Assessment Strategies in UK Higher Education

Introduction

This web page has its origins in a workshop for Learning and Teaching Co-ordinators held at the University of Wolverhampton in 2002.
The main part of the web page remains unchanged, but the links to resources have been updated.

Outline of Workshop

What are the purposes of assessment?

Different authors give different lists but the following four categories seem sufficiently comprehensive
  • to demonstrate the outcomes of learning
  • to award or withhold qualifications/credit
  • to measure student performance
  • to encourage, guide and improve learning

Question to participants.
Are there any purposes of assessment that are not included in these categories?

What is an assessment strategy?

The term 'strategy' seems to be a broader term than 'policy', 'plan' or 'process' and perhaps gives more emphasis to the aspects of implementation and evaluation.

Question to participants.
Can we say that a strategy involves analysing where we are, identifying where we want to be and why, planning what we need to do to get there, doing it, checking that we keep on track and evaluating what we have done?
Are any elements missing?

What are the main stages of the assessment process?

The assessment process can be expressed in linear form.
Design -> validation -> provision of resources -> communication of requirements to learners -> guidance to learners -> submission -> grading -> moderation -> recording of grades -> feedback to learners -> feedback to teachers
The last stage will lead to reflection by teachers that may feed back into design & validation and/or into any other stage of the process.

Question to participants.
Is this an adequate representation of the assessment process?

Responses from participants in workshop on 9/4/02
There is a need to distinguish formative and summative assessment within this.
The process of formative assessment creates a small feedback loop within the broader cycle.
It may be better to express the whole process as a spiral.
I tried to draw one but had to do a table instead.

initial design & validation
\/
>> modification of design & validation if necessary
\/
>> modification of design & validation if necessary
\/
 
provision of resources, communication & guidance >>
\/
<- formative assessment

                  /\

provision of resources, communication & guidance >>
\/
<- formative assessment

                 /\

provision of resources, communication & guidance >>
\/
<- formative assessment

 

submission, grading, moderation & recording of summative assessment
\/
/\ submission, grading, moderation & recording of summative assessment
\/
/\ submission, grading, moderation & recording of summative assessment
\/
 
feedback to learners & teachers >> reflection & evaluation by teachers feedback to learners & teachers >> reflection & evaluation by teachers feedback to learners & teachers >> reflection & evaluation by teachers

What should be the key characteristics of assessment

Traditionally, those writing about assessment have stressed the importance of
  • reliability - that the assessment task can be applied consistently to all students undertaking it and that different markers will reach the same conclusions about the performance of a given group of students and
  • validity - the assessment task actually measures what it claims to measure.

In recent years, there has been a stronger focus on validity, including an emphasis on the need for assessment tasks to test the intended learning outcomes of the course of study.
Many writers add a third key characteristic, that of equity. This covers the way assessment is organised and administered as well as the fairness of the marking. For many in higher education today, equity also means using a broad range of assessment methods in recognition of the fact that students have diverse academic strengths and different approaches to learning.

Can we create a comprehensive list of the different types of assessment?

Rather than create a list of all the different types of assessed work that are or might be used in higher education, I prefer to think in terms of a list of all the possible dimensions that an assessment task has.

  • Does the student complete the task by working alone or in a group?
  • Is the task written or oral or practical?
  • Is the task time-constrained or not?
  • Are all, some or none of the details of the task determined by the student?
  • Is the task assessed by the tutor, the student, the student's peers or the representative of an outside agency?
  • Is the task formative or not?
  • Is the task summative or not?
  • Does the student perform the task inside or outside the classroom?
  • Does the student perform the task inside or outside the university or college?
  • When the student performs the task, does s/he have access to notes and books or not?
  • Does the task take place during or at the end of a course of study?

Such a list can help all those who design assessment, particularly those course teams who want to introduce greater variety into their assessment regimes.

Question to participants.
Does this sort of list help you?

Response from participants in the workshop on 9/4/02
Yes, particularly if used in conjunction with an assessment matrix for the course or subject.
A typical assessment matrix is a grid which lists all the modules down the side and all the different types of assessment across the top and indicates which types occur in which modules.

Who has a legitimate interest in our assessment strategies?

  • learners, teachers, administrators, academic staff collectively
  • external examiners, professional bodies, other educational institutions, government agencies
  • potential employers, employer organisations, potential clients of employed/self-employed graduates.

Group Work Tasks

  1. Make a list of all the current problems with assessment in your Subject or School.
  2. Choose one or two of these problems and list possible solutions.

Resources

URL: http://pers-www.wlv.ac.uk/~le1810/astrat.htm
Page created by Penny Welch April 2002/updated February 2006

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