Assessment is a generic term for a set of processes that measure the outcomes of students' learning, in terms of knowledge acquired, understanding developed and skills gained. (QAA Code of Practice on Assessment of Students - May 2000). It follows that the high quality of student learning outcomes (knowledge, skills, competences, etc.) are assured by setting and enforcing clearly defined and rigorous standards in and through assessment, and by assisting and supporting students in the attainment of those standards. This definition encompasses peer and self-assessment by students in procedures managed by academic staff.
2 Purpose of the Policy Statement The policy statement and guidelines that follow are intended to support the staff of the University in implementing the University's commitment to good practice, in particular via:
- the identification, maintenance and communication of standards of student achievement to be tested through assessment;
- the provision of clear information about the various elements of the assessment process and their purposes;
- the implementation of procedures to ensure the validity, fairness and reliability of assessment judgements;
- the establishment of clearly publicised, fair procedures for dealing with problems that may arise in the course of assessment.
3 Policy Statement The University fully accepts its responsibility for the setting, maintenance, comparability and understanding of the academic standards relating to its awards and recognises that the achievement of those standards by students is both supports and measured by the assessment of learning outcomes. The University will, therefore:
- have in place mechanisms for monitoring and updating practices and procedures for the identification and maintenance of student achievement;
- seek to ensure that assessment judgements are valid, fair and reliable;
- put in place effective systems for ensuring the comparability of standards of awards within the University and similar awards elsewhere, such as a comprehensive external examiner system, peer review of courses and commonly understood (generic) assessment criteria;
- put in place frameworks and regulations within which standards are, or can be, specified and understood;
- provide for each module and course descriptors of expected levels of student achievement which provide clear and unambigious information on what is required of a student to achieve any grade or class of award;
- provide descriptions of the expected levels of student performance for both subject specific learning outcomes and non-subject specific learning outcomes (personal and transferable skills);
- provide clear information for students at the start of their studies on the nature, number and timing of assessments to be undertaken;
- wherever possible, provide prompt feedback to students on assessment outcome that assists them to maximise their potential and achieve specified learning outcomes;
- ensure that there is clarity of purpose for each assessment task that students are set and that the assessments are designed to achieve their purpose;
- ensure that the range of assessments which are used adequately measure the achievement by students of the specified learning outcomes of any module and course;
- ensure that assessment methods are reviewed and evaluated;
- have in place policies and procedures to deal thoroughly, fairly and expeditiously with problems that arise during assessment, to include:
i) actions to be taken in the event of academic misconduct by a student:
ii) the grounds a student may employ for requesting the review of the decisions of a Board of Examiners. The grounds will exclude appeals against academic judgement;
- ensure that assessment is carried out by appropriately qualified staff, who have been adequately trained and briefed;
- provide opportunities for staff involved in assessment to update and enhance their expertise as assessors;
- have in place policies and procedures for the operation of Assessment Boards.
4 Assessment Guidelines The University recognises three categories of assessment:
diagnostic assessment provides an indicator of a learner's aptitude and preparedness for a programme of study and identifies possible learning problems
formative assessment is designed to provide learners with feedback on progress and inform development, but does not contribute to the overall assessment
summative assessment provides a measure of achievement or failure made in respect of a learner's performance in relation to the intended learning outcomes of the programme of study
Any assessment instrument can, and often does, involve more than one of these elements. So, for example, much coursework is formative in that it provides an opportunity for students to be given feedback on their level of attainment, but also often counts towards the credit being accumulated for a summative statement of achievement. An end-of-module or end-of-programme examination is designed primarily to result in a summative judgement on the level of attainment the student has reached. Both formative and summative assessment can have a diagnostic function. Assessment primarily aimed at diagnosis is intrinsically formative, though it might, rarely, contribute towards a summative judgement.
It is clear that these categories can overlap, particularly diagnostic and formative assessment. The University requires course designers to take particular care over which types of assessment are used for the measurement of student performance.
The University also recognises that assessment has a number of purposes:
- to motivate students, by providing opportunities to review and consolidate learning by requiring them to demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge, understanding and skills that they have developed during their studies;
- to provide students with accurate information on their strengths and weaknesses in relation to the achievement of assessment learning outcomes with the objective of helping them to improve the quality of their knowledge, understanding and skills;
- to enable students to demonstrate to internal examiners (assessors) the extent to which they have achieved the learning outcomes of modules and courses, and ipso facto to enable the examiners to certify to others (inside and outside the University) that students have met a defined standard of performance and are qualified (or not) for awards or progression;
- to contribute to quality assurance by facilitating the monitoring of the extent to which course providers are achieving their objectives and students are achieving appropriate standards.
The University recognises two main purposes of assessment which may of may not overlap in any particular element of assessment and which do not relate in any simplistic way to the division of assessment into in-course and end of course, or diagnostic, formative and summative descriptions.
Firstly, in learning, by providing highly effective "time on task", giving students feedback on their performance and providing motivation for deep learning. Secondly, in maintaining and demonstrating standards by providing measurements of student performance and opportunities for quality assurance. Although it is clear that the two purposes may overlap, it is essential that the balance and purpose of each should be carefully considered for each module and course.
In particular, the University recognises the value of assessment, including student centred assessment as an extremely effective means of facilitating deep learning, maximising the effectiveness of the use of students' time and motivating students. However, it also recognised that some assessments, which are very effective in facilitating learning and providing feedback, are not very discriminating may provide little feedback (eg. examinations where scripts are not returned to students). In general, within the bounds of a reasonable and manageable assessment workload for both staff and students, the balance should be such as to reduce, as far as possible, the amount of assessment used solely for standards purposes.
5 General Considerations Assessment judgement encompasses the extent to which a student has satisfied the learning outcomes of a module or course, and of the award, in relationship to clearly defined criteria that relate to marks or classification. It follows that assessments should be designed to measure the stated learning outcomes.
It is recognised that it will be necessary to make judgements as to whether to make criteria, marking schemes, etc. available for all assessments (eg. there is little point in repeating generic criteria that apply to individual assessments and marking schemes may not be appropriate for some forms of assessment). While criteria may be appropriate for major pieces of work such as projects and long essays, they might not be for tests, multiple choice questions etc. However, it is expected that all assessment will be consistent with the overall criteria for the module or course concerned. For further advice and the requirements to provide information for external examiners.
In order to achieve the general purpose of assessment, that there should be an appropriate match between assessment strategies and learning objectives, course teams should ensure that their assessment practices are:
fair, in that they make requirements of students that are reasonable and that are conducted in an equitable manner;
valid, in that they employ assessment methods that are appropriate for indicating whether learning objectives have been achieved;
reliable, in that they deliver judgements that are accurate and have been subject to appropriate forms of confirmation.
In framing assessment regulations and in their assessment practices, course teams should have regard to issues of equal opportunities and the avoidance of discrimination by:
- showing sensitivity concerning the content of assessments;
- paying attention, when preparing assessments and scheduling assessment tasks, to the needs of students with specific learning difficulties and of disabled students;
- the use of non-discriminatory marking and assessment practices.
6 Information about assessment The Charter for Higher Education (DFE 1993) states that institutions should inform students, in advance, how their learning will be assessed. In addition to access to the University's academic regulations, course teams should give consideration to providing information on any of the following if they are incorporated in specific course regulations:
- learning outcomes;
- the purpose, method and schedule of in-course and end of course assessments;
- the format of examination papers and the deadlines, format, length and structure of other forms of assessment;
- details of group projects and how marks will be apportioned;
- where appropriate, criteria for assessment including descriptions of expected standards of achievement, what is expected for a pass and for any grade or classification;
- which elements of assessment will count towards assessment totals, classification etc. and which will not;
- where appropriate, the marking and assessment mechanisms that will be used;
the consequences of assessment, for example progression and award regulations and rules for the aggregation of elements of assessment within courses, units or modules;
- the treatment of late submission of assessment work or missed examinations;
- the right to resubmit work, be reassessed or to defer assessment, together with any penalties that may apply;
- any restrictions on the marks, grades or level of award which can be obtained on the basis of reassessment.
This information should normally be provided in student handbooks and be supplemented by references to the University’s academic regulations.
7 The assessment process Course teams should consider a variety of assessment strategies to match the diversity of educational provision. The objectives of courses are likely to be met when:
- assessment methods and associated criteria reflect the range of learning objectives of a course or module;
- assessment tasks are stimulating and demanding and are at an appropriate level;
- students experience a range of different types of assessment.
Course teams should consider how to provide students with regular, effective and prompt feedback on their performance. In particular, the timing and extent of feedback should be considered and whether it is to be accompanied by a return of the assessed work to students.
Feedback on students’ assessed work is likely to be most effective when it relates to learning objectives and any published assessment criteria and where it provides students with an opportunity to respond to, and build upon, the feedback provided by assessors on why they have made particular assessment judgements.
Assessment schemes should be scheduled to avoid excessive or very unbalanced workloads for students and for staff and to avoid late changes in assessment arrangements.
8 Marking, moderation and documentation Course teams should develop local policies and practices relating to assessment which are consistent with the University’s academic regulations. Course teams should ensure that assessment practices are fair, valid and reliable and without bias and inconsistency by ensuring that:
- marks are awarded in accordance with clear and consistent generic or specific assessment criteria, grade/classification descriptors and, where appropriate, marking schemes;
- appropriately qualified staff are responsible for marks awarded (this does not preclude peer and student centred assessment managed by staff);
- experienced members of staff systematically scrutinise and oversee assessment carried out by postgraduate students, part-time tutors, demonstrators, work-place supervisors and teaching assistants until such time as they have been trained to assess to the required standards.
The University does not prescribe particular marking strategies. However, course teams should make clear which of the following strategies they will adopt:
- use of the University’s approved procedures for anonymous marking;
- use of second marking where student work is assessed by more than one marker, but the second marker knows the mark assigned by the first marker;
- use of double blind marking, where student work is independently assessed by more than one marker;
- use of sampling, where second markers review a representative sample of students’ assessed work, for the purposes of checking the consistent application of assessment criteria and moderating marks;
- use of single marking where it is clear that double marking would not improve the accuracy of judgements made.
Wherever possible, course teams should analyse the marking trends of individual markers or groups of markers to facilitate comparisons.
The University will provide students with certificates relating to the achievement of an award. However, course teams should consider providing students with:
- a transcript documenting progress during a course;
- profiles with detailed information on the acquisition of transferable skills or other records of achievement.
When communicating assessment results to students, course teams should consider matters such as:
- timeliness in announcing results and the need for students to know when this will occur;
- whether results will be made public or restricted to the individual student.
Academic Policy, Sept 2001 Assessment Policy - Page of