The aim of the TRAFFIC project baseline report was to provide a critical review of current practice at Manchester Metropolitan University with respect to assessment and feedback. The report is intended to provide a snapshot of a changing landscape; it tries to capture the way things looked in January 2012. It may not provide a complete picture: that’s bound to be difficult in a large and diverse university with eight faculties teaching around 36000 students who between them submitted over 600,000 pieces of work for assessment in 2010/11. However, we hope that it will be recognisable enough to both inspire and provoke actions to recognise and disseminate good assessment practice as well as to enhance institutional systems so that assessment and feedback is appropriately recorded and recognised.
The analysis is based on a review of regulations, assessment statistics and existing information such as outcomes from student surveys, as well as interviews with a cross-section of staff across the institution. Colleagues were consulted using interviews and focus groups, and participants were selected using purposive sampling: the principal criterion was to have an involvement in assessment because of their job role (which covers the majority of employees of a university), with selection made to get a maximum variation in the type of their involvement. Additionally, some academic staff were selected on the basis of having tried to implement assessment changes or innovations which might be considered on a larger scale as part of the TRAFFIC project. The validity of the sample will be tested when the baseline report is considered by University committees which have a larger representation from the same population. The project team would like to thank again the people who gave up time so willingly to discuss assessment and feedback at MMU.
One notable exception from the list of interviewees and focus groups is students. The decision not to interview students was taken after consultation with the Manchester Metropolitan Students’ Union Membership Services and Student Voice Managers. We already have a considerable body of evidence of student opinion in connection with assessment and feedback, via the National Student Survey, internal surveys and Students’ Union termly reports, and it was decided that we would use these data for the baseline report. Students will be closely involved in piloting and reviewing project outputs.
This report is also strongly informed by the experiences of the author and other members of the project team in supporting staff in designing and documenting assessment practice through programme and unit specifications (see definitions below). As part of the EQAL project, all of these documents have been redrafted for undergraduate provision, and staff from the Centre for Learning and Teaching have peer reviewed all of them during 2011/12. This has been particularly useful in identifying good practice in assessment and feedback design and areas where there is a need for greater clarity in institutional requirements.