Type of Powerful Assessment - Case based assessment



  • Indigenous graduate attribute – assessment of a cross-cultural management case study.


  • A carefully coached traditional, initial assessment task to show how assessment grading works.


  • Living cases in Business at Queens University, Canada
    ‘The Living Case initiative was developed in response to a growing student demand for technology-based learning and classroom discussions that focus on current, real-time events, driven by easy and immediate access to information. Living cases build on the latest market developments, drawing on SEC filings, analyst and news reports, social media and company information, to foster an enhanced understanding of strategic and operational decision-making and integration of activities across entire business systems.’ David M. Saunders, PhD Dean, in his Deans message in Queens School of Business Year in Review 2013-14.



  • Dentistry: a real world case of a client – involving diagnosis and patient relations then interviewing a successful dental practitioner on how they would handle the same case and reporting back both in an assessment submission and in a class presentation.




  • Trainee teachers have to select one special needs student and work with them on math or literacy.
    The assessment involves:

Developing a background profile of the student and identifying areas for development.
Reading the formal assessment documentation for their selected student and then, from both (a) and (b) develop an individual management plan, with a justification.
Implementing their plan and videoing themselves working with the student on it – noting the most ‘wicked’ moments and discussing what they did to handle the dilemma and to evaluate its effectiveness.
Working week-by-week with their chosen child and in University debrief class held each week discussing what went well and what didn’t with peers and the instructor. Particular attention is given to the ‘wicked moments’ and the strategies used.

The focus of assessment:

    • To determine how effectively the trainee draws out the key lessons from the experience against the good practice guidelines discussed in class.
    • To evaluate the personal, interpersonal and cognitive capabilities of the student along with their skills and knowledge in an integrated way.

Why is this powerful?

    • It checks the ability to reflect in action; the ability to ‘read and match’; and to change course if a planned strategy is not working.
    • It encourages ‘reading the emotional state not just the cognitive state of students. It checks trainees’ ability to manage themselves personally and their interpersonal capabilities when something doesn’t go according to plan.

(Dominican University of California)


  • Ethics embedded assessment – a real world case where the practitioner is faced with an ethical dilemma. The assessment is focused on what you would do, why and how this aligns with key ethical principles of professional practice as an Engineer discussed in class.


  • Electrical Engineering – a focus on problem diagnosis using actual cases drawn from real-world, challenging Engineering projects.



  • In a Public Health program students have to write a ministerial briefing on an issue that is based on a real world case – this requires a clear understanding of evidence-based practice; what motivates a minister and how the political process works and how lobbying groups operate.


Industrial relations

  • Industrial relations third year subject – a real-world in-tray case – the student has to produce a client advice on how best to apply the unfair dismissal legislation with a clear, justified rationale. The difficulty of these cases is built up over the duration of the degree.



  • Assessing the mental health of a client with justification (via a video case or during the practicum).


  • 2nd year nursing: develop an intervention with someone who has a developmental delay – a case history is provided and the student must diagnose, assess and establish a plan of support – another student then role plays the client – feedback is given by peers, the tutor, and an experienced fourth year student who is already working in the field with clients like this.


  • Managing, assessing and helping a deteriorating patient using a de-identified, real world case, with increasing challenges unfolding over time. Assessment is on quality of analysis, diagnosis, how well the management plan matches the condition of the patient, interpersonal skills with not only the client but also the famil.


Occupational Health and Safety

  • In a unit on critical thinking and decision-making students are given a scenario where they are supervising employees who are clearly doing something unsafe and illegal (e.g. entering a confined space tank). Students are asked to draw a flow chart of what is actually being done and a flow chart of what the law requires; then to compare the two. They are asked to draw a causal loop diagram of the non-technical issues going on (e.g. workers and/or employer are complacent). Students then must make a decision about what to do, referencing professional ethics and legal compliance, and draw up a communication plan for how they will communicate this decision to the people involved. The final report is a letter to the boss explaining what and why they are doing what they are doing.


Occupational Therapy

  • Students view an online video of a scenario played by actors involving a client family with a child who has cerebral palsy. Students have to identify what questions they will ask, what the optimum plan of action might be and give reasons to justify their approach based on what been learnt in the course.



  • Critical thinking task (developed with Learning and Teaching staff), the student is given an in-tray of materials – eg. A newspaper article entitled 'Essay Factories, blogs on this, research on cheating and plagiarism, and other inputs – the student has to evaluate the quality of each source of information and come up with a diagnosis of what is causing this problem and, with evidence, what can be done to address it.


Sustainable social, cultural, economic & environmental development

  • In an Art Conservation Science program students work on a ‘real-world’ conservation case. Students are taught and then tested on: how effectively they can diagnose what needs to be done; how well they can match all of the skills, knowledge and capabilities identified by a successful art conservator as being necessary to handle their diagnosis. This includes appropriate use of glues/adhesives, solvents, detergents, safe cleaning techniques, identifying and managing ‘hot risk; areas, knowing environmental effects of the chemicals they are using risk assessment, effectively using electronic diagnosis instruments, bearing in mind intercultural issues. MOOCs are used to learn and self test the set knowledge and correct techniques off line. The approach uses a series of actual conservation cases (with what the actual conservator did for use as a comparator to the diagnosis of each group) for learning and then a new case is used for the exam. Students need to demonstrate they can successfully apply the above approaches to the conservation of paintings, paper artifacts , and other conservation objects.


  • Masters in Green design (from 2005). Assessment involved students addressing a live case and set of challenges involving a jointly owned campus area on Northern Way in Vancouver. owned by UBC, SFU, BCIT, Emily Carr. The task was how best to build an inter-institutional program and the greenest building in the world. The activity and assessment was organized as a design studio. Students were to come up with an eco-campus design, give effective attention to key challenges like mobility, and a BCIT technology plan.

(Simon Fraser University)