhelming.  It’s recommended to include more frequent, smaller assessments so that students are more engaged in the assessment process and receive frequent feedback about their learning (Shank, n.d.).

Providing the rubric to students helps clarify the expectations for the assignment.  It also helps me clearly discriminate when grading the flow charts, which will help me defend grading decisions.  Also, the fact that this assignment has an element of creativity could reduce the likelihood of cheating (Sewell et al., 2010).

This assessment is valid because I want to know if students understand how changes in the environment will affect the key chemical reactions in plants, and the creation of the flow chart will illustrate that understanding.  In other words, the assessment measures what I intend it to measure (Fenwick & Parsons, 2009).  The assessment is also reliable, meaning it is a consistent measurement of learning (Fenwick & Parsons, 2009).  One aspect that may impact the reliability is the role of technology in completing the assignment.  Students must be able to use the flow chart tools and if they cannot, the assessment is no longer a consistently accurate measurement of what they know.  To address this, I will recommend user-friendly flow chart programs, I will post a sample assignment, I will offer the option of creating the flow chart by hand, and I will check in with students and offer technical support.


Fenwick, T.J., & Parsons, J. (2009).  The art of evaluation: A resource for educators and trainers, 2nd Ed. Toronto, Ontario: Thompson Educational Publishing, Inc.

Sewell, J.P., Frith, K.H., & Colvin, M.M. (2010). Online assessment strategies: A primer. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(1): 297-305.

Shank, P. (n.d.). Four typical online learning assessment mistakes. In: Assessing online learning: Strategies, challenges and opportunities. Retrieved February 22, 2013 from

Assessment Glossary


When the complexity of content is at the same level for: the curriculum, the instruction and the assessment.


Evidence of student learning

Authentic Assessment

Asking the learner to demonstrate their knowledge in a “real world” scenario. An example might be to “parallel park the car” as opposed to asking the learner to describe what is involved in parallel parking.


Cognitive Assessment

These are tasks that assess cognitive ability such as memory, problem solving and other intellectual functioning. Traditional exams and essays are examples of cognitive assessments.

(see also “Authentic Assessment”).


WHAT we plan on teaching



This relates to the ability to differentiate between marks/grades. If one learner got 2/3 and another got 2.5/3 on an item can we articulate why? If not, then the item lacks effectiveness.


Formal Assessment

Assessment in which a mark is allocated, as opposed to simply providing feedback about a learner’s progress.

Formative Assessment

Feedback to the learner about his or her progress throughout the course (i.e. not at the end of the learning).

See also “Summative Assessment”.


Informal Assessment

No marks are given – feedback is provided on the learner’s progress – can be done individually or as a group/class.


HOW we teach the curriculum


These are often referred to as exam “questions” but technically, an item on an exam is not always a question. Consider the following example:

Provide the definitions for the following terms: (this is not a “question”)



This term relates to validity. While validity refers to accuracy of an assessment, reliability suggests that that assessment will ALWAYS give us the same results. When you go to the gas station and put 25 litres of gas in your car today, do you trust that it is the same amount as when you filled it with 25 litres last week? Then the measurement of 25 litres is a reliable measurement.

When we are building a well-aligned course our assessment strategies must be reliable as well as valid.


Summative Assessment

Assessment that provides a mark (or a decision – e.g. pass/fail) at the end of the learning.

(See also “Formative Assessment).



An assessment is valid when what we are attempting to measure is ACTUALLY what we are measuring. For example, when our doctor uses a blood pressure monitor on our arm and determines whether we have high, low or normal blood pressure, he or she (and we!) trust that test to be valid – it gives a true and accurate measurement of our blood pressure. If it gave a different reading each time, then we would say the results of that instrument are invalid.

Validity relates to reliability. When we are building a well-aligned course our assessment strategies must be valid as well as reliable.