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November 14, 2022

One year on: Progress update on our Diverse Assessments Learning Circle

Isabel Fischer (WBS) and Leda Mirbahai (WMS)

One year ago we created an open WIHEA Learning Circle on Diverse Assessments. Since we seem to be building a reputation as the ‘godparents of assessments’. In addition to contributing to diversifying assessment strategies across Warwick we aim to work towards providing equity in our assessment practices and to improve student experience. Assessments, if used effectively, are key to promoting learning for our students.

To encourage reflection and to drive change in how we use and view assessments in our programmes, we hosted a series of keynote speeches to start our regular meetings. Here one example from Kerry Dobbins, Academic Development Centre, on How to create an effective assessment strategy (drilling down – or up – from institutional, via course, to module level)

Assessment Strategy

My aim for this presentation was to highlight the conflation that often occurs between assessment ‘strategies’ and assessment ‘methods’. The term ‘strategy’ is often used when we are actually referring to the mode of assessment, e.g. ‘our assessment strategy is coursework or an online exam’. It is important to disentangle these terms so that we can take an explicitly strategic approach to designing assessments that supports inclusion at all levels, i.e., module, course/programme and institution. An assessment strategy develops a shared and holistic view of the course/programme between students and academics. At a macro level, there needs to be constructive alignment between module learning outcomes (LOs), course/programme LOs and graduate attributes. In this way, a programme level view is taken to what LOs are being assessed across modules and how. For diverse assessments this is extremely important because it ensures that a holistic view is taken in relation to how comfort with, skills for and literacy of different types of assessment methods are developed and scaffolded for students as the programme progresses. This strategic and holistic view also recognises the various transition points of the students’ journey; so first year assessments may start to introduce elements of doing things differently, that are built on in the second year, etc.

In essence then, a strategic approach is vital for inclusive assessment practices as it provides an explicit framework for developing assessment literacy skills and for assignment feedback to be clearly directed towards feeding forward into future assessment activities. Taking a strategic approach also provides greater opportunities for teams to develop a coherent view about the purposes and values of assessment; and how those shared values are threaded through the course or programme. Assessment is not value-free as we are always conveying value messages to students about what we assess and how. A programme strategy allows us to really consider our values and what we are trying to achieve with our assessment practices and processes overall.

Assessment strategy also occurs at the module level. Again, at this level the strategy is not the mode of assessment but how support to achieve within the assessment is structured into the module. For example, how is assessment and feedback literacy designed into the module curriculum? What does the pre and post-assessment support look like? What is the rationale for the mode of assessment being used? How is assessment (formative and summative) being used within the module to support learning, not just quantify it?

You might find the attached presentation and some of the texts below useful to review:

Boud and Associates (2010) Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education

Brunton et al (2016) Designing and developing a programme-focused assessment strategy: a case study

Scholtz (2016) (PDF) The assessment strategy: An elusive curriculum structure (researchgate.net)

If you are interested in this area, I would welcome you to get in touch: Kerry.Dobbins@warwick.ac.uk

For our learning circle we have also managed to secure funding to undertake a research project to capture both student and staff views of diverse assessments. Although the project is still ongoing, our student project officers, Molly Fowler and Pula Prakash, have managed to gather valuable data with an aim to feed into institutional considerations around assessment strategies.

Finally, if you want to find out more about our Learning Circle you can visit our webpage and you can read our previous blogs here:

Blog 1: Launch of the learning circle: https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/interested_in_diverse/

Blog 2: Creative projects and the ‘state of play’ in diverse assessments: https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/creative_projects_and/

Blog 3: Student experience of assessments: https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/a_student_perspective/

If you would like to join this learning circle please contact the co-leads: Leda Mirbahai, Warwick Medical School (WMS) (Leda.Mirbahai@warwick.ac.uk) and Isabel Fischer, Warwick Business School (WBS) (Isabel.Fischer@wbs.ac.uk).


March 14, 2022

Interested in diverse assessments? – Isabel Fischer et al.

Interested in diverse assessments? Join our learning circle for an exciting grant-funded project on the future of assessments.

Authors: Isabel Fischer; Leda Mirbaha; Lewis Beer; Dawn Collins; Peter Fossey; Celine Martin; Natasha Nakariakov; Pula Prakash; Farrah Vogel-Javeri

We have recently created an interdisciplinary learning circle which aims to optimise the learning opportunities for Warwick students. We want to ensure that the teaching and learning opportunities are inclusive and cater for our diverse student community. Assessment and feedback are critical stages in the learning process. Using diverse assessments will ensure that students are not unfairly disadvantaged or advantaged by a specific form of assessment. Although it is worth noting that what may count as diverse assessment in one faculty may not necessary be seen as a diverse assessment approach in another. Therefore, using diverse assessments comes with its own challenges and barriers such as:

  • Diversification without sufficient opportunity for students to practice and get familiar with the new and different forms of assessment, disadvantaging group of students that may not be as familiar with certain style of assessments
  • The resource and time component needed for familiarisation then reduces the uptake and engagement by faculty with more innovative assessment approaches

Therefore, the aim of this learning circle is to capture both staff and student experience of diverse assessments and to involve students, staff, and other stakeholders in shaping the future of assessments. Furthermore, the learning circle aims to develop practical recommendations on overcoming some of the challenges associated with use of diverse assessments which will significantly benefit the community.

To achieve this we need your support!

If we have not yet convinced you to join our learning circle, then read on:

Vision: Our vision is to foster an inclusive environment where assessments are designed and developed in partnership with students, staff, and external stakeholders, to effectively promote learning, valuing students’ uniqueness and considering their future employment(s) and wellbeing, as well as the social and environmental responsibility and sustainability of the wider community.

Mission. Our mission is to:

  • Gather existing data on practices around use of diverse and inclusive assessments, including Warwick staff and student experiences
  • Develop shared understanding of principles and practice of diverse assessment
  • Develop an evaluative framework for measuring the success of diversified assessment strategies at module, year, and course level
  • Capture student and staff views on diverse assessments

To help us achieve our mission we have successfully applied and been awarded a WIHEA funding which will enable us to capture staff and student experiences of some of the diverse and innovative assessment approaches used in different disciplines to address some of the key questions around: 1) perception of diverse assessments from a staff and student perspective, 2) practical tips for successful application of the assessment method and marking, 3) communicating assessed skills and requirements, 4) overcoming challenges. To achieve this, we will conduct interviews with staff and students and will share resources, included but not limited to examples of assessments, marking and feedback rubrics and assessment briefs.

For further information on joining the learning circle please contact the co-leads: Leda Mirbahai, Warwick Medical School (WMS) (Leda.Mirbahai@warwick.ac.uk) and Isabel Fischer, Warwick Business School (WBS) (Isabel.Fischer@wbs.ac.uk)

Stay tuned for further updates and blogs on our initiative, such as: Creative Projects and the ‘state of play’ in diverse assessments – Lewis Beer


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