Assessment and feedback are decisive components of module design and perhaps contribute the most to a student’s experience of university, Boud and Falchikov, (2007). Assessment and feedback influences motivation, achievement and plays a considerable part in staff workload.

Reflecting on the primacy of assessment, Bloxham and Boyd, (2007, p.3), stated,

“Assessment shapes the experience of students and influences their behaviour more than the teaching they receive”

Assessment serves many purposes in the student’s journey in higher education. Boud and Falchikov, (2007), argue that those purposes are dominated by certification of one kind or another. This runs the risk of directing our attention away from the process of learning and/or the potential for equipping students for scenarios beyond scaffolded assessment. Well-constructed assessments produce valid evidence of student achievement, (Deneen and Boud, 2014) and should be designed in a way that includes the breadth of students coming to university.

To this end assessment should be student-centred, inclusive and aligned to learning outcomes and teaching activities to enable all students to experience success. Student-centredness according to Race and Pickford, (2007), implies a design that begins with the needs of the students in mind instead of the subject. Inclusive design, (and by association inclusive assessment), is one that according to Hocking, (2010), enables engagement in learning that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all, (Bale and Seabrook, 2021 p.146).

Aligned assessment is linked to clear learning outcomes that contain an action verb that tells the student what they need to do, the context that it needs to be done in and how well or to what depth it needs to be done.

More information is available from Advance HE here.

As professional educators we have the capacity to design inclusive assessments that provide opportunities for assessment for learning, (AFL), assessment as learning, (AAL), and assessment of learning, (AOL).

Advance HE provides a useful resource on the principles underpinning inclusive assessment design.

To facilitate this, Ulster University provided assessment principles based on the REAP project.

The principles may be summarised as follows:

Assessment and Feedback for Learning should...

  1. Help to clarify, from the early stages of a programme, what good performance means (goals, criteria, standards).
  2. Encourage ‘time and effort’ on challenging learning tasks which recognise the importance of learning from the tasks, not just demonstrating learning through the tasks.
  3. Deliver timely learner-related feedback information that helps students to self-correct and communicate clear, high expectations and professionalism.
  4. Provide opportunities for students to act on feedback and close any gap between current and desired performance through complementary and integrated curriculum design and pedagogic practice.
  5. Ensure that all assessment has a beneficial, constructive impact on student learning, encouraging positive motivational beliefs, confidence and self-esteem.
  6. Facilitate the development of self- and peer-assessment skills and reflection on learning, to enable students to progressively take more responsibility for their own learning, and to inspire a lifelong capacity to learn.
  7. Encourage interaction and dialogue around learning and professional practice (student-student, lecturer-student and lecturer-lecturer) including supporting the development of student learning groups and peer learning communities.

This resource area provides guidance and advice using a variety of means developed in the university to help you design, reimagine, and/or review assessments you have responsibility for.

The resources will help you reflect upon your current assessment strategy and plan for ways to enhance its inclusivity and account for student assessment load, (in terms of amount, challenge and authenticity), staff workload, links to learning outcomes and developing students as competent self-assessors.

References

Further Information

Other relevant workshop recordings