Assessment and feedback principles - draft for consultation

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1 Assessment and feedback principles - draft for consultation 1 Purpose The purpose of the attached discussion paper is to invite members of Faculty Teaching and Learning Committee to consider whether the proposed assessment and feedback principles support Newcastle University in offering consistently high quality assessment and feedback to all students. 2 Context The attached document sets out a series of nine principles to inform University policy, decisions and processes around assessment and feedback. These are not a formal policy in their own right, rather they seek to define a set of underlying principles which should be applied to all our assessment and feedback activities, irrespective of subject, discipline or level, and which can be contextualised to suit the specific situation. Institutionally, as we work towards 2012, it is important we have a consistent approach to assessment and feedback across all parts of the institution and all subjects. However it is recognised that it is almost impossible to legislate for all assessment activities across the University. It is much more appropriate to provide a set of principles to underlie and inform assessment and feedback which individual schools and academic units can apply to their own specific circumstances. Assessment and feedback is one of the main areas which has consistently received a lower score in student feedback whether the NSS or via the NUS. While recognising the many actions staff have taken to improve scores and acknowledging the positive impact their changes have had, it is an area which requires further effort from us. In the attached document for each principle there is a short definition, and explanation of the principle, then a small number of examples. At the end of the document there is a short glossary defining basic terms. It is hoped this format is clear and easily understood. 3 Status and Scope This paper is intended to prompt discussion of the principles which underlie our assessment and feedback practices and to invite your input on the proposed principles and their implementation to invite your input on the proposed principles and their implementation. 1

2 The principles were initially proposed by the Assessment Working Group, a subgroup of UTLSE, and have been drawn up following a period of detailed research looking at examples of good practice from other UK HEIs and institutions around the world; earlier drafts have benefited from detailed discussions with UK experts including Prof David Nicholl, University of Strathclyde. 4 Key Discussion Questions Do these principles fully encompass the wide range of activities we describe as assessment and feedback? Do we feel able to evidence and promote these principles as underpinning all our assessment and feedback processes? What additional work would be needed to ensure we can deliver these principles by 2012? What would be the most effective way to disseminate and support these principles? Colleagues are invited to suggest examples from their own discipline which can be added to the document. 5 Next Steps Your discussion will inform the further development of these principles, based on the feedback a revised version will be put forward to UTLSE as soon as possible after feedback has been received. Thank you for your assistance Sue Gill QuILT 2

3 Sue Gill QuILT March 2011 Assessment and Feedback Principles Purpose The University is committed to ensuring that assessment and feedback strategies support student learning/success. These principles take this objective as their starting point and seek to provide a framework for assessment and feedback which can be applied across the University. It is anticipated the principles will be used in three ways; to inform the development of institutional policy, to inform the design of assessment for programmes, stages, courses and modules, To share with students and staff, through appropriate mechanisms, to ensure roles and responsibilities are clear. In developing the principles one key concern is to recognise the importance of relevant flexibility for appropriate disciplinary differences. It is therefore expected these principles will be contextualised within the disciplines as appropriate. Principles Principle 1 Assessment and feedback are integral to supporting effective student learning. Assessment guides learning and provides a key tool for judging performance and the level of attainment, both to the student through formative assessment and feedback and for the institution and external stakeholders through summative assessment. For many students the assessment requirements of a programme define the curriculum. Well thought out and considered assessment and feedback can be a vital tool in significantly influencing student learning through guiding a student s study practices and rewarding the student for developing the skills, knowledge and abilities we value. 3

4 Assessment and feedback should be appropriate to the outcome and the year/level of the student and should allow the student to demonstrate their performance against criteria and their developing knowledge and skills. The policies and processes of assessment and feedback should be transparent to internal and external staff and students. A key role for assessment and feedback is in supporting the student to become a more selfreflective learner, who is able to self assess, peer assess and use their outcomes in conjunction with their assessment feedback to improve their performance. Module leaders include assessment information within handbooks, VLEs such as Blackboard and make use of this information when discussing upcoming assessment with students, so they have a greater understanding of the expectations of the assessment. Using exemplars drawn from student work as case studies for guided discussion, to enable students achieve a better understanding of what is required to achieve a mark at a specific level within the module Principle 2 Effective and efficient assessment and feedback are central to the curriculum design process The proposed assessment and feedback should be developed as a core part of the module or course, and programme. Assessment and feedback should relate clearly and directly to programme and module (or equivalent) aims and learning outcomes. Assessment tasks should be about encouraging effective student learning and should require students to engage with the subject material through encouraging time and effort on challenging learning tasks. Effective assessment results where programme teams ensure that proper consideration is given to assessment across the breadth of the programme ensuring the amount of assessment is consistent with a reliable and valid achievement profile. Assessment should be scheduled carefully during the academic year and the volume of work required should not overload staff or students. 4

5 Regular reviews of assessment on a programme are undertaken by all module leaders as a joint activity. These reviews look at the timing, methods and scope of the assessments to ensure, as far as possible, a balanced and comprehensive approach throughout the programme Principle 3 Assessment is valid, reliable and consistent Assessment tasks should be chosen carefully to ensure they assess the outcomes specified and information about assessment tasks should be clear, explicit, accurate and timely. Advice should also make explicit the requirements of assessment tasks for the benefit of staff, external examiners and students. The standards required of students should reflect the stage of the programme. Information about the assessment is made available at both programme and module (or equivalent) levels through a variety of media, such as student handbooks and the VLE. This includes detailed information tailored to the requirements of the students, thus information for new students includes more detail on the layout and structure of the piece of assessment and the referencing requirements than that provided for those final year students who require a more detailed discussion of student research-led projects. A programme team can consider how the language used to describe assessment tasks or questions changes to reflect the developing intellectual skills required of each stage of study. Principle 4 Opportunities for feedback and formative assessment are included in all programmes Wherever possible students should have opportunities to undertake appropriate formative tasks and receive feedback in order to close any gap between current and desired performance before undertaking summative assessment. In some modules (or equivalent) it may be appropriate that formative and part of the summative assessment are combined eg a mid term assessment before a final end of semester summative assessment In addition programme teams may wish to offer some form of diagnostic assessment for students at the start of their study. 5

6 A module requires students to undertake an initial assessment of their mathematical knowledge and uses the results to suggest or require students to attend additional maths classes, or undertake directed self study of on-line materials, in order to ensure students have the necessary mathematical skills to undertake the programme of study. On line tests delivered via University systems can be used for formative assessment and once devised rolls forwards from year to year. Principle 5 Feedback is consistently high quality and timely High quality feedback is constructive and encourages self assessment, reflection and making judgements against criteria and standards. It helps students to self-correct, and encourages motivation. In particular, high quality feedback is distinguished by how it helps to clarify what the student s current performance is against programme, module (or equivalent) goals, criteria and standards; recognises and specifies existing good practice on behalf of the student; and suggests possible strategies to enable the student to move towards the goals in weaker areas. Feedback should both reflect performance on the specific piece of work and provide forward looking support for ongoing student learning. It is recognised that students often lack the skills to assess their own work or that of others (self and peer assessment) and programme teams should consider how best to provide suitable training for students to enable them to become more proficient in this area. Students can, with academic guidance, devise assessment criteria which can be used with low stakes assessment such as posters or presentations. Through this process they can gain a deeper insight into the requirements of the assessment. Student assessment of the posters or presentations can be used as an additional element of the overall assessment. It is particularly beneficial where students are asked to provide a mark, their justification for the mark, and helpful high quality feedback for the poster or presentation owner. 6

7 Principle 6 Forms and methods of assessment and feedback are varied and appropriate Programme teams should take care to ensure a range of assessment and feedback methods are utilised for both summative and formative assessment. Through using a variety of assessment tasks, students should be encouraged to draw upon a range of skills and abilities, in addition to their discipline knowledge, to demonstrate their ability to apply their knowledge and understanding in new settings, both individually and in groups. This allows students to make specific links with the Graduate Skills Framework and the skills valued by employers. In addition a range of assessment methods ensures students can demonstrate their mastery of their subject in a variety of ways. Where new methods of assessment are introduced, such as peer assessment, OSCEs, online assessment etc, it is vital students are given the opportunity to practice the form of the assessment to ensure any summative assessments is measuring their subject knowledge and skills rather than their proficiency in the assessment method. Within a module students are assessed through practical, written and skills-based measures including fieldwork, reports and presentations; all of which contribute towards the final mark for the module. Principle 7 The University provides the appropriate environment and resources to ensure staff and students are supported adequately The University will support staff to undertake their role in assessment through access to generic and tailored workshops and individual pedagogic support provided by QuILT and the Staff Development Unit. Support and advice will be made available to students through a variety of media and routes to ensure they have access to clear information about their assessment and feedback. Quilt has a range of materials about assessment and feedback which can be viewed on the resources section of their web site. 7

8 The Staff Development Unit runs a range of workshops which deal with aspects of assessment and feedback, current workshops cover formative assessment and feedback, plagiarism and assessing group work, further details can be found on their web pages. Principle 8 Roles and responsibilities for both staff and students are communicated clearly For assessment and feedback to work effectively both staff and students have clear roles and responsibilities to play and these will be set out in relevant documents. For example the Student Charter and the Teaching Code of Practice The joint roles and responsibilities should be reinforced by staff when briefing students on assessment whether in class or through documentation. Principle 9 The University monitors and evaluates assessment and feedback through appropriate methods The University will monitor and evaluate its progress in implementing these principles through existing mechanisms such as Annual Monitoring, External Examiner reports, Heads of Schools and Internal Subject Reviews. Definitions Summative assessment assessment which provides a measure of achievement in respect of a student s performance in relation to the intended learning outcomes (QAA). This definition sees summative assessment as the measurement of achievement and the subsequent gaining of certification, licence to practice or approval to proceed. Formative assessment assessment designed to provide learners with feedback on progress and inform development (QAA). Feedback - feedback is information about how a student performed against a specified goal; it acknowledges success and points to how they could close the gap between their current performance and the goal. Ongoing assessment and feedback dialogue between students and staff, or students and peers, on the individual or group tasks they are undertaking in, for example, classes, seminars, labs or projects. 8

9 Valid -The assessment should measure what is intended. For example, to assess practical ability, it should look at how the results were obtained in addition to the results themselves. It should not test recall when problem solving is the subject of the assessment. Reliable and consistent - Assessment criteria and marking schemes should be robust so that grades are consistent when more than one assessor marks the work or when one assessor marks the work on different occasions. 9

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