Assessing student learning

Assessing student learning

Assessment principles | Feedback principles | Submitting assignments | Marking assessments | Assessment Strategy Support

Assessment is not simply a method of grading, judging and reporting on student performance. When designed effectively, assessments can engage students and facilitate learning, provide the opportunity to develop skills and help students to reflect on, improve or build confidence in their academic ability. The table below lists the most common forms of assessment ordered by the qualities or skills you are enabling.

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

 

Accessing and managing information

Brief overview Skills or literacies Prep Student Marking
Dissertation A written report on a theme or project, usually written as an individual. Reflection, organisation, written communication

Low

High

High

Group projects Could consist of a practical task, discussion, research, etc. complete as a group. Cooperative working, problem solving, negotiation.

Low

High

Low

Top

Demonstrating knowledge and understanding

Brief overview Skills or literacies Prep Student Marking
Written exam Answering questions to test individuals’ understanding, could be short MCQs or essay questions. Recollection, describing and recounting information, non-verbal communication.

Low

High

Medium

Oral presentation Solo or group presentation of research, case study etc.; or practical demonstration. Communication, organisation, presentation.

Low

Medium

Low

Report Write up of a project, field trip or laboratory experiment, individually or as a group. Research, investigation, information management, written communication. Low High High
Essay A piece of structured writing, usually written as an individual. Developing arguments, searching and managing information sources, written communication. Low High High
Multiple-choice questions Short questions used to assess individual learning and understanding. Recollection, identifying and relating. Medium Medium Medium
Short answer questions Short questions used to assess individual learning and understanding. Recollection, identifying and relating. Medium Medium Medium

Top

Performing procedures and demonstrating techniques

Brief overview Skills or literacies Prep Student Marking
Observation of real or simulated professional practice Assessing practical skills in a realistic work situation, as a group or individual. Carrying out instructions and following protocols, problem solving. High Medium Low
Laboratory/practical work Working as groups or individuals to apply knowledge to a practical situation. Computation, using equipment, following procedures and protocols. Medium Medium Medium
Write, script and produce a video Work as a group to create short video to present results of research or project. Communication, organisation, presentation, technical. Medium High Low

Top

Solving problems and developing plans

Brief overview Skills or literacies Prep Student Marking
Case studies Individuals or groups are presented with a real-life scenario or problem that needs to be solved. Problem solving, decision making, team working. Medium Medium Medium
Group projects Could consist of a practical task, discussion, research, etc. complete as a group. Cooperative working, problem solving, negotiation. Low High Low

Top

Thinking critically and making judgements

Brief overview Skills or literacies Prep Student Marking
Essay A piece of structured writing, usually written as an individual. Developing arguments, searching and managing information sources, written communication Low High High
Report Write up of a project, field trip or laboratory experiment, individually or as a group. Research, investigation, information management, written communication. Low High High
Reflective Practice Assignments Reflection on personal experiences and practice to develop learning. Reflection, self-evaluation, self-assessment. Low Medium Low
Modified Essay Questions (MEQs) A sequence of questions based on a case study. After students have answered one question, further information and questions are available. Problem solving, data analysis, reflection. Medium High High

Top

Designing, creating and performing

Brief overview Skills or literacies Prep Student Marking
Portfolio A way of regularly building up evidence of learning over the course of a module, normally as an individual but could be done in a group. Research, investigation, written communication and presentation skills. Medium High High
Poster Ideal for group work, a way of communicating information visually. Research, communication, presentation. Low Low Low
Oral presentation Solo or group presentation of research, case study etc; or practical demonstration. Communication, organisation, presentation. Low Medium Low
Roleplay Working in a group, students take on different roles and personalities in a scenario. Communication, performing, behavioural analysis. Low Medium Low
Podcast Work as a group to create an audio recording on a theme. Communication, organisation, presentation, technical. Low Medium Low

Top

Communicating

Brief overview Skills or literacies Prep Student Marking
Interview Student can be interviewed by tutor as part of oral exam, or work as a group as a roleplay exercise. Communication, research, debating skills. Low Medium Low
Oral presentation Solo or group presentation of research, case study etc; or practical demonstration. Communication, organisation, presentation. Low Medium Low
Roleplay Working in a group, students take on different roles and personalities in a scenario. Communication, performing, behavioural analysis. Low Medium Low
Podcast Work as a group to create an audio recording on a theme. Communication, organisation, presentation, technical. Low Medium Low

Top

Managing and developing oneself

Brief overview Skills or literacies Prep Student Marking
Peer- and self-assessment Identifying criteria to apply to work, and then evaluating whether criteria has been met. Reflection, evaluation, assessment. High Medium Medium
Portfolio A way of regularly building up evidence of learning over the course of a module, normally as an individual but could be done in a group. Research, investigation, written communication and presentation skills. Medium High High
Journal/Learning Logs/diaries A way of regularly building up evidence of learning over the course of a module, normally as an individual but could be done in a group. Research, investigation, written communication and presentation skills. Low Medium Low

Top

Examinations

Brief overview Skills or literacies Prep Student Marking
Unseen essay Students do not see the exam paper in advance and must provide 2 or 3 short essay answers under exam conditions in a fixed period of time. Recollection, comprehension, argument, concision.

Low

High

High

Unseen short-answer An unseen paper that does not require students to provide essay length answers. Answer length can vary from a single word or short sentence to a paragraph. Recollection, describing and recounting information, non-verbal communication.

Medium

High

High

Seen essay Students are given the paper in advance allowing them to prepare outline answers. They must rely on memory to reproduce their answers. Recollection, describing and recounting information, non-verbal communication. Low Medium High
Open book (exam conditions) A form of unseen essay exam as above, but students are permitted to bring their notes into the exam to consult in constructing their answers. Recollection, describing and recounting information, non-verbal communication. Low Medium High
Open book at home Students are allowed a fixed time to deliver their answers. During that time they are permitted to use any materials and resources they have available to them to answer the questions. Describing and recounting information, non-verbal communication. Low Medium High
Online tests and simulations From simple multiple-choice tests to complex interactive simulations set up in virtual worlds. Recollection, investigation, technical High Medium Medium
Multiple choice/ single best answer/ extended matching An unseen exam in which students are given a range of possible answers to each question and asked to select the correct one. Recollection, identifying and relating. Low Medium Low
Problem/case based exams Can be seen or unseen, exam-based, online or take-home. Can be anything from responding to a particular scenario, working through a complex calculation, constructing a case study from a variety of materials, etc. Research, investigation, problem solving. High Medium Medium
Oral examinations Can be used individually or in groups to test both knowledge and non-written practical skills.. Communication, organisation, presentation. Low Medium High

Top

Support for Assessment Strategy

This page provides information and resources to support the implementation of the University of Leicester Assessment Strategy and the accompanying Self-Assessment Tools.

While using the Self-Assessment Tools, the following links provide useful resources appropriate to each of the Design Principles

Design Principle 1

Design Principle 2

Design Principle 3

Design Principle 5

Design Principle 6

Assessment principles

Assessment is part of an overall strategy for learning: each individual assessment should be aligned to one or more of the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO) for the module and/or programme. Over-assessment or ‘assessment for assessment’s sake’ can then be avoided.

Assessment can be used:

  • AS learning
  • FOR learning
  • OF learning

Rowntree (1987, pp15-31) identified six primary purposes of assessment and feedback: selection

  • maintaining standards
  • motivation of students
  • feedback to students
  • feedback to the teacher
  • preparation for life

Types of assessment - some definitions

Definitions of assessment from University of Exeter website

Formative assessment Assessment ‘FOR’ and ‘AS’ Learning.

Formative assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning. It does not contribute to the final mark given for the module; instead it contributes to learning through providing feedback. It should indicate what is good about a piece of work and why this is good; it should also indicate what is not so good and how the work could be improved. Effective formative feedback will affect what the student and the teacher does next.

Examples of formative assessment

Summative assessment Assessment OF learning

Summative assessment demonstrates the extent of a learner's success in meeting the assessment criteria used to gauge the intended learning outcomes of a module or programme, and which contributes to the final mark given for the module. It is normally, though not always, used at the end of a unit of teaching. Summative assessment is used to quantify achievement, to reward achievement, to provide data for selection (to the next stage in education or to employment). For all these reasons the validity and reliability of summative assessment are of the greatest importance. Summative assessment can provide information that has formative/diagnostic value.

'Authentic' or work-integrated assessment

'Authentic' or work-integrated assessment is an assessment where the tasks and conditions are more closely aligned to what you would experience within employment. This form of assessment is designed to develop students skills and competencies alongside academic development.

Diagnostic assessment

Like formative assessment, diagnostic assessment is intended to improve the learner’s experience and their level of achievement. However, diagnostic assessment looks backwards rather than forwards. It assesses what the learner already knows and/or the nature of difficulties that the learner might have, which, if undiagnosed, might limit their engagement in new learning. It is often used before teaching or when a problem arises.

Dynamic assessment

Dynamic assessment measures what the student achieves when given some teaching in an unfamiliar topic or field. An example might be assessment of how much Swedish is learnt in a short block of teaching to students who have no prior knowledge of the language. It can be useful to assess potential for specific learning in the absence of relevant prior attainment, or to assess general learning potential for students who have a particularly disadvantaged background. It is often used in advance of the main body of teaching.

Synoptic assessment

Synoptic assessment encourages students to combine elements of their learning from different parts of a programme and to show their accumulated knowledge and understanding of a topic or subject area. A synoptic assessment normally enables students to show their ability to integrate and apply their skills, knowledge and understanding with breadth and depth in the subject. It can help to test a student's capability of applying the knowledge and understanding gained in one part of a programme to increase their understanding in other parts of the programme, or across the programme as a whole1. Synoptic assessment can be part of other forms of assessment.

Criterion referenced assessment

Each student’s achievement is judged against specific criteria. In principle no account is taken of how other students have performed. In practice, normative thinking can affect judgements of whether or not a specific criterion has been met. Reliability and validity should be assured through processes such as moderation, trial marking, and the collation of exemplars.

Ipsative assessment

This is assessment against the student’s own previous standards. It can measure how well a particular task has been undertaken against the student’s average attainment, against their best work, or against their most recent piece of work. Ipsative assessment tends to correlate with effort, to promote effort-based attributions of success, and to enhance motivation to learn.

 

1 QAA (2006) Code of Practice for the Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards in Higher Education, Gloucester: Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Feedback principles

The quality of feedback provided to students about their academic performance is a fundamental element of the University of Leicester's approach to learning and teaching, as articulated in the Student Feedback Code of Practice.

Good feedback can be as valuable a learning method as any teaching; in the case of distance learning programmes, feedback is often one of the main teaching and learning activities. To be useful to the student, feedback needs to be:
  • Timely. It is of no use to the student if they don’t receive feedback on their first submission before they have to submit their second. Overarching that, the University requires campus-based programmes to return feedback within 21 calendar days, and distance learning programmes within 28 days.
  • Clear. Feedback should be easy to read, and written in a compact but direct and to-the-point style.
  • Relevant. Feedback should relate specifically to the student and skills assessed. For each piece of feedback, a student should be able to see exactly what they need to do to improve or develop before the next submission. Phrases such as ‘be more critical’ are common, but next to useless if the student doesn’t know how to be critical already (or what that means).
  • Positive. Feedback shouldn’t be provided with rose-tinted glasses, but it should always focus on improving, rather than confirming poor performance. Focus on a solid base, and provide feedback to help the student take steps in the right direction.
Nicol and Macfarlane (2006, pp 205-215) suggest seven principles of good feedback practice, that might strengthen the students’ capacity to self-regulate their own performance. Good feedback practice:
  1. helps clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards);
  2. facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning;
  3. delivers high quality information to students about their learning;
  4. encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning;
  5. encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem;
  6. provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance;
  7. provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape teaching.

David J. Nicol & Debra Macfarlane‐Dick (2006) Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, 31:2, 199-218, DOI: 10.1080/03075070600572090

The Feedback Handbook from the University of Sheffield School of Architecture (SSoA) provides a very good guide to giving and receiving feedback.

Feedback Guide for Lecturers, University of Winchester, via TESTA

Submitting assignments

After you have designed or modified your assessment design you will need to consider how it will be compiled and submitted.

Choices in this area depend very much on the type of assessment and the number of students and staff involved:

Examinations are organised to a prescribed pattern, and arranged by Student Academic Services. See Exams and Assessment.

Written work such as essays, reports, theses are normally prepared electronically by the student. Some departments still require printed copies for submission - and in the case of dissertations, theses and non-standard forms, printed copies are normally required. For all other submissions, however, online submission provides a flexible, faster and cheaper method for the student. There are two recognised ways to receive (and subsequently mark and process) submissions online:
  1. Online submission via Blackboard. This uses Turnitin (which incorporates a plagiarism check and is the recommended choice) or Blackboard Assignments (without a plagiarism check) to collect submissions ready for marking.
  2. Setting up a Turnitin submission (ITS Help)
  3. Setting up a Blackboard Assignment (ITS Help)
  4. Online submission via the Student Records System. A full assignment submission and handling system is currently being piloted with several departments - with an aim to offer it more widely in the future.
  5. Other, simpler, methods are also in use by departments: the simplest requires the students to submit work via an email attachment - although this then requires manual downloading, storage and tracking by the department.
Tests and Multiple Choice Questions can be created and marked automatically within Blackboard. The range of question types will suit most needs, but there is currently no support for branched questions.
For summative tests, good practice includes:
  • Creating one or more ‘question banks’ in Blackboard, from which questions can be drawn randomly for each student. This makes it harder for students to trade answers.
  • Students can either be asked to complete the test within a limited timescale (eg. a 24 hour period), or can be asked to take the test in parallel within a computer lab. Both methods reduce the possibility of cheating.
...and for Multiple Choice Questions specifically:
  • Write clear and specific questions, so that the meaning is obvious; avoid negatives and double negatives (easy to miss when reading under pressure).
  • In the list of answers, make sure only one is correct, and avoid padding the rest with frivolous or ridiculous statements. On first glance, all should look plausible; on closer inspection, only one can be correct.
  • Avoid using ‘all of the above’, ‘none of the above’ or similar (they are easier to ‘guess’ once the student has identified at least one correct answer).
  • Spread the correct answer around evenly - so that in a test with ‘A’ to ‘D’ options, a student choosing ‘A’ for all questions will only achieve 25%.
  • To test deeper knowledge, cross-reference key concepts in multiple questions.
Blogs and Wikis which are used for formative or summative assessment can be marked online within Blackboard, and so it is just a case of asking students to complete entries by a certain date. Access can be closed off to students at the deadline, to prevent further amendments.
Other forms may include portfolios, physical artefacts or digital media. In these cases, individual methods of submission will need to be developed which balance the need to make things as easy as possible for the student, and yet not too demanding for the department to administer. In particular:
  • date stamps, or digital time-tracking, are useful for recording submission times;
  • where possible, secure central filestore areas (such as the X: drive) should be used to store digital submissions, with access given only to staff who are marking or administering them;
  • spreadsheets, stored in secure central filestore (eg. the X: drive), can be used to track the status of submissions.
The Leicester Learning Institute provide timetabled workshops and training sessions in assessment design, and can also arrange targeted departmental or college-level consultations for specific design problems; for further details contact: lli@le.ac.uk.

Marking assessments

The University recognises a variety of approaches to marking, so long as it is valid and reliable. Within Senate Regulation 7, the following marking practices are acknowledged:

  • Single marking: Work is marked by a single marker
  • Double marking: two markers work to the same mark scheme. They may either (a) mark blind in parallel, or (b) the second marker reviews the reliability of the first marker’s comments and gradings (rather than directly evaluating the students’ work). An agreed mark must be reached for each piece of assessment. Double marking increases marking and feedback turnaround times, and should therefore only be used where close scrutiny of individual work is required; sampling or moderation should normally be sufficient. If there is an unresolved disagreement between the two markers, then another individual marker should be involved.
  • Sampling: work is marked by the first marker and a sample of work is seen by a second marker who blind marks (samples can be a random selection, a stratified random sample from different grade boundaries, borderline cases between grade boundaries, or other samples as appropriate). If there is an unresolved disagreement between the two markers, then another individual marker should be involved.
  • Moderation: work is marked by a first marker. A second marker receives a full set of marks of the work and a sample of work (samples selected as described above in sampling) against which to test the robustness of the marking. They do not directly evaluate the students’ work.
  • Blind marking: work is provided to second markers or moderators as original copies without any grades or comments from the first marker.
  • Peer marking: where summatively assessed, students who mark other students’ work within a cohort should follow the same guidelines for first markers as described above. Second marking, sampling or moderation by internal examiners should be applied to ensure fairness and reliability.
  • Automated marking: Work is marked automatically by electronic or other means (either through Blackboard or through some other approved system).
Normally marking will combine two or more of these approaches, such as single marking with moderation or sampling applied; but different approaches will be appropriate for each assessment, cohort and department.

Online assessment and feedback

This can potentially improve submission and feedback speeds, and help with the administration of assessed work. Careful thought to the process is needed, however, to avoid increases in staff workload.

The University supports online assessment/feedback using either GradeMark online marking for Turnitin assignments, or Flexible Online Marking using a variety of online/offline methods including BlackBoard features as follows:

Case studies

Case studies are a form of problem-based learning where students are usually presented with a real-life scenario or problem that needs to be solved. Students may be given all of the information up-front, or they may be given details in stages and asked to respond as the situation changes. Students are normally given starting points for research, but have to use their own critical research skills to gather data to solve the problems.

Using case studies is a good way to introduce group work, and allows students to learn by doing, and apply what they have learnt to a real-life situation.

Workload guide

Preparation time Medium Student workload Medium Marking time Medium

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Identifying, posing and defining problems
  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating, assessing and judging
  • One and two-way communication; communication within a group
  • Working independently and working within a group

Alternatives

  • Fieldtrips or visits to organisations or industries

Marking

Students can demonstrate their work in a variety of ways. Presentations or posters are useful for continuing the case study (in the real world, teams would probably present their findings/approach to a panel) and are also less time-consuming to mark and provide feedback. Reports or other written forms are also common.

Feedback

See the poster, oral presentation or report sections for feedback advice on the method chosen.

Case studies

Problem solving through scenarios, UCL

Further reading

Assessment by case studies and scenarios, University of New South Wales

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Dissertation

A dissertation is a type of coursework which requires a student to undertake research and to produce a detailed report on a project or topic. A dissertation is often positioned at the culmination of the programme, drawing on all the work before, and can be quite an isolating exercise, so regular formative feedback (through supervision) should be given during the process of compiling and researching the subject.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload High Marking time High

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Working independently
  • Being self-directed, managing time
  • Written and non-verbal communication
  • Searching and managing information sources
  • Organising, reviewing and paraphrasing information
  • Researching, investigating and interpreting

Alternatives

  • Brief publication
  • Illustrated presentation
  • Exhibition

Marking

Students are normally allocated to a supervisor based on subject area knowledge, and the supervisor normally provides formative feedback on a literature review, first section or first draft, as well as take on the role of first marker. Dissertations are normally blind double marked, and so represent a major marking load for a department: timing of the dissertation to account for student workload and staff marking load is therefore crucial.

Feedback

Formative feedback during supervision is often verbal, via 1:1 meetings or phone/Skype calls. Summative feedback follows the same pattern as essays: it may be provided in-text as well as in a detailed summary. As submission is normally at the end of the programme, other forms of personal feedback are often difficult to arrange, but there should be opportunity for students to see their supervisor to discuss the marks/comments.

Further reading

University of Ulster Assessment Handbook (pgs 40-42)

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Essay

An essay is a piece of structured writing which is used to analyse and evaluate an issue and develop an argument or opinion in a rational way.

When providing an essay brief to students, make sure it is clear and concise and that students know what is expected of them, for example, where marks are allocated and an indication of word limits. Make sure you offer relevant feedback so that students are able to reflect on their learning and understand how to further develop their skills.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload High Marking time High

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Working independently
  • Being self-directed, managing time
  • Written and non-verbal communication
  • Searching and managing information sources
  • Organising, reviewing and paraphrasing information
  • Researching, investigating and interpreting

Alternatives

  • Article for a newspaper or professional magazine.
  • Book review.
  • Paper to a committee.

Marking

Essays are the quickest assignments to set, but are time-consuming to mark - particularly for large cohorts. New academic staff will need extra time and help to understand the essay marking process and any local marking practice in the department: marking team meetings can help this process. A clear marking criteria helps staff to mark fairly and consistently, and students to aim at: use of online marking methods (eg. GradeMark) can help this process.

Feedback

Feedback is normally a combination of in-text comments (picking out particular areas for development or praise) and final summary notes. In addition to written feedback, personalised feedback can be provided in tutorials or through short audio or video clips; for efficiency in larger cohorts, feedback can be provided to a whole group either within an existing class, or via a group audio/video clip.

Further reading

Manchester Metropolitan University Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Group projects

Various different kinds of tasks can be completed in a group context: indeed, any task that might draw on a range of abilities or approaches; might require effort over and above an individual; or involves a practical task, discussion or roleplay. As well as learning from the task itself, students will develop skills in problem solving, team working/leadership, and negotiation, all of which are valuable in the workplace.

Group work can, however, become a negative experience for students if they feel that their own performance is being hampered by the wider group. This is especially true if groups are left to form and run themselves, and if all marks are awarded to the group as a whole. Good group work assignments should therefore positively target these two areas by providing advice and training in group work and roles; allowing students to pick or vote on roles; and including opportunity for individual as well as group performance and assessment.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload High Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • One and two-way communication; communication within a group
  • Problem solving
  • Working co-operatively, managing time and tasks
  • Researching, investigating, interpreting and organising information

Marking

Both the output and the process of group work can be marked. The output might be presented in the form of a presentation, demonstration or roleplay (see linked guides for marking and feedback notes for each), or in the production of an artifact (report, document, video, website, physical product, etc.). The process can be observed if group work happens within timetabled sessions; can be obtained by asking students to submit a reflective piece that documents their own input to the process and how effective they were in the overall task; or can use another method where students assess their own or their peers’ contribution.

Feedback

See linked guides above for appropriate feedback methods.

Further reading

Group work guidance for students (University of Leicester)

Assessing group work, Australian Universities Teaching Committee (PDF)

 

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Interview

An interview can be used on its own or alongside another assessment, for example to elaborate on arguments made in a previous project. Interviews can also be used to simulate a workplace situation, such as a discussion with a client (real or roleplayed) or a job application. Interviews can also be used as part of an oral exam, where a tutor interviews a student to assess their understanding of a subject.

The interviews could take place 1:1, in front of a group of peers (most useful where real clients are being interviewed), or recorded by the student and submitted as media (text transcript/summary, audio or video recording).

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • One and two-way communication
  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Interviewing, negotiating and presenting
  • Arguing, describing and advocating
  • Researching, investigating and interpreting information

Alternatives

  • Write, script and produce a video
  • Debate
  • Podcast

Marking

Where interviews take place live, marking is normally undertaken by an observer, to allow the interviewee to focus on the interview itself. This could include peer marking if performed in front of a peer group (see oral presentation). If a recording is submitted, marking is made easier through a clear criteria and use of rubrics.

Feedback

Feedback is most usefully provided orally, straight after the interview, by both markers and peers. The interviewee might also be willing to give feedback to the group. Even for submitted recordings, there is value in feeding back to the whole group, to generate a discussion around interview preparation, approaches, etc.

Further reading

Manchester Metropolitan University Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Journal, learning log or diary

Similar to a portfolio, these can be used to provide updates or descriptions of activities, for example, experiments, field trips, or research. Although this can be used as summative assessment, the value of this type of assessment lies in the reflective, developmental process rather than the final outcome. Journals can be presented online through ongoing blog posts, or in a more traditional format. The whole journal can be summatively assessed, or students can be asked to self-select entries for formal submission at the end of the module.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Working independently and working within a group
  • Being self-directed, managing time and tasks
  • Written communication and presentation skills
  • Researching, investigating, interpreting and organising information

Alternatives

  • Portfolio
  • Report
  • Review

Marking

Marking criteria need to reflect the nature of the writing: with higher marks rewarding critical reflection rather than focused on academic writing standards. Marking can be made easier if students collate together selected entries for submission.

Feedback

Formative feedback can be provided throughout the module via comments on the journal entries themselves: comments early in the process can help students to develop an effective approach.

Further reading

VLE journals for monitoring student progress, University of Leeds

Engaging learners in critical reflection through blogs, University of Edinburgh (PDF)

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Laboratory/practical work

Assessing laboratory learning can enable students to bring theories into practice, as well as developing reasoning skills and testing their practical competence in laboratory work.

Assessment will vary depending on the knowledge or abilities you need to assess: it might be observational, based on laboratory reports, on a wider project report, or tested through weekly MCQ-type tests around key concepts/skills. Often laboratory assessment uses a combination of these.

Workload guide

Preparation time Medium Student workload Medium Marking time Medium

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Computation
  • Planning experiments or projects
  • Carrying out instructions
  • Following laboratory procedures and protocols
  • Using equipment
  • Taking readings

Alternatives

  • Instructional guide for a beginner
  • Seminar paper on an experiment
  • Group report of a series of linked experiments

Marking

Depending on the assessment format used, a range of departmental staff might be involved in the assessment. Demonstrators might be best placed to observe behaviour in the lab and confirm completion of tasks, with a full-time member of academic staff moderating those marks. MCQs or weekly tests could be marked automatically, to reduce overall load.

Feedback

Feedback will vary based on the assessment type, but good use can be made of regular laboratory sessions: taking time each week to engage the group in a review of good practice, common mistakes, etc. Feedback can also be built into tutorial sessions, pulling together developmental opportunities from a range of assessments and activities.

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Modified essay questions (MEQs)

Originating and often used in medical education, MEQs are a sequence of questions based on a case study and designed to test higher order thinking. Students are usually presented with a scenario, and then given a series of questions based on it that they answer with a short text. Some automated forms can include branched questions, providing contextual follow up questions based on the students’ responses to each question. MEQs assess a student’s ability to identify problems, and resolve them by applying their existing knowledge.

Workload guide

Preparation time Medium Student workload High Marking time High

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Identifying, posing and defining problems
  • Organising, reviewing and paraphrasing information
  • Investigating and interpreting
  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Analysing and reviewing data and applying information

Alternatives

  • Essay
  • Observation of real or simulated professional practice
  • Case studies

Marking

MEQs are normally provided in a written examination, and are usually marked against a simple rubric that outlines key decisions or responses the student should have made. There are also some online/digital forms that can test limited responses automatically.

Feedback

See exams for feedback options on written examinations. There is also potential for running formative MEQs within seminar or tutorial groups, and providing instant feedback on responses.

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Multiple choice questions (MCQs)

MCQs can be used as formative or summative assessment, and if used electronically can provide immediate feedback. When writing questions, try not to just test what facts students have remembered, but challenge them to apply concepts, and analyse and evaluate information.

Good MCQs take time to construct, and so lead-in time is high; but this is set against much quicker or automated marking even for large cohorts.

Workload guide

Preparation time Medium Student workload Medium Marking time Medium

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Analysing data and reviewing
  • Recalling, describing, identifying and relating

Alternatives

  • Short answer questions
  • Presentation

Marking

Much of the effort goes into the design of the MCQs. If properly designed, marking should be either automatic, or easy to complete against a correct-answer sheet.

Feedback

Automated marking can give students instant feedback on the questions they answered incorrectly. More detailed feedback explaining why answers are correct or incorrect can be added to most MCQ systems, Blackboard included.

Further reading

Guidelines for writing effective MCQs, including ideas for assessing higher-order thinking:
https://my.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/institution/Health_and_Social_Sciences/ltu/areas/assessment/mcq/design.html

https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/writing-good-multiple-choice-test-questions/

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Observation of real or simulated professional practice

A form of authentic assessment, observation of practice is a way of assessing a student’s practical skills in a real or realistic work situation. This can be used as a formative assessment by observing students over a period of time and providing feedback on their performance, enabling them to learn by doing; it can also be used as summative assessment. Particularly suited to science, medicine or education subjects, the approach can nevertheless be applied creatively to any discipline.

Workload guide

Preparation time High Student workload Medium Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Carrying out instructions and following protocols
  • Being self-directed, managing time and tasks
  • Working independently
  • Identifying and defining problems

Marking

Observations are usually marked live via a rubric (tick sheet with brief notes), with more detailed reflection following the observation.

Feedback

Formative feedback can be provided in the workplace where appropriate, and/or 1:1 afterwards. Feedback could also be sought from an employer or leader in the professional context. Group feedback sessions, pulling in all students who have been involved in professional practice, are useful at points during or after the activity to help students to reflect on their performance and apply it to future contexts.

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Oral presentation

A presentation can be done individually or as a group, and provides an opportunity for students to show what they have learnt or created, for example presenting the findings of a case study, reflecting on their experiences, or reporting on their research. Presentations allow students to practice presentation and organisation skills: speaking to an audience, responding to questions, planning timings, creating presentation media and supplementary handouts.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • One and two-way communication; communication within a group
  • Working independently and working within a group
  • Writing for and presenting to different audiences
  • Creating and performing
  • Researching, investigating, interpreting and organising information

Alternatives

  • Write, script and produce audio or video
  • Demonstration (of media, or an approach; with accompanying commentary)
  • Poster presentation
  • Debate

Marking

Assessment of oral presentations is normally by a single or multiple markers observing the presentation; peer marking (students marking each other's presentations) also works well, although there is some evidence that students tend to mark higher than tutors in this setting. Rubrics or simple marking categories help to guide students and standardise marking.

Feedback

The benefit of oral presentation is that feedback can be given immediately, by both tutors and peers: through questions for each presenter, and by inviting and giving general feedback once each presentation has finished. A relaxed, discursive environment will elicit more feedback from students than a formal setting.

Case studies

Manchester Metropolitan University Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Peer- and self-assessment

Peer- and self-assessment have become widely used in recently years in higher education, in particular as formative assessments. They involve students identifying criteria to apply to their work, and then evaluating whether they think they, or their peers, have met those criteria. This kind of assessment helps students to develop transferable skills that will be valuable in the workplace, such as making judgements and reflecting on practice.

Setting up self- and peer-assessments involves careful planning to ensure all students are very clear about the criteria they should use and how to give feedback. It is also important to feed back to the students about the results of peer-assessments.

Workload guide

Preparation time High Student workload Medium Marking time Medium

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Reflecting, evaluating, assessing and judging
  • Working co-operatively

Marking

Students favour objective approaches to marking, that speak to standards set by the department: it’s therefore important to have a clear mark scheme (usually in the form of a rubric) that all students mark to; and models of work at the top, middle and base of the grades can also be helpful.

Feedback

Students tend to give more positive feedback overall than staff, but this is not necessarily a problem if combined with more objective rubrics, and wraparound activities that unpack the marks and feedback. Guidance can also be given, such as “list three aspects of the work you think should be shared with the group; list three things that could be improved if the task was repeated”.

Case studies

Factors influencing student peer assessment
Primrose Freestone, Department of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, University of Leicester

Primrose used peer assessment with her 3rd year Microbial Biotechnology students. The students created a mini conference format poster and assessed each other's posters. The students engaged very well and the exercise was successful, however students consistently gave higher marks than staff even when trained in using the assessment criteria. The difference was less marked when marking anonymously and feedback showed that students found it hard to mark their peers objectively due to friendship factors.

Further reading

University of Ulster Assessment Handbook (pgs 35-36)

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Podcast

The word podcast comes from ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’, but now generally means any digital audio file, which is available to download from the internet. Podcasts are often offered by broadcasters as part of a series of downloads, but can be created by students using university software or their mobile phone as an alternative presentation of material.

Students can be asked to research a topic in groups and then create a podcast to present their findings, either in the form of a presentation, discussion or debate. This type of assessment allows students to develop a range of transferable skills such as project design and management, team work, oral presentation and technology skills, all of which are valued by employers.

Visuals can also be added to podcasts to illustrate the presentation.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • One and two-way communication; communication within a group
  • Working independently and working within a group
  • Writing for and presenting to different audiences
  • Creating and performing
  • Researching, investigating, interpreting and organising information

Alternatives

  • Write, script and produce audio or video
  • Demonstration (of media, or an approach; with accompanying commentary)
  • Poster presentation
  • Debate

Marking

The intended purpose of, and audience for, a podcast will dictate the marking criteria. Marks might be awarded for pitching at the right level, structure of the narrative, incorporation of research or data. As always, a clear criteria will help guide both students and markers.

Feedback

Feedback via a rubric can be easy for students to understand and detect areas for improvement, accompanied with suggestions for improving those areas going forward. Depending on the method of submission, it is possible to add text or audio comments in-context with the podcast, to relate feedback to particular points in the narrative.

Case studies

Integrating audio recordings and stills to create audiovisual presentations, University of Leeds

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Portfolio

Portfolio assessment is an evaluation tool where students are normally given a series of tasks to complete at intervals throughout a module, to enable them to build up skills over time. Students usually present a portfolio to provide evidence to support how they can perform in particular roles or tasks. It allows for a more diverse demonstration of a student’s learning than, for example, an exam would show. Individual pieces can take any form: reflections on the students’ input into a seminar or online discussion; or a final video they have planned created over a number of weeks; etc.

Portfolios can be used as formative assessment, as they provide a good opportunity for regular feedback and reflection over the course, and can also be submitted at the end of a module for summative assessment. Portfolios can be a form of authentic assessment in that they can be closely aligned with what someone would experience in a work-based setting. A portfolio can contain a range of different media and materials, and can be hard copy or online as an e-portfolio.

Workload guide

Preparation time Medium Student workload High Marking time High

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Working independently and working within a group
  • Being self-directed, managing time and tasks
  • Written communication and presentation skills
  • Researching, investigating, interpreting and organising information

Alternatives

A portfolio doesn’t have to only include written assignments; it is a good opportunity to include a variety of different projects such as:
  • Video material
  • Podcasts
  • Reports
  • Reviews
  • Posters

Marking

Portfolios can be very time consuming to mark; on a par with dissertation-sized assessment. However, that is a trade-off against the breadth and depth of learning that can be evidenced within the whole portfolio. Marking can be spread over a module, year or programme by splitting the assessments (formative and summative) up and assessing particular aspects or stages throughout: this also encourages students to develop their portfolio over time.

Feedback

As discussed above, feedback is best given in stages throughout a module or programme: with tutors looking at drafts, or reviewing particular blog posts or texts. Such feedback might be picked up in tutorials or group meetings, through comments on the online platform, or in more traditional forms as written feedback sheets or 1:1 meetings. If feedback is properly planned throughout, the final submitted project and its mark should not be a surprise either to the student or to the member of staff.

Case studies

Case studies on the role of e-portfolios in formative and summative assessment (Word document) 34 case studies covering a wide range of subject areas

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Poster

A poster is a way of communicating information, and can be particularly useful as a way of initiating discussions on results of research. In designing a poster, students need to show they can concisely summarise ideas and decide which aspects to give priority to. Poster design allows students to receive feedback from peers as well as their tutor during a classroom session, and encourages discussion and debate.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Low Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Analysing and reviewing data
  • Working independently and working within a group
  • Visualising, designing, creating and innovating
  • Written communication and presentation skills
  • Researching, investigating, interpreting and organising information

Alternatives

  • Write, script and produce a video
  • Demonstration
  • Practical observation
  • Oral presentation

Marking

Posters are best marked using a clear and simple rubric that grades both content and design. Presentation skills can also be assessed and marked if, for example, students are asked to talk to their poster during a lunchtime poster session. All of these activities can also be peer marked, with an academic staff member moderating the responses.

Feedback

Feedback can be efficiently and effectively delivered to the group: ideally during the same assessed poster session so that examples of practice can be highlighted in relation to real examples.

Case studies

Factors influencing student peer assessment
Primrose Freestone, Department of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, University of Leicester

Primrose used peer assessment with her 3rd year Microbial Biotechnology students. The students created a mini conference format poster and assessed each other's posters. The students engaged very well and the exercise was successful, however students consistently gave higher marks than staff even when trained in using the assessment criteria. The difference was less marked when marking anonymously and feedback showed that students found it hard to mark their peers objectively due to friendship factors.

Poster session assessment, University of Leeds

Further reading

Preparing Posters - a practical guide for students

Manchester Metropolitan University Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Reflective practice assignment

Reflection is a difficult skill to master, and along with criticality (closely linked) these are two academic literacies that students find hardest to master in the first year of any discipline.

With proper guidance and training, however, reflective practice allows students to critically analyse their own work, helping them to take an objective look at their own skills, abilities and approach, and allowing them to continually improve their practice. It can help students to self-evaluate, as well as being a form of self-assessment in itself.

Reflection is usually most effective as an assessed piece when looking back at a piece of work or process. It might ask the student to consider their contribution to group work, for example, or their performance in a placement, presentation or other activity. Alternatively, it might simply reflect on a student’s development within the discipline. Scaffolding is useful: start with a short formative reflection, and use that as an opportunity to discuss and develop critical reflective approaches, before a longer summative piece.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Reflecting, evaluating, assessing and judging
  • Working independently, learning independently and being self-directed

Alternatives

  • Self-assessment
  • Case studies
  • Peer assessment

Marking

Reflective pieces are usually submitted in essay form, although usually between 500-1000 words. The academic voice will differ from that of an essay, and so marking criteria that focus on reflection, criticality, and self-awareness are necessary.

Feedback

As for a standard essay assignment, but focusing on the student’s ability to critique their own practice and reflect on internal and external impacts. Group feedback is useful in helping all students to develop their approach to reflection and criticality: and this may form part of a workshop to develop these aspects.

Further reading

Student guides on reflection and criticality (University of Leicester)

Facilitating reflective practice and self-assessment of competence through the use of narratives The University of Newcastle, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.

 

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Report

Students can be asked to write a report about a project they’ve worked on, a field trip or a laboratory experiment. Reports can be written over the course of a module, being added to and fed back on each week as formative assessment, or a larger report can be written at the end of a project. Media can be incorporated to illustrate and strengthen the report.

If modelled around authentic forms drawn from the discipline (for example, a standard research lab report, business report or research project report) can improve student engagement in the process, as they can see the real world application.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload High Marking time High

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Collecting data, searching and managing information sources, observing and interpreting
  • Being self-directed, managing time and tasks
  • Written communication and presentation skills
  • Researching, investigating, interpreting and organising information

Marking

Criteria can developed using models from authentic contexts (eg. R&D lab assessments, business plans, research grant review), and should focus on all aspects of the report (content, research, argument, presentation/structure etc.).

Feedback

Formative feedback can be provided on drafts or sections during production; feedback on the final submission can model authentic forms (panel or peer review feedback, for example).

Case studies

Formative assessment to improve report writing, Newcastle University

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Roleplay

A form of experiential learning, where students can take part in different scenarios, assuming different roles and personalities. Roleplays or simulations are good for working as a group, and can also work in an online environment. Students learn through exploring the viewpoints of different characters, and can be involved in self and peer formative assessment.

‘Fishbowl’ roleplay involves other students observing and analysing the behaviour of those acting out roles, and at the end the whole group can discuss the behaviours observed and learning outcomes.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • One and two-way communication; communication within a group
  • Working independently and working within a group
  • Writing for and presenting to different audiences
  • Creating and performing

Alternatives

  • Write, script and produce audio or video
  • Poster presentation
  • Debate

Marking

Assessment can either be of observed behaviour during the roleplay (usually based around a rubric), or of students’ written reflections on their role and decisions taken. There is also potential for peer marking, with students observing each other and marking to a rubric.

Feedback

For observations, feedback can be built into the roleplay sessions themselves (whilst the activity is fresh in the students’ minds); for written reflections, a different marking criteria might be needed from that of a standard essay.

Case studies

Using role play scenarios for teaching employment law, Newcastle University

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Short answer questions

Like multiple choice questions, short answer questions can be a quick way of assessing a wide range of knowledge and understanding. They can also be used formatively to develop students’ reflective skills.

Workload guide

Preparation time Medium Student workload Medium Marking time Medium

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Analysing data and reviewing
  • Recalling, describing, identifying and relating

Alternatives

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Presentation

Marking

Unlike MCQs, short answer questions are normally marked manually (although tools are available that can search for the presence or absence of certain words or phrases in a response, allowing some limited automated marking). If the questions are properly worded, a set of ‘model answers’ should be available for markers to mark against.

Feedback

If delivered as part of an examination, see written exam. Otherwise, comments can be added in context with particular answers, or in summary comments where students need to focus on overarching areas.

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Write, script and produce a video

Video or audio media can offer students a more developmental and creative process to evidence research and thinking around a subject. The task could be anything from finding out about a particular topic, to undertaking a small practical or research project; and is an opportunity for students to try presenting their work to a different (non-academic) audience.

Students can work alone, but group work provides a more efficient and developmental opportunity: students can specialise in different aspects of the production process (project planning, scripting, filming, editing, etc.). A group approach also helps students to develop a variety of digital, teamworking and presentation skills.

Workload guide

Preparation time Medium Student workload High Marking time Low

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Researching, investigating, interpreting and organising information
  • Creating, innovating and performing
  • Imagining, visualising, designing and producing
  • One and two-way communication; communication within a group
  • Working co-operatively, managing time and tasks

Alternatives

  • Podcast
  • Presentation

Marking

As with all group projects, marking and feedback is divided between the process and the output. For video/audio output, marking is made easier through the use of a rubric.

Feedback

Feedback will vary depending on how the video/audio is submitted/presented, and may simply be the return of a rubric mark sheet. However, if the video/audio pieces are shown in front of students’ peers, there is opportunity to share the value of feedback to all students by making summarising comments (and inviting peer comments) at the end of the presentations.

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Written exam

Exams are usually 2-3 hours long and involve students answering questions to test their understanding. They can include long written essay answers, short text answers, problems or multiple choice questions.

Exams can be time- and resource-efficient, especially when assessing large cohorts of students. However, there is the risk that they promote ‘surface-level learning’ where students revise intensively for the exam but don’t retain or understand the concepts in the longer term.

Exam questions should be written and thoroughly checked by more than one person to avoid any errors or ambiguity of language. Make sure that module learning outcomes are represented in the exam. Past papers can be useful in helping students to prepare: and could be discussed in class, as well as made available to students via Blackboard.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload High Marking time Medium

Literacies and skills exhibited

  • Developing arguments, reflecting, evaluating and assessing
  • Recalling, describing and recounting information
  • Being self-directed, managing time
  • Written and non-verbal communication
  • Organising, reviewing and paraphrasing information

Alternatives

  • Open book / seen exams (inside or outside the formal exam period)
  • Electronic exams (via Blackboard)

Marking

Marking time is dependent on the type of question, and the number of papers. MCQ or short answer questions are relatively quick to mark; whereas long answer or essay questions are subject to the same problems as essays. Feedback, however, can be less onerous if provided in one of the forms described below.

Feedback

A number of models for providing exam feedback have been trialled at the University in recent years. These include:

  • Opening a room containing all exam scripts for a fixed time period, facilitated by a tutor.
  • Holding optional group feedback meetings after the exam period or (more successfully) at the start of the following term, to work through common mistakes and discuss model answers.
  • Making personal or module tutors available for 1:1 consultations after the exams (although there has been very little takeup of this where trialled).

Case studies

Building student confidence in essay-based exams. Psychology, University of Leicester (Word document)

Further reading

Manchester Metropolitan University Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Unseen essay

The ‘conventional’ exam paper. Students do not see the paper in advance; students must provide 2 or 3 short essay answers under exam conditions in a fixed period of time (normally 1.5 to 3 hours).

Pros: Familiar to almost all students. Gives students time to articulate a reasoned argument drawing on material from course and from independent study. Tests ‘all round’ ability – content, comprehension, recall, argument, precision, concision, relevance.

Cons: Not suitable for all students.  Exam conditions produce stress which may impair student performance. Limited number of answers means students may not be tested on all course knowledge or all ILOs. High risk associated with a poor or failed answer. Clarity and neatness of handwriting may affect result – a growing problem as students tend to type far more than they hand write.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload High Marking time High

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Unseen short-answer

An unseen paper, that does not require students to provide essay length answers. Answer length can vary from a single word or short sentence to a paragraph.

Pros: lower risk per question than an essay exam. Can test a breadth of knowledge and skills in one paper. Tests a wider range of topics and/or ILOs than an essay exam.

Cons: Cannot test student’s ability to construct an extended, reasoned argument. Favours those with good recall, but may not probe deeper understanding.

Workload guide

Preparation time Medium Student workload High Marking time High

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Seen essay

Although sat under exam conditions, students are given the paper in advance (usually 24 hours) allowing them to prepare outline answers. They are not permitted to bring preparatory material into the exam room, but must rely on memory to reproduce their answers.

Pros: All the benefits of the unseen essay exam, but less pressured and with greater opportunity for the student to demonstrate their knowledge. A higher standard of essay should result.

Cons: Limited number of answers means students may not be tested on all course knowledge or all ILOs. High risk associated with a poor or failed answer. High likelihood of student collusion producing very similar answers.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time High

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Open book under exam conditions

A form of unseen essay exam as above, but students are permitted to bring their notes into the exam to consult in constructing their answers.

Pros: A less risky form of essay exam because less dependent on student recall under stress. Should produce a higher quality essay and allows for more confident use of citation, case studies, etc.

Cons: Students can underestimate the need to revise course content as they would do for a conventional unseen essay exam. Students may provide ‘prepared’ answers that do not tightly focus on the question set.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time High

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Open book at home (time limited)

Students are given the exam paper and allowed a fixed time to deliver their answers (usually 24 hours). During that time they are permitted to use any materials and resources they have available to them to answer the questions.

Pros: Removes the specific stress associated with formal exam conditions and allows students greater resources to construct better answers. Allows module tutors to target specific areas of knowledge in greater detail – e.g. individually developed case studies.

Cons: High possibility of student collusion if questions not targeted. Does not test recall.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time High

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Online tests and simulations

A huge range of possibilities from simple multiple-choice tests to complex interactive simulations set up in virtual worlds.

Pros: Particularly suitable for distance learners already doing their courses online. Flexible and easy to administer (if set up correctly). Can test many different topics and ILOs.

Cons: Assumes reliable access to relevant hard- and software and suitable internet connection. Depending on complexity of task, can be very time-consuming to set up. Assumes (usually) that students can type – particularly an issue for time-limited, text based exercises.

Workload guide

Preparation time High Student workload Medium Marking time Medium

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Multiple choice/single best answer/extended matching

An unseen exam in which students are given a range of possible answers to each question and asked to select the correct one.

Pros: Can cover a large quantity of material in a short time. Easy to administer using machine-readable forms or through online testing. Can produce very high GPAs as the possibility of 100% success rates (theoretically) possible in each paper.

Cons: Allows for the possibility of the ‘lucky guess’ and thus may not be a reliable test of knowledge. Tests only limited types of predominantly factual knowledge and then not in any depth.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time Low

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Problem/case based exams

Can be seen or unseen, exam-based, online or take-home, but are in all cases based on students carrying out a particular task. This can be anything from responding to a particular scenario, working through a complex calculation, constructing a case study from a variety of materials, compiling a balance sheet, etc.

Pros: Very flexible. Allows for ‘real world’ problems to be tackled by students, to which they can apply a range of skills, concepts and knowledge. Can be used to test multiple ILOs simultaneously or to closely target on particular areas.

Cons: Can be complex to set up, depending on the nature of the task.

Workload guide

Preparation time High Student workload Medium Marking time Medium

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

Oral examinations

Familiar as the viva-voce component of PhD examination, but can be used in many different ways and to test students individually or in groups. Particularly in the case of group presentations, oral assignments are often used as a minor component in conjunction with more formal, individuated exam types as above.

Pros: Tests both knowledge and non-written practical skills (voice, group working, argumentation, use of visual material, etc). Flexible, and requires students to present material in a different format to the formal essay.

Cons: Group work can reveal the 'free-rider' problem. Staff can find them hard to assess – difficult to provide grade criteria to cover the range of possibilities and even then can feel more subjective than other forms of assessment. May need to be recorded and stored.

Workload guide

Preparation time Low Student workload Medium Marking time High

 

Guide to time involved in preparation, marking, and student workload:  Low Low  Medium Medium  High High

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