Assessment is a central element in learners’ higher education experience, but often it is also one of the most daunting experiences for many students for different reasons. The heavily teacher-centred, lecture-based higher education experience where students are the passive recipients of knowledge is changing – but are our assessments methods, our beliefs in what to evaluate and how to evaluate, changing as well?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution in assessment, just like in teaching. However, there is ample research suggesting that students benefit from formative and student-centred approaches to assessment. With formative assessment, teachers can use assessment as a way to understand where students are in their learning and further support them, and learners can see how they are developing and identify personal goals. Student-centred assessment is an excellent way to address diverse student needs and give students agency over their learning.
You might find the following model helpful in assessment design:
Image 1. A student-centred assessment and feedback cycle. Consider the student experience, your teaching philosophy, departmental requirements, and quality. How would you include students in this process? CC-BY-NC-SA. The model is inspired by JISC’s discover, dream, design deliver model.
1. Discovery: Where are students in their learning now?
This is the step where you identify where students are in their learning. Consider the learning context and learner profiles. What kind of resources are available to you? Is there an opportunity for learners to identify where they are at?
2. Setting a vision: What are you/your students aiming for?
This is the step where you and/or your students identify the reasons for assessment. What is your overall vision? What are the aims?
3. Design: What types of assessment and feedback methods would support students the best? When and how they will be assessed?
This is the step where you and/or your students decide which types of assessment and feedback methods will be used, when they will be used and how. An important consideration is the kind of learning climate you will set up with the assessment and feedback methods you use. For example, will your methods encourage independent, collaborative, self-reflective, or dialogic learning? Are there opportunities for self-reflection, development, revisions and refinement?
The list of varied assessment is a great resource where you can see the range of methods you can use.
You will also need to consider any departmental or programme requirements at this stage and issues with quality. Are there any tensions that need to be resolved before you begin?
4. Self-reflection: What would you do differently next time?
This is the step where you identify areas to improve and highlight successes in the assessment and feedback process, ideally together with your colleagues and students. You might consider getting some student feedback informally or using anonymous questionnaires.
- Bitesize Guide: Process mapping assessment and feedback
- Bitesize guide: How to draw up departmental guidelines
- Bitesize guide: Grading calibration exercises