February 04, 2013

Thinking about assessment

Assessment remains a hot topic for debate and development and here I’ve included links to a recent article from the Guardian and publication from the HEA that made me stop and think. So here are just a few of my thoughts…

University degrees: our arcane system of firsts, seconds and thirds (Guardian, January 2013)

This is an interesting piece from the Guardian that raises the issue of norm or criterion referenced assessment. Should be given to students for achievement in relation to their peers or against a set of given criteria.

I am of the opinion that it should be the latter, believing that students shouldn’t miss out on getting a first because the group as the whole is achieving higher grades. Imagine how upset you’d be to find out if you’d just delayed your entry to University by a year that you’d have got a first because your mark would have put you in the top x per cent, but this year you’re going to miss out.

I can see the benefits of norm referenced assessment if all prospective employees were being drawn from the same cohort of students (same year, same course, same University) but surely as soon as you move beyond this group then norm referenced is, well no longer norm referenced? I’d be interested to hear more from others about the potential merits of this system – am I missing something?

A Marked Improvement (HEA, October 2012)

There are two key points I wanted to highlight from this document..

Firstly one of the tenets highlights that assessment for learning is key: assessment should be about supporting students to achieve high standards of learning. Assessment needs to provide a space for students to demonstrate their learning and support them to improve.

  • Surely this suggests that more students achieving a 2:1 (reported in the Guardian article) is a sign that we’re improving our assessment for learning rather than a cause for concern?

Secondly the tenets suggest that assessment takes place within a community of practice and students and staff work together to construct an understanding of the standards. Dialogue within this community can help to ensure that assessment is an integral part of any course and support students to develop their own understanding of the standards to which they aspire. In addition assessment relies on staff making professional judgements which can’t always be articulated and it’s this professional judgement that provides room for students to excel beyond our expectations.

  • To what extent do we make space for this dialogue to take place when introducing assessment to students?

Re-blogged from http://inspire2learn.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/thinking-about-assessment/


- 2 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Sarah Richardson

    Thanks for this Emma.
    I’d like to add how very narrow assessment strategies are in HE. At the recent IATL workshop on assessment: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/iatl/news/?newsItem=094d43a23a96fd7c013a9e24fcd67d7e
    I was given the dubious task of defending the ‘written examination’ as a form of assessment. It was widely ridiculed as a satisfactory form of assessment, and this is backed up by research. Yet my analysis of summative assessment across all departments at Warwick demonstrated it was, by far, the most common form.

    04 Feb 2013, 22:31

  2. Emma King

    I think one of the challenges is that the written examination is considered to be efficient for a large number of students even if it isn’t always satisfactory in allowing students to demonstrate their learning appropriately. I wonder if this is true, or if it’s just a perception that other methods of assessment will take longer?

    An interesting example of an examination I believe is aligned to learning outcomes is the 24 online exam that takes place in a WBS module. This mirrors expectations in the workplace, the ability to turn round a piece of work within a given time frame.

    13 Feb 2013, 09:31


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