Quality assessment practices
In addition to the design of the assessment task and the marking criteria, there are a number of learning and teaching practices that can also influence student success. Consider the following as part of your assessment planning:
The timing of assessment tasks within a course can influence the likelihood of students engaging with and developing quality assessment tasks. Too early in the course and the students may lack the knowledge, skill or ability to apply their learnings. Too late in the course, and the identification of issues become difficult to address due to lack of time left before a summative assessment is due. Consider also the timing of your assessments with other courses that the student may be taking concurrently. When multiple tasks are due in at the same time, quality is often lost in some or all submissions.
Depending upon the task - whether it is formative or summative, scaffolded or final, or at the beginning or the end of the course/program - there are a number of influences that can determine the weighting of an assessment task and the components within it.
If the intended learning outcome of the task is to... 'collaboratively create a poster that outlines the lifestyle predictors that influence the development of heart disease', you may allocate equal weighting to the process of the group creating the work and the final product. But if the intended learning outcome for a first year course is to... 'construct a well-structured essay that explores the habitat of the West African seahorse', then greater emphasis and weighting may be given to the structure of the essay (70%), rather than the content (30%). The same task in the final year of a marine biology course may weigh the task differently with 30% on the structure and 70% on the content. This will all depend upon the intended learning outcomes of the course.
Consider the intended learning outcome of the task, the validity of the various components, and the time and effort expected of students to successfully complete those components. A common mistake made with using rubrics as the marking criteria is giving all components the same weighting, which is inequitable for student effort and does not give a valid representation of learning aligned with the intended learning outcomes. So, an essay requiring an introduction, body and conclusion could be given different weighting due to the different requirements and effort required – i.e. introduction 15%, body 45% and conclusion 10% with 20% for evidence and 10% for academic writing.
Like its namesake in the construction industry, scaffolding in education is a temporary support mechanism. Students receive assistance early on to complete tasks, then as their proficiency increases that support is gradually removed. In this way, the students take on more and more responsibility for their own learning. As some assessment tasks are complex -whether it be the subject matter, the skills or software used to create them, or the process of development - successful completion of assessment tasks can benefit from scaffolding. Consider the following characteristics:
- Scaffolding provides clear directions. Step-by-step instructions are necessary to let students know what they need to accomplish it successfully and meet the requirements of the task.
- Scaffolding clarifies purpose and expectations. The objective of the activity is made clear at the outset and a 'big-picture' point of view dominates in each individual activity.
- Scaffolding can reduce wasted time and keep students on task. The structure provided helps keep students from getting distracted. Teachers can identify quality sources for students to use that may be exclusive or simply as a starting point for further exploration.
While assessments need to be stand-alone within a course/unit and completed at the end of the course/unit, a program could still be designed so as to make connections between units and have assessments build upon previous work. This is particularly useful for more vocationally oriented programs where connections could be made by following through a particular case study for example and/or students could develop ePortfolios throughout the program as part of assessments and to present to potential employers post graduation.
Feedback has a significant impact on learning. The main objectives of feedback are to justify to students how their mark or grade was derived, to identify and reward specific qualities in student work, guide students on what steps to take to improve, motivate them to act on their assessment, and to develop their capability to engage in their own learning.
The process of feedback needs to be considered in tandem with the design of assessment and the learning activities that support it. Consideration needs to be given to both formative and summative processes for providing feedback. Please explore the resources on the Teaching Practice - feedback web pages to assist in the planning and delivery of constructive, timely and meaningful feedback for learning.
Moderation is a quality assurance process by which an individual or group confirms that assessment is continuously conducted with accuracy, consistency and fairness. Moderation contributes to the continuous improvement of assessment practice and to sharing good practice among colleagues.
- Pre-assessment moderation: Pre-assessment moderation validates the appropriateness, fairness, clarity, accuracy and standard of assessment tasks and materials before they are used for assessment.
- Post-assessment moderation: Post-assessment moderation checks marking by moderating a designated sample of marked student work to ensure that markers are making consistent and accurate assessment decisions, in accordance with published assessment criteria.
Please check with your Associate Dean of Teaching Quality or Program Leader for specific processes relating to pre and post moderation of assessment tasks in your School.
The process of marking or grading student work needs a number of considerations in relation to teaching practice:
- How many staff do you have allocated to mark student work?
- How long do you anticipate it should take to mark a piece of student work?
- What technologies does the staff member need to have knowledge of and access to, in order to assess and provide feedback on student work?
- What type of feedback (eg: written, audio, video) do you require staff to provide via which technology (eg: Moodle, Turnitin, Mahara)?
- Are staff sufficiently skilled in the technologies required for marking assessments?
Please check with your Program Leader for specific staffing resources available to your teaching team for marking.
Federation University Learning and Teaching website
- Teaching Practice - Standards and Frameworks
- Teaching Practice - Transformation, not duplication
- Teaching Practice - Internationalisation of Curriculum
- Teaching Practice - Embedding academic resources
- Teaching Practice - Embedding academic supports
- Teaching Practice - Principles of feedback
- Teaching Practice - Types of feedback
- Teaching Practice - Delivering feedback
Federation University policies and guidelines
- Federation University Policy (LT1302), Higher Education Assessment Policy
- Federation University Procedure (LT1254), Higher Education Assessment Procedure
- Federation University Procedure (LT1940), Higher Education Examinations Procedure
- Australian Learning & Teaching Council (2009) Assessment 2020. University of Technology Sydney. Retrieved from https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/Assessment-2020_propositions_final.pdf
- Biggs, J. & Tang, C. (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. (4th ed.) New York: Open University Press
- Fry, K., Ketteridge, S & Marshall, S. (2015) A handbook for teaching & learning in higher education: Enhancing academic practice. (4th ed.) London: Routledge
- Race, P. (2015) The lecturers toolkit. (4th ed.) Oxon, UK: Routledge
- Contact your Program Leader to discuss discipline specific approaches to these assessment practices.
- Contact your Learning Designer to discuss planning and streamlining any number of these assessment practices.