Effective assessment design is essential to ensuring all our students have opportunity to demonstrate their achievement of course and unit intended learning outcomes, whilst helpful and timely feedback will enable students to improve their performance. Assessment and feedback design will also shape our approaches to teaching and learning.
If you are thinking about changing your approach to assessment, at either unit or course level, this article outlines some key elements of design to consider. If you are settled on your assessment method but would like guidance on enhancing this then see our articles on a triangulated approach to marking criteria, assessment briefs, and feedback.
You can find out more about the research and literature that underpins the University’s approach on the assessment for learning page.
Strategic starting points
When thinking about the design or development of assessment, the following are important high-level considerations:
What is the purpose of this assessment? To answer this, the relevant unit and course intended learning outcomes are vital. These will detail the knowledge and/or skills that should be assessed in order that all students can demonstrate their achievement. Relevant accrediting body criteria may also be helpful to consider. It is also important to ask whether the assessment you are thinking of developing is necessary. That is, are there already sufficient assessments in place across the course to enable students to demonstrate meeting the intended learning outcomes you have in mind.
How does this assessment relate to the wider course? The choice of assessment type should be made with the wider course strategy in mind. This will help to ensure that assessment types across course years are varied, and that the timing of deadlines minimises bunching of deadlines for students and staff. Looking at the wider picture will also help you to see what previous learning and assessment students may have had, using this to gauge the level of support that they might need (e.g. if this is the first time in their course that they will have attempted a certain type of assessment).
What information is available to support design choices? There are various sources of data that may inform and support your assessment design choices. These include qualitative and quantitative data from student surveys such as NSS or Online Unit Evaluations. Students are a valuable partner in design, and there are numerous ways that you can engage with them.
More detailed design thinking
Your choice of assessment type will have consequences for further more detailed design and it is worthwhile considering these from an early point. Guidance and support for these is available on the CLT Hub. Key aspects may include:
Formative tasks and feedback: will students have feedback from previous assessments that they can feed forward to this assessment? How will students have opportunity to practice and receive helpful and timely feedback so that they can improve their performance for any summative assessment task?
Technology and digital solutions: A range of digital technologies are available to support particular assessment types. You can find out more about the recommended approaches on the technology to support assessment and feedback page.
Inclusive approaches: Ensuring all students can access, participate in, and have the opportunity to achieve through assessment is essential. Read our guidance on strategies that can support inclusive assessment design.
The following items provide important and useful starting points for thinking about assessment and feedback design at course or unit level.
Subject benchmark statements
Subject Benchmark Statements are available for the majority of disciplines. These are authored by academics from across the sector and provide a guide as to what might be expected within a course in a particular subject area. As well as content, they provide a useful starting point for thinking about relevant approaches to assessment.
The University’s assessment taxonomy helpfully outlines the broad categories of assessment types, helping you identify where various regulations for design and delivery may apply (for instance, whether individual feedback is required). Visit our guide to the assessment taxonomy for more information about each assessment type.
The University’s Code of Practice statement provides information on the various regulations that apply to assessment design and delivery.
Assessment for learning design principles
The University’s assessment for learning design principles outline key features of assessment design. The guidance on the CLT Hub are aligned to these principles.
Course assessment maps
As part of Curriculum Transformation, each course developed an assessment map which detailed the various assessment points across course years. These are an important tool for considering changes to assessment, for example ensuring a balance of types, and avoiding bunching of deadlines that might impact on student and staff workloads. Contact your DoS or DoT for an up-to-date version of your course assessment map.
The following links provide further useful guidance on thinking about assessment and feedback design: