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This step is closely associated with the Module Specification process and in particular deciding what modes of assessment will be used in a module (e.g. exam, course work etc) and in what proportion?

The starting point is clarity about what Intended Learning Outcomes the learners are supposed to attain from the module and consequently what evidence they need to provide that they have attained those outcomes.

Well-formed Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)
contain a Behaviour, in a Context, at a
particular Level of ability. You can read
more about ILOs on the LLI Curriculum Design

Clear Intended Learning Outcomes (as specified in the module specification) make the whole process of specifying, setting, marking and providing feedback significantly easier.

When you know what kind of behaviour you are looking for evidence of, it becomes easier to choose an appropriate assessment activity that will elicit the behaviour you wish to evaluate. Setting assessments are a way of provide opportunities for the learner to demonstrate their attainment. Consider what ways of thinking  (numerical analysis, identifying assumptions etc.) and ways of doing (molecular biology, mathematical proofs etc.) are most important in your discipline, and which mode and type of assessment are most authentic.

Since it is easier to change the type of assessment later than it is the mode, at the specification stage you need to choose the most appropriate mode now. Have a look at our Catalogue of Assessments to identify suitable types and modes of assessment to match the requirements of your ILOs.

Learners don’t take modules in isolation, so assessment on one module needs to fit well with assessment on other modules. O'Donovan et al. (2016) suggest that assessments that clearly link with each other are important in developing a 'feed-forward' approach where students engage with and act on their feedback for the next assignment. The two key elements of this, are that feedback is received in time to be acted upon for the next assignment, and that you help students reflect on their feedback and understand how it relates to the next assignment. The easiest way to do this is to share your module assessment plans with the programme lead, year co-ordinator or fellow module tutors. In this way teaching teams can spot and address any bottlenecks, overlaps, excessive use of a mode (e.g. too many exams), etc.

Tip 1: How you specify the mode of assessment affects how the assessment is recorded in the student record system, including what form the mark is expected to be in.

Tip 2: It is not necessary to go into too much detail in the module specification document. For instance, stating that the modes of assessment that the module will be using are 60% coursework and 40% exam, means you can decide later what type of assessment you will use for coursework (even whether it will be weekly at 5% per week for example).

This report on Specifying, produced by JISC, provides more information and links to additional resources.

This assignment template helps you to consider the learner's perspective and how to support them when designing your assignments.

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