Student Success

Preparing students to achieve learning outcomes.

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The Importance of Preparing Students for Success

In well-designed courses, summative assessments align to, and measure, specific learning outcomes of a course. Therefore, the better students perform on these indicators, the more likely they are to successfully reach the course’s learning outcomes. While students need guidance to learn content in your course, they also need guidance in how to prepare for and succeed at these assessments. Summative assessments can include both traditional and authentic assessments, consequently helping students practice for these evaluations will look quite different. Regardless of the assessment, it is important to support students in their preparation efforts while helping them develop knowledge and skills independently.

How to Prepare Students for Success

The type of assessment will require students to plan in different ways. For example, students will prepare for a multiple-choice exam in a much different way than for a group presentation. Because of this diversity, there is not one single way to prepare students for assessments.

Review the distinct and overlapping roles of both the instructor and students preceding assessments. These suggestions will be explained in greater detail below or through links to pages in the course design section of our website. Determine which strategies are appropriate for the assessments used in your course.

Instructor’s roles can include:

  • Stating criteria and expectations
  • Modeling how to use the assessment tool (such as a rubric)
  • Sharing examples or exemplars
  • Scaffolding content and summative assignments
  • Providing practice opportunities
  • Giving feedback and guidance

Students’ roles can include:

  • Applying knowledge and skills to assignments and assessments
  • Meeting a set of criteria and expectations
  • Studying independently and/or collaboratively
  • Reflecting on learning and progress (including self-assessment)
  • Supporting their peers

Both students’ and the instructor’s roles can include:

  • Practicing the application of an assessment tool
  • Making connections that are relevant and authentic
  • Exploring study strategies
  • Asking and answering questions
  • Participating in reviews or study sessions
  • Monitoring performance and tracking progress

Progress Monitoring

Progress monitoring is an active cycle of tracking performance over time through assessing formatively and applying feedback. This process is one ideally done by both the instructor and the student. Progress monitoring is an important self-regulation skill that can be applied both in and out of the classroom. Just as one might regularly track their distance and speed when training for a marathon, so too can students track and monitor their progress when preparing for summative assessments, and ultimately, course learning outcomes. The goal is to see positive improvements over time, understand where students are having difficulties and intervene with support and guidance if needed.  

There are many ways to track progress such as through a digital grade center or even using a paper-based graph. Students can plot their performance scores on the graph and monitor trends over time. For example, at the end of each class, students answer five questions from that day’s lesson, based on their score and the date (or topic), they plot their data point. Students repeat this process after each quiz. It is helpful to provide students with a tool to review their progress throughout the course and model how to use it. Progress monitoring may also be a self-assessment tool such as self-reflections or self-rating systems. A self-rating system might include a scaled rubric that asks students to explore their own work and determine their performance or mastery level. Although a general rating scale could be utilized, a content or outcome specific rubric would be best. 

A self-reflection might include open-ended questions such as

  • What did I learn today?
  • What concepts are confusing?
  • What remaining questions do I have? How can I find the answers?
  • How can I review this content in a meaningful way?
  • Did I meet today’s learning objectives? How do I know?

There are many benefits to using self-assessment as a progress monitoring tool including supporting self-regulating strategies and allotting time to reflect and critically think about learning. It is also important to give students meaningful feedback and opportunities to apply it to future learning. 

Reviewing for Assessments

When reviewing for an upcoming assessment, be transparent about testing items and content covered. Ensure that you have given students multiple opportunities to study or prepare both with support and independently. Below you will find examples of ways to implement these strategies using review guides, study sessions, practice opportunities and examples.


  • Step 1: Review the roles and strategies above.
  • Step 2: Choose one assessment and determine what strategies are already in place to prepare students for success.
  • Step 3: Given this analysis, determine any additional strategies you can use to support students.
  • Step 4: Build these into your course. If needed, create additional content or practice opportunities.