Assessment Practice Overview

A good assessment strategy reflects the intended learning outcomes of the course and effectively employs a range of suitable and manageable assessment and feedback approaches. Good assessment design decisions are made within a regulatory framework by using sound design principles. The regulations can be seen as defining and prescribing the standards and parameters for practice, whilst the design principles facilitate the creative use of assessment and feedback practices to address the course context with the aim of producing engaging, innovative and purposeful learning experiences.

Assessment context
Assessment must be tailored to the discipline and meets the needs of the students and the staff responsible for delivering the curriculum. Other contextual factors to consider include:

  • the available learning environments and online technologies
  • the current state of disciplinary knowledge, discourse and practice
  • the connections that can be made to real world application and
  • the University’s regulations and policies and the external quality assurance expectations and indicators for higher education

Assessment purposes
Assessments can be categorised as diagnostic, formative or summative. Put simply;

  • diagnostic assessment identifies students’ needs and establishes expectations
  • formative assessment describes challenging activities designed to engage the learner in ways that promote learning, self-evaluation and reflection on learning – that lead to useful feedback being given and applied by the learner
  • summative assessment is a task designed to evaluate what a student knows so that a grade can be produced that is commensurate with the student’s standard of achievement as measured against the module or course learning outcomes and assessment criteria

Take a look at this briefing document which defines formative assessment and its role in teaching and learning. It considers how it is different in form and purpose to summative assessment, and how formative and summative assessment work in relation to each other.

Holistic assessment strategy
All accounts of good assessment practice and principles stress that good assessment strategy is made up of a carefully composed series of activities, tasks and feedback within modules and across modules, that together promote learning, summarise achievement and feed forward by challenging the learner to address achievable dimensions of knowledge, skills or attitudinal development.

Quality principles
In addition to the above, assessment and feedback practices need to adhere to two sets of quality assurance principles (QAA, 2012). These are the validity and reliability; and rigour, probity and fairness of the assessments as follows:

  • validity and reliability – assessment need to be designed so as to measure students achievements of the intended learning outcomes and the associated assessment criteria need to be applied correctly and consistently. There needs to be consistency between tutors marking the same assessment independently.
  • rigour, probity and fairness – all students need to be treated equitably and given equivalent opportunities to demonstrate their achievement. This requires that all assessment policies are implemented consistently and clear and accurate advice is given to students about the policies.

Using design and regulatory principles as the basis for analysing the learning outcomes allows your course design team to establish level outcomes and to derive assessment criteria. From the criteria, learning standards can be crafted as the basis for marking and feedback by module.

Knight, P. & Yorke, M. (2003). Assessment, learning and employability. Maidenhead: Open University Press
QAA (2012). Understanding assessment: It’s role in safeguarding academic standards and quality in higher education, Second Edition.