I continue to share brief lessons from the modules in the Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching MOOC.

You can enrol here.

Assessment: An introduction is Module 15 and part of the Enhancing your teaching pathway through the course. It was developed by Associate Professor Amanda White (University of Technology, Sydney) and Audrea Warner (University of Auckland).

This introductory module explores assessment design, communication, and marking. It asks:

  • What will you ask students to do so that they may demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes?
  • How will you convey how to go about completing the assessment task to students?
  • How do you set up criteria and a marking guide to ensure consistency of results?

Joughin (2009) defines assessment as “[making] judgments about students’ work, inferring from this what they have the capacity to do in the assessed domain, and thus what they know, value, or are capable of doing” (p. 16). Assessment is an integral component of the student learning experience, and Ramsden (2003) asserts that “from our students’ point of view, assessment always defines the actual curriculum” (p. 82).

Purposes of assessment

We often default to thinking of assessment as tasks, such as essays or exams, which are assessed by teachers. However, assessment occurs any time someone makes a judgement about what they or someone else has done in a particular domain.

Assessment thus includes moments when students come to understand what they are capable of based on their work (self-assessment), as well as students judging their classmates (peer assessment).

Assessment need not involve marks, grades or teachers.

Reflect on one of your current assessment tasks

The module provides engaging resources to guide reflection and encourages participants to discuss assessment with colleagues.

Working through the module requires an exemplar assessment to enable the application of theoretical perspectives to practice.

With an assessment task in mind, consider the following questions:

  • Do you have an understanding of the following characteristics of your students:
    • their prior learning and skills?
    • the student profile in your class? (this may include demographics, previous study history, academic performance, gender and English language proficiency); and
    • whether any students require learning support or accessibility support?
  • Have expectations of the assessment task been clearly communicated to the students?
  • Have students actively engaged with the university’s expectations regarding academic integrity for this task and their studies? (not just information posted on the learning management system)
  • Are there processes in place to ensure that teachers marking the assessment are consistent across all learners?

Consider assessment across the course as a whole

The following questions relate to information about the course as a whole. Meet with your Course Coordinator or Director and teaching team and answer the following:

  • What is the student workload for all units in the study period?
  • What other assessment tasks are due around the same time? Is there a schedule of assessments that you can access? Is coordination of assessment due dates possible?
  • How could assessment load impact student learning in your unit?
  • What types of learning environments will students use within your unit to access, conduct and submit their assessment tasks?
  • Will assessment submissions by students remain secure and accessible by authorised university staff only?
  • What is the mechanism to provide feedback to students, and do you need to consider whether feedback needs to remain secure and confidential?
  • What expectations do other people in your department have on the assessment tasks in your unit? Is this assessing knowledge or skills that will be a prerequisite in later subjects?
  • Is there an over-arching learning engagement and assessment strategy for your course that must be followed? For example, the maximum percentage for group work or group work sizes or the use (or exclusion) of specific assessment types.

This is just one of the activities in the module. For further information about the context of assessment, refer to the Guide to the Assessment Design Decisions Framework.

The next blog post in this series will explore Module 16: Assessment in focus in which Amanda and Audrea explore rubrics, group assessment, academic integrity, and moderation.

Enrol in the MOOC to access more content – it’s free!

The Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching MOOC is free, self-paced and open to all. You can choose to complete just one module, a whole pathway to receive a digital badge (which is 8 modules) or more. Each module takes approximately 2 hours.


Previous posts in this MOOC series

Banner image: Photo by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay.
Purposes of assessment – Image credit: Amanda White and Audrea Warner (with permission).
Apple reflection image: Photo by Galina-Photo on Shutterstock.

Posted by Agnes Bosanquet

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