Assessment in HE Conference 2015

Rod Cullen and Rachel Forsyth: Supporting information for poster for the Assessment in HE conference 2015, Birmingham


A large post-92 University in the UK carried out a project to improve consistency and student satisfaction with assessment and to prepare the institution adequately for introduction of electronic management of assessment. As part of this project, an extensive baseline review of the University’s assessment policy and practice was carried out. This review concluded that existing procedures worked adequately from the point of view of compliance with the UK Quality Code (QAA, 2013). However, they did not provide a framework for the consistent provision of information about assignment tasks, submission, feedback and moderation across the university; there was a wide variety of practice in this regard. Evidence from external examiner reports, academic appeals, and staff and student comments indicated that this lack of consistency could lead to confusion about expectations in relation to the content and structure of assignments, marking criteria and the role of moderation in the assessment process.

This kind of confusion may be an indicator of a lack of assessment literacy. It has been suggested that improved assessment literacy can also lead to improved assessment outcomes (Smith et al., 2011) and that it can improve the effectiveness of feedback (Price et al., 2010). A brief summary of the definition of assessment literacy provided by Price et al (2012) suggests that people who are ‘assessment literate’ understand the relationship of assessment to learning, know about key assessment concepts such as validity and reliability, can analyse marking criteria and standards, and possess appropriate self-assessment skills. The development of an institutional framework for the provision of information about assessment would enable more consistent discussion about all of these elements  with both students and staff, which should improve assessment literacy.

Supporting discussion about assessment

The project team wanted to develop a more consistent approach so that the institution could move to more effective electronic management of assessment: not simply online submission, but a way of managing the whole process from distribution of assignment briefs to recording of grades in the student record system.

To facilitate this, we used a simple model of the assessment lifecycle and used this to try to support discussions about how different parts of the assessment process fitted together.


Key student expectations

An analysis of student comments left on an institutional survey found that better support for assessment preparation was a key development need. For most other areas of the

Analysis of Comments relating to assessment from Internal Student Survey



The University’s Code of Practice for Assessment was rewritten to improve clarity and to reduce confusion between the requirements of the institutional framework which needs to support effective processes and the maintenance of academic standards, and decision-making about academic issues such as choices of assignment type and size, and feedback strategy, which need to be retained within programme teams. The ICP was supported with a framework procedures for making key academic decisions about assessment: assignment briefs, marking, moderation and feedback.

Supporting guidance was developed to provide ‘just-in-time’ references for colleagues at different points of the assessment cycle; the website received 9400 views in 2013/14, and 11500 in 2014/15 so far. There was also a programme of webinars and additional resources were developed for programme leaders.

Programme planning templates

Assessment resources 



BLOXHAM, S. 2012. ‘You can see the quality in front of your eyes’: grounding academic standards between rationality and interpretation. Quality in Higher Education, 18, 185-204.

PRICE, M., HANDLEY, K., MILLAR, J. & O’DONOVAN, B. 2010. Feedback : all that effort, but what is the effect? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35, 277-289.

PRICE, M., RUST, C., O’DONOVAN, B., HANDLEY, K. & BRYANT, R. 2012. Assessment literacy: the foundation for improving student learning, ASKe, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.

QAA. 2013. UK Quality Code for Higher Education Chapter B6: Assessment of students and accreditation of prior learning [Online]. Gloucester: Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Available: [Accessed 4/1/14 2014].

SMITH, C. D., WORSFOLD, K., DAVIES, L., FISHER, R. & MCPHAIL, R. 2011. Assessment literacy and student learning: the case for explicitly developing students ‘assessment literacy’. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38, 44-60.

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