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Researching Assessment Practices (RAP)

Assessment Literacy Resources

In order for learners to be able to fully engage in their learning in higher education, they need to have a good understanding of the requirements of assessment. These requirements need to be clear to both students and lecturers.  Such  understanding is helped if there are clear principles underpinning assessment practice that are shared and owned by all. Some have argued that such an emphasis on assessment literacy can lead to ‘criteria compliance’, however, without access to the language and rules of assessment much time is wasted by students and lecturers on lower level concerns rather than on what really matters in learning. Engaging students with assessment criteria by involving them in: assessing each other’s work, refining criteria to align with requirements of a specific assessment task, and supporting programme level development of assessment criteria are all helpful activities in enabling students to get a deeper understanding of the requirements of assessment.  A key question is how are learners encouraged to articulate their beliefs, understandings, opinions, and motives in assessment feedback? (see Clark, 2012)

AL 1 - Clarify what constitutes good

Building on the work of Ramaprasad (1989) and Sadler (1989) about the role of feedback in bridging the gap between a student’s current and ideal level of performance,  an individual needs to have a clear understanding of what good is, and the different ways of achieving good.  A key question is do module / programme teams have a shared understanding of what constitutes ‘good’ and how you achieve this shared understanding?

AL 2 - Clarify how assessment elements fit together

It is important that students are able to self-manage the requirements of assessment and part of this is being clear about how the overall assessment design fits together. It is essential for students to map what they think the assessment design is, and to agree, confirm, and revisit how all elements of assessment fit together with the support of lecturers at regular intervals. It is highly probable that individuals will perceive assessment and feedback guidance and design in different ways. A key question is how is a shared understanding of how all aspects of assessment fit together  achieved?  Time devoted to this at the start of a programme is invaluable.

AL 3 - Clarify student entitlement

In supporting students to self-manage their assessment journeys it is important to make it clear what support is available and when. What are the boundaries regarding support and what is the student role in this process?  Feedback should be seen as a highly valuable and rationed resource, and students should be supported to make best use of the opportunities available to them; this requires careful preparation and management of timelines and professional protocols in order to get the best out of feedback. The student role in supporting the learning process as active feedback givers as well as receivers of feedback should be stressed. Module and programme leads need to agree and clarify with students from the outset what student engagement in assessment involves and what the protocols are.

AL 4 - Clarify the requirements of the discipline

To support student retention and successful learning outcomes, students need to be able to identify with, and meet the requirements of their specific disciplines (Bluic et al., 2011); they need to feel part of the disciplinary community. It is important for teams to agree and clarify with students what the core concepts and threshold concepts (those that may prove difficult) within a discipline are, and what are the most appropriate strategies to support their understanding of these difficult concepts. The need to define what constitutes a ‘deep approach’ within the discipline is of paramount importance along with approaches to induct students into the discipline, and to clarify with students what the signature pedagogy of the discipline is.

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