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October 16, 2023

Past reflections, future outlook

Past reflections, future outlook: Update from the Warwick Learning Circle on diverse and inclusive assessment practices

by Kerry Dobbins, Isabel Fischer, Sam Grierson and Leda Mirbahai

Warwick’s International Higher Education Academy (WIHEA) has many features - one of them is that members only remain active members for three years before becoming alumni. The imminent handover of the co-leadership of the open learning circle on diverse and inclusive assessment practices made us, outgoing and new co-leaders, reflect on past initiatives and future directions.

Let’s start with an exciting future - what is new?

As we continue to move forwards with this work, we will become the ‘Inclusive Assessment Learning Circle’. This name change recognises our intention to embed the work on diverse assessments into a broader outlook which sees assessment in HE as a vehicle to promote equity and social justice. The wellbeing of students and staff will feature strongly in our ongoing discussions.

In line with our focus, the learning circle will be inclusive of:

  1. Assessment strategies and methods that are diverse, authentic, applied and decolonised - this broad understanding and acknowledgement of relevant issues in teaching, learning and the designing of assessments reflects the current landscape in HE and indicates the interest of our members. We hope to support the university reimagining the assessment design narrative, taking a view from programme level through to single assessment and placing assessment at the heart of curriculum design.
  2. Our members - we want members to be and feel actively engaged and involved in the learning circle.
  3. Students’ experiences – the work of the learning circle will be firmly focused on working with students so that collectively we can work to understand and support students’ needs and their personal and professional ambitions through assessment.

As for ‘past reflections’: What are the existing features of the learning circle worth keeping? There are in particular four features that worked really well in the past:

  1. Since its inception membership has grown steadily for three reasons: The membership of this particular LC is open to WIHEA as well as non-WIHEA members from across Warwick and other institutions, also internationally. The open membership has enriched the discussions and enabled establishment of networks nationally and internationally. Secondly, creating sub-groups not just raised interest, it also offered leadership opportunities to more members. The most popular sub-group was AI in education which in turn was split into six further strands / interest groups: Artificial Intelligence in Education (warwick.ac.uk). Lastly, the topic of the learning circles (assessment in its broadest term) has significant implications not only for educators but also for our learners.
  2. Many of our invited keynote speakers at the start of the bi-monthly meetings and at our mini-conference on assessments, captured the essence of their talks in blogs. Most of the blogs were published within WJETT (see the end of this blog for some examples, others were in other outlets, such as SEDA and SCiLAB. Even if not captured in blogs, did the keynote speeches result in interesting discussions and network opportunities.
  3. Extensive student corporations, with students supported by two WIHEA grants. One of the student participants even drafted an academic article based on her learning about assessments during her membership.
  4. Hosting workshops enabled dissemination of our findings and new resources, including the outputs of our funded projects. It also provided a platform to encourage co-learning and sharing amongst participants and facilitators (including student facilitators). Overall we hosted three workshops with the details of the workshops available from our webpage.

Finally, this is blog 15 in our diverse assessment series, some of the more recent blogs can be found here (with further links to previous blogs shown within some of the blogs below):


April 03, 2023

Democratising the feedback process

Blog 7 of our Diverse Assessment Learning Series, based on a recent keynote address as part of the Diverse Assessments WIHEA Learning Circle

Linda Enow photo

By Dr Linda Enow, from Newman University, Birmingham UK

We need to rethink feedback in Higher Education (HE). To examine feedback in HE, this contribution engages with democratic principles, and through Audio-Visual feedback (AVF) interrogates current feedback practices. Some current gaps in feedback research are on understanding the nature of student engagement and interaction with feedback, relational constituents of feedback processes, and the role of technology in supporting feedback processes. This paper posits that power imbalance with feedback is a barrier to effective feedback engagement and interaction. Embedded in the, now challenged, conceptualisation of feedback giver and feedback recipient dynamic is implicit power imbalance. A further challenge for feedback is the over-reliance on written feedback within which is arguably entrenched the ‘product’ conceptualisation of feedback. Through the exploration of democratic and cognitive requirements of feedback, this contribution traces an outlook which values equitable relationships and emphasises the positioning of feedback as a process. Insights on feedback processes in this piece have emerged from empirical work on audio-visual feedback.

Where we are in HE with assessment design?

Significant strides are being taken to design diverse assessment tasks in HE. These tasks are designed with due consideration of the diverse student population and established knowledge of andragogy. Typically, assessment design aims to showcase inclusion. With graduate outcome requirements for HEIs in the UK, assessments subsequently engage with the more utilitarian constituent of seeking applicability in workplace settings. Perhaps assessments should be more dynamic, for instance generated from cohort identity and depth of knowledge of the practice requirements of students, rather than current static assessment practices. In any case, progress made with assessment design and the thinking behind assessment practices demonstrates the ongoing effort of Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) to be diverse in their practices, and this is welcome effort in the right direction.

As we diversify assessments, is feedback left behind?

In the context of assessment, the corresponding element of feedback is left behind. Written feedback remains the dominant feedback mode. A small proportion engages with audio-feedback, typically as a one-off. Audio-Visual Feedback (AVF) despite demonstrating its multimodal composition (see West & Turner, 2016) is minimally used compared to written feedback and audio feedback (Lowenthal, 2021; Nicol, 2012). Audio-visual feedback is inclusive, multimodal, precise, and retains its quality over time hence guaranteeing portability. The nature of AVF embeds verbal feedback with access to the written assignment, and the use of technology to enable precision. Verbalising naturally offers more depth in explanation with the added advantage of capturing relational constituents of feedback. AVF is a suitable format for the thinking or the cognitive composition of the feedback to become explicit (see Nicol, 2021). For all involved in the feedback process engagement and interaction are both enhanced. A summation of these strengths is reflected in Payne et al. (2022) positioning audio and video feedback modes as humanising.

We no longer ‘give’ feedback

Contemporary research on feedback processes tracks the evolution of feedback from the now defunct perception of information which was given to the students, to the contemporary understanding that; first of all feedback is a process, and secondly feedback is dialogic, ongoing and embedded with andragogical expectations, as well as aspirations of transferability and portability (e.g. de Kleijn, 2023; Winstone et al., 2022a). Equipped with the understanding that saying you are giving feedback is no longer acceptable (Winstone, et al., 2022b) from the andragogical perspective, this paper makes the case to re-think feedback processes from the bases of democratic principles. Educating, especially in HEIs in the UK, is based on foundational democratic principles imbued with a variety of duties, rights and responsibilities. Power imbalance is therefore in conflict with these democratic principles. From the position of evaluating HEIs in the UK, Winstone et al., (2022b: 1524) raises the concern that National Student Survey (NSS) questions “promote an outdated view of feedback as information transmitted from teacher to student in a timely and specific manner, largely ignoring the role of the student in learning through feedback processes”.

How do we democratise feedback?

Democratic principles advocate freedoms, rights and responsibilities. If we think about feedback following democratic principles, we interrogate primarily the power imbalance in the lecturer-student relationship. The lecturer is in the powerful position of ownership of the feedback which they ‘give’ to the student (see Matthews, et al., 2021). The sense of ownership of the feedback content is taken away from the student and the student becomes a recipient. This power imbalance means the student has a skewed relationship with this feedback which is being imposed on them. What is the student to do with this feedback which has been given to them? What if the student does not identify with the feedback which has been given? Carless (2015:28) declares; impact on learning is limited unless students are actively engaging with feedback processes, and ultimately acting on feedback. Consensus on what these processes constitute is yet to be arrived at as De Kleijn (2023) requests clarity of the activities and strategies which must be applied in these feedback processes. When democratic principles are not followed, distance is created between the student and the feedback process.

In contrast to the lecturer-student feedback element, there is strong uptake of peer-feedback. Peer feedback (see Deneen & Hoo, 2023) supports feedback dialogue, evidences students’ feedback literacy and supports development of self-regulation skills. The strong interest in peer feedback is a result of the significant benefits. Nicol and McCallum (2022) assert that powerful insights are generated from student feedback, at times more powerful than teacher feedback. From the research which this contribution on democratising feedback draws on, the strength of peer feedback is being explored and understood from the position of power. There is the opportunity to redesign assessments to possibly capture and support these peer feedback partnerships linking them to assessment design. Moving away from the conceptualisation of feedback as product, to feedback as process serves to further democratisation of feedback. Careful consideration in incorporating peer feedback within this process contributes to improving feedback dialogue, and to establishing tangible steps. Continuing this dialogue using the audio-visual mode opens up relational spaces and further enhances feedback processes.

Audio-Visual Feedback (AVF)

The discursive nature of AVF assists in personalising feedback and modelling the expectation for engaging with feedback. The multimodal nature of audio-visual feedback (Lacković, and Popova, 2021) necessitates active designation of time to not only engage with feedback, but to interact with feedback. AVF supports the transition of feedback into a process. There is a challenge embedded in this; assessment design minimally factors in feedback avenues and suitable allocation of time for AVF. This is understandable as written feedback is dominant in HEIs in the UK. In order for AVF to attain its full potential, HEIs need to re-work their assessment and feedback policies. Re-working policies is definitely not to give more time to turnaround times; rather this is more time to work on effectively embedding AVF as a viable feedback avenue. AVF is not without its potential challenges. One example is large class sizes and staffing limitations in some HEIs. A potential solution is considering AVF for group assessments and group feedback. Teaching in HEIs is inherently multimodal; combining written, audio and audio-visual content. Why is feedback disproportionately in one format?

Some points to facilitate change
  1. Undertake an audit of feedback formats; recording written format, audio format, and audio-visual format.
  2. Interrogate power imbalance relating to feedback and explore institution-focused and relevant ways to improve the power imbalance.
  3. Co-design feedback processes in line with contemporary co-designing of assessments. Ensure feedback is not an add-on or an after-thought to assessments (see Ajjawi and Boud, 2018).
  4. Review assessment and feedback policies.
  5. Equity: establish feedback processes reflective of advances in learning, teaching and scholarship.
What next?

Feedback is a process involving students and lecturers in a shared space. Cognitive, sociocultural, social constructivist positions, amongst others are at play and space needs to be created for democratic principles. Alongside making sense of feedback, cognitive drivers pass judgement on the utility of feedback, and decision making guides portability of feedback. This contribution advocates the externalisation of these cognitive constituents as a precursor to democratising feedback. The argument is; the student has a right to know. Knowing in this way is empowering. Through democratisation, the student evolves from the position of a recipient to that of a partner in the feedback process. Partnership conjures images of ownership, responsibility and duties. Democratising feedback, through the medium of audio-visual feedback (AVF) removes the power imbalance, showcases the dialogic nature of feedback, and enhances subsequent portability of knowledge and skills. Whilst there is empirical work on feedback as a process, implementation in the structures of HEIs is yet to follow.

This is the 7th blog in our diverse assessment series. Previous blogs can be found here:

Blog 1: Launch of the learning circle (Isabel Fischer & Leda Mirbahai): https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/interested_in_diverse/

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

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

Blog 4: Assessment Strategy – one year after starting the learning circle (Isabel Fischer & Leda Mirbahai): https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/one_year_on/

Blog 5: Learnings and suggestions based on implementing diverse assessments in the foundation year at Warwick (Lucy Ryland): https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/learnings_suggestions_based/

Blog 6: How inclusive is your assessment strategy? (Leda Mirbahai): https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/blog_6_how/

Join the Diverse Assessment Learning Circle: If you would like to join 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). This LC is open to non-WIHEA members.

References

Ajjawi, R. & Boud, D. (2018) 'Examining the nature and effects of feedback dialogue', Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43:7, 1106-1119, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2018.1434128 https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2018.1434128

Carless, D. (2015) Excellence in university assessment: learning from award-winning practice. London: Routledge.

Deneen, C. C. & Hoo, H-T. (2023) 'Connecting teacher and student assessment literacy with self-evaluation and peer feedback', Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 48:2, 214-226, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2021.1967284 https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2021.1967284

de Kleijn, R. A. M. (2023) 'Supporting student and teacher feedback literacy: an instructional model for student feedback processes', Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 48:2, 186-200, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2021.1967283

Lacković, N. & Popova, B. (2021) 'Multimodality and socio-materiality of lectures in global universities’ media: accounting for bodies and things', Learning, Media and Technology, 46:4, 531-549, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2021.19286


February 20, 2023

Blog 6: How inclusive is your assessment strategy?

By Leda Mirbahai (Warwick Medical School)

Leda Mirbahai photo

Assessments are a fundamental part of student experience - with students learning by doing, i.e. by engaging with assessment tasks and then, after submission through the feedback they receive on their performance and progress Internal and External Examiner often ensure that assessment strategies are reliable, effective, and accurate, however, whether they are inclusive is often overlooked.

Considering the diversity of our student population, it is clear that ‘one size fits all’ approach to assessment design and delivery is not an inclusive assessment strategy which links with diversification of our assessment approaches (a point that we will come back to shortly). The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), UK’s quality code for higher education, lists 10 guiding principles on expectations and practices for assessment which are:

  1. Assessment methods and criteria are aligned to learning outcomes and teaching activities.
  2. Assessment is reliable, consistent, fair and valid.
  3. Assessment design is approached holistically.
  4. Assessment is inclusive and equitable.
  5. Assessment is explicit and transparent.
  6. Assessment and feedback are purposeful and supports the learning process.
  7. Assessment is timely.
  8. Assessment is efficient and manageable.
  9. Students are supported and prepared for assessment.
  10. Assessment encourages academic integrity.

As mentioned, a criteria of good assessment ‘strategy’ is to be inclusive and equitable. If one really reflects on the 10 principles, they are all interlinked. For example, it is very difficult to demonstrate an assessment strategy that is inclusive where assessment loads are not manageable for our students or students don’t receive equitable level of support. With Toolkits such as ‘Embedding inclusive assessment reflective toolkit’, a project funded by QAA, becoming available we can reflect on the assessment strategy of our courses and programmes by considering how well we align to attributes of an inclusive assessment. The toolkit starts to encourage a triangulation critic of our assessment approaches by involving major stakeholders from students, academics and leaders in the process and asking some key reflective questions. Reflecting on the 9 attributes of inclusive assessment as mentioned by this toolkit, most questions are basically reflecting on the principles of good assessment, which in my view indicates that if your assessment aligns to the principles, it should promote inclusivity.

As an academic staff leading the assessment strategy for a new UG course at WMS, I have been involved in the planning and delivery of a course level assessment strategy. As the course is new, it has removed some of the challenges of trying to alter and adjust existing assessments for individual modules. This raises an important concept; assessment strategies should be seen at course/programme level. Going back to principles of good assessments, we need to demonstrate how our assessments map to course level, year level and module level learning outcomes as well as ensuring students are supported and prepared for assessments. This highlights the gradual building of our learner’s skills and knowledge in a spiral curriculum and enabling them to receive continuous feedback on their progress in a meaningful way. Learners need to be able to visualise and reflect on their progress across the programme and to achieve this, our assessments in one module (skills, attribute and knowledge) need to meaningfully build on the previous modules; hence programme level approach being more desirable.

Using diverse assessments is a great way of acknowledging that ‘one size fits all’ approach to assessment design and delivery is not an inclusive assessment strategy. However, this also doesn’t mean that we should sprinkle our assessment programmes with as many different modes of assessments possible. Introducing too many different modes of assessments that are not revisited or are not utilising or building on skills and knowledge of a learner would just add to the level of stress encountered by our learner as it means our students need to learn a new and unfamiliar assessment approach just to use it once! Therefore, diversification should be achieved in a meaningful way rather than just for the sack of introducing new assessment modes.

Finally, in my view one of the most important aspects of a good assessment strategy is continuous reflection and improvement. There is no fixed perfect assessment strategy as our learners and their requirements are constantly changing. An assessment strategy that is developed and never revised will soon become unfit for the purpose it was developed. I know this as I am already making a list of changes that we need to embed into our assessment strategy and the course is only 3 years old! So I leave you with one question. How inclusive is your assessment strategy?

References

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education (2018) UK Quality Code for Higher Education advice and guidance: Assessments.

Embedding inclusive assessment-Reflective toolkit (2022), a QAA funded project. Developing a Set of Inclusive Assessment Design Attributes for use Across the Higher Education Sector (qaa.ac.uk)

This is the 6th blog in our diverse assessment series. Previous blogs can be found here:

Blog 1: Launch of the learning circle (Isabel Fischer & Leda Mirbahai): https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/interested_in_diverse/

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

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

Blog 4: Assessment Strategy – one year after starting the learning circle (Isabel Fischer & Leda Mirbahai): https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/one_year_on/

Blog 5: Learnings and suggestions based on implementing diverse assessments in the foundation year at Warwick (Lucy Ryland): https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/learnings_suggestions_based/

Join the Diverse Assessment Learning Circle: If you would like to join 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). This LC is open to non-WIHEA members.


February 13, 2023

AI for Good: Evaluating and Shaping Opportunities of AI in Education

By Isabel Fischer, Leda Mirbahai, and David Buxton

Following the rise of awareness of the opportunities (and threats) of artificial intelligence (AI) in education, we have created a task and finish group which aims to review and ‘imagine’ the opportunities and challenges of AI in education, incl. assessments. Our vision is to deploy AI as a tool to support all students, independent of background and socio-demographic characteristics, to be successful in their studies and in their future work, while ensuring academic integrity, as well as to support educators feel confident in using AI effectively in promoting learning. We are working in five (sub)groups:

  1. General AI in Education (AIEd) Opportunities & information sharing
  2. Novel and Diverse Assessment Designs
  3. Feedback, Marking, Authorship Detection
  4. Designing Teaching Content - ‘what is out there being developed?’
  5. 'Red Team': AI Ethics and Academic Integrity

As we are still interested in colleagues from within Warwick as well as other institutions and the wider community of stakeholders to join us, here some further information per (sub)group:

1) General AI in Education (AIEd) Opportunities & information sharing: We review how to capture, shape, and disseminate the opportunities for both learner-facing and educator-facing AI, mainly in HE but also considering how HE can support the secondary and even primary school sector (e.g. how to help teachers to experiment with different forms of AI in a low-stake environment). We also consider the benefits, such as reducing inequality, fairness and democratisation that AI offers, evaluating how we can support SDG 4 (equitable and quality education) and SDG 10 (reducing inequalities). We want to help educators to know how to potentially embrace recent AI developments for their professional practice. Combined with sub-group / Strand 5, the ‘red team’ we also want to inform colleagues on research (similar to mini literature reviews) on topics such as Algorithmic Fairness.

Target Output: A WIHEA page that is informative for colleagues new to AIEd (explanations, links to other resources, links to discussions / brainstorming exercises / blogs, suggestions for their practice)

2) Designing Assessments: We review the opportunities for designing and setting diverse assessments (Learner-facing), including embedding our work within our different Learning Circle’s work. It is in this strand that most of the student co-creation will take place.

Target Output: WIHEA page, blogs, and talks

3) Feedback and Marking: We review the opportunities of using AI for formative feedback (Learner-facing), summative feedback (Educator-facing), ‘AES – automated essay scoring’ (educator-facing), and stylometry (authorship authentication) as well as ChatGPT detection. One aspect of this strand (but not constrained to this strand) is also ‘Move fast, Break fast, Learn fast’ – doing small scale experiments and testing them (e.g., Consulting Students will experiment with mind maps this term and then can, but don’t have to, submit their work to the Warwick AI Essay Analyst for formative feedback and we can analyse their work).

Target Output: A WIHEA page that disseminates information and possibly diffusion of the actual Warwick AI Essay Analyst tool at Warwick, potentially producing research output

4) Designing Module and Lesson Content & Recommendations for institutional Developments / Purchases: Educator-facing, we review tools and initiatives that might help educators in planning and organising their modules and lessons, as well monitoring their email and forum entries. This group looks at all educator-facing areas besides designing assessments (group 2) and providing feedback on assessments (group 3). This group might also make recommendations to the institution on what software to build or to purchase etc.

Target Output: A WIHEA page that disseminates information, possibly making recommendations for in-house developments / purchase of external software packages

5) A ‘red team’ acknowledges that AI is here to stay and ensures we follow AI Ethics guidelines and that everybody is clear about the risks. This team also reviews and mitigates the challenges to Academic Integrity more broadly. Moreover, it reviews the risk of bought-in products from EdTech and Tech companies, ensuring that AI Ethics is applicable both for in-house and off the shelf, bought-in products.

Target Output: A WIHEA page that provides information for colleagues worried about AIEd (explanations, links to other resources, links to discussions) especially on the topic of AI Ethics and Academic Integrity (what is OK to do, what isn’t – where should students / educators draw the line). Collaborating with stand 1, this group might want to explain (do a high-level literature review / providing links to important research) aspects of AI Ethics / Academic Integrity, such as explaining concepts such as ‘Algorithmic Fairness’. Building on work by other groups, e.g., last year’s ‘Online Assessment Data Ethics Group’, this group might want to develop a proposal for SLEEC (https://warwick.ac.uk/services/gov/committees/sleec/) and/or to provide guidance and advice to EPQ on suitable policy and guidance where appropriate.

Proposed Overall Target for entire Task and Finish Group, i.e. across the five groups / strands: Have some tangible outputs (WIHEA page, blogs, talks) that support colleagues when they embrace change in an ethically sound way that respects all stakeholders, especially learners and educators. Ideally collaborating with other universities, other education providers, and industry. Possibly develop a proposal for SLEEC and/or provide guidance and advice to EPQ on suitable policy and guidance where appropriate.

Please email Isabel.fischer@wbs.ac.uk if you are interested in joining any of the groups.

Please email Leda.Mirbahai@warwick.ac.uk if you are interested in joining our open WIHEA Diverse Assessment Learning Circle with interesting talks, such as our talks this month on Synoptic Assessments and on Democratising Assessments.


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


February 2024

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  • Very interesting, thank you for sharing. Great CPD reflection. by Joel Milburn on this entry
  • Hi Lucy, Thank you for sharing the highs and lows of diverse assessments. I hope you have inspired o… by Anna Tranter on this entry
  • Hello Lucy, I totally agree with everything you have said here. And well done for having the energy … by Natalie Sharpling on this entry
  • Thank you for setting up this Learning Circle. Clearly, this is an area where we can make real progr… by Gwen Van der Velden on this entry
  • It's wonderful to read of your success Alex and the fact that you've been able to eradicate some pre… by Catherine Glavina on this entry

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