a pencil with sharpener and shavings on a notebook

PASL development and approval process

The Policy on Assessment of Student Learning (PASL) will come into effect
in Fall 2024!


PASL came about after several years of discussion, research, and consultation about the philosophical and pedagogical principles underlying assessment practices at McGill. Discussions centered around how assessment could be used to support student learning, wellness, and equity and move beyond a traditional approach of evaluating and ranking students.

Given the nature and scale of the changes proposed, it became clear that a complete rethink of the way we approach assessment at McGill was required, rather than a typical review and revision of the existing University Student Assessment Policy.  

In preparation for drafting the new Policy, the PASL working group held extensive consultations and solicited comments across the McGill community with student groups, Faculties, units, administration, and labour relations groups.

A two-year implementation period was built into the Policy process to allow Faculties and units to develop local guidelines, and instructors to adapt their assessment practices.  

For more details on the background and process of developing PASL, read this interview with the (former) Associate Dean of Students and the Director of Teaching and Learning Services. 


PASL development and approval process

  • 2015: The Enrolment and Student Affairs Advisory Committee (ESAAC) begins discussions around the philosophical and pedagogical principles of assessment and the potential to shift assessment to focus on student learning. A subcommittee on assessment is formed to report back to the Committee.
  • 2015 – 2017: The Subcommittee conducts research on assessment practices, including a literature review, international university policy analysis, and a benchmarking exercise comparing assessment policies of comparable research institutions.
  • April 2017: The Subcommittee completes their report on assessment for learning, outlining the guiding principles of assessment and recommending a roadmap for the drafting and implementing of a new principles-based approach to assessment policy.   
  • 2019: Based on the Subcommittee report recommendations, a new PASL working group is formed to revise the assessment policy.
  • 2019 – 2021: The PASL working group conducts consultations with the McGill community. Consultations involve fielding questions and concerns as well as gathering feedback and integrating recommendations into the draft Policy. An online form for providing feedback is publicly available to the McGill community.
  • April 2021: A PASL draft is presented and discussed at Senate.
  • April 2022: PASL is presented at Senate for final consultation.
  • May 2022: PASL is approved by the Academic Policy Committee, the Senate, and the Board of Governors.
  • Fall 2024: PASL comes into effect across McGill after a two-year implementation period.


PASL Working Group – member affiliations

  • Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Studies
  • Faculty of Arts
  • Faculty of Education
  • Office of the Dean of Students
  • Post-Graduate Students’ Society
  • Student Advocacy (Legal Information Clinic at McGill)
  • Students’ Society of McGill University
  • Teaching and Learning Services

Groups consulted in the development of PASL

  • Academic Policy Committee (APC) Subcommittee on Teaching and Learning (STL)
  • Assessment and Feedback Group
  • Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM)
  • Department of Biochemistry
  • Department of Economics
  • Enrolment and Student Affairs Advisory Committee (ESAAC)
  • Enrolment Services
  • Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
  • Faculty of Engineering
  • Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
  • French Language Centre
  • Legal Services
  • McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT)
  • McGill University Senate
  • Senior Administration
  • Schulich School of Music
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Urban Planning
  • Student Accessibility & Achievement
  • Student Leaders’ Forum
  • Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Caucus
  • Teaching and Learning Services (TLS)

Reports and meeting minutes


The following works were referenced in the 2017 ESAAC Subcommittee on Assessment Report.

Association of American Colleges & Universities (n.d). VALUE rubric development project.

Bond, L. (1996). Norm- and criterion-referenced testing. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 5(2), 1-3.

Hammer, S. (2007). Demonstrating quality outcomes in learning and teaching: Examining ‘best practice’ in the use of criterion-referenced assessmentInternational Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, 3(1), 50-58.

Huitt, W. (1996). Measurement and evaluation: Criterion versus norm-referenced testing. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta State University.

Hutchings, M. (2015). Exam factories? The impact of accountability measures on children and young people.National Union of Teachers.

Kim, S., Lee, M.-J., Chung, Y., & Bong, M. (2010). Comparison of brain activation during norm-referenced versus criterion-referenced feedback: The role of perceived competence and performance approach goals. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 35(2), 141-152.

Light, R. J. (1990). The Harvard assessment seminars: Explorations with students and faculty about teaching, learning, and student life: First report. Harvard University, Graduate School of Education.

Light, R. J. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Harvard University Press.

Linn, R. L. (2000). Assessments and accountability. Educational Researcher, 29(2) 4-16.

Lok, B., McNaught, C., & Young, K. (2016). Criterion-referenced and norm-referenced assessments: Compatibility and complementarity. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(3), 450-465.

Maki, P. (2010). Assessing for learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution. Stylus.

McCaleb-Kahan, P., & Wenner, R. (2009). The relationship of student demographics to 10th grade MCAS test anxiety. NERA Conference Proceedings 2009. 27.

Nelson, C. E. (2010). Dysfunctional illusions of rigor. In L. B. Nilson & J. E. Miller (Eds.). To Improve the Academy, 28 (177-192). Jossey-Bass.

Popham, J. W. (1975). Educational evaluation. Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Sadler, R. D (2005). Interpretations of criteria‐based assessment and grading in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 30(2), 175-194.

Sanders, W., & Horn, S. (1995). Educational assessment reassessed: The usefulness of standardized and alternative measures of student achievement as indicators for the assessment of educational outcomes. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 3(6).

Suskie, L. A. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. Jossey-Bass.

UNESCO International Bureau of Education (2013). Glossary of curriculum terminology.

Walvoord, B. E. F. (2010). Assessment clear and simple: A practical guide for institutions, departments, and general education. Jossey-Bass.

Wiliam, D. (1996). Standards in examinations: A matter of trust? The Curriculum Journal, 7(3), 293-306.

Yeh, C. J., & Krumboltz, J. D. (1995). The impact of a non-competitive grading system on learning. ERIC Report.


megaphone icon

Podcast aims to shift the conversation on assessment and well-being

Get some inspiration on improving well-being with the Teach.Learn Share podcast. Learn more.

megaphone icon

Help to spread the word about PASL!

Find promotional resources including an infographic slide, a poster, and an email signature to share with students and colleagues. Learn more.

megaphone icon

New resource! Examples of assessment tools

Find a bank of example rubrics and other assessment tools used by McGill instructors that you can adapt to your course context. Learn more.



Back to top