LEAF: a closer look at assessment

December 6, 2013, by Teaching at Nottingham

LEAF: a closer look at assessment

Assessment is a strong driver of student motivation – that’s clear from the common experience of gaining instant attention when you mention “the exam” in a lecture, and it’s a common theme in the literature around learning in higher education. What we assess gives a strong message about what we value and how we expect a member of the academic community to act and to demonstrate their understanding.

A sector-wide interest in re-examining our assessment, and feedback, processes has arisen partly in response to students voicing their concerns but also in the recognition of the increasing pressure on staff to turnaround exam marking quickly, the practicalities of running so many exams in such a short time and disconnections between module-level assessment and programme-level learning outcomes. Student recognition of formative feedback is patchy and the opportunities to act upon it are inconsistent.

Schools from Nottingham are working with disciplinary colleagues at the Universities of Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh to review the assessment practices in a sample of core programmes across Faculties. The LEAF programme (Leading Enhancements in Assessment and Feedback) will use a methodology that includes a data collection exercise on the quantity and timing of assessment and feedback through the degree, a questionnaire and focus groups on the student experience of assessment, and an analysis of the results within a framework based on Professor Graham Gibbs’ research into the relationship between assessment practice and student learning[1].

Programme teams will be supported in identifying and implementing the changes to their practice that are most likely to improve learning and performance. We are expecting them to offer seminars etc. on their work as it progresses.

The LEAF programme is informed by principles drawn from the literature on assessment in HE and from institutionwide review programmes in the UK, Europe and Australia, and have informed the development of the LEAF programme. They highlight the range of issues on which assessment impacts, and demonstrate the rationale for assessment redesign to be an integral part of the Teaching Transformation Programme
(See Alan Ford’s post).

Commonly Adopted Principles

  • support the notion of students becoming part of an academic community;
  • align with stated learning outcomes;
  • act as a guide to teaching design;
  • be valid, reliable and fair;
  • be founded on an evidence-base for effectiveness;
  • be designed to minimise opportunities for plagiarism;
  • give students responsibility for managing, demonstrating and evaluating their learning;
  • have an emphasis on a formative function, especially in the first year;
  • include opportunities for immediate use of feedback in revised work;
  • be undertaken in the most efficient manner possible, making use of available technology as appropriate.

Dr Rachel Scudamore
Teaching and Learning Directorate

[1] Gibbs, G. And Dunbar-Goddet, H. (2009) Characterising programme level assessment environments. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education

Posted in Assessment and feedbackDesign and loading