Assessment and feedback
What is assessment?
(The following information is taken from Guidelines for Good Assessment Practice in Higher Education produced by the Centre for the Development and Enhancement of Professional Practice at the University of Cumbria)

One of the difficult aspects of assessment is that it has to fulfil several different functions which are sometimes in conflict with each other. These different functions are often described as assessment of learning, assessment for learning and assessment as learning.

Assessment of Learning involves making judgements about students’ achievement for the purposes of selection and certification and acts as a focus for institutional accountability and quality assurance. For example, external examiners judge the quality of programmes through student assessment and the number of ‘good’ degrees awarded is used as a key variable in university league tables.

Assessment for Learning is formative and diagnostic, focusing on helping students learn through completing their assignments and gaining feedback. It provides information about student achievement which allows teaching and learning activites to be changed in response to the needs of the learner.

Assessment as Learning sees student involvement in assessment; participating in peer assessment, working with assessment criteria and self-monitoring of progress, as moments of learning themselves. Students come to have a better understanding of the subject matter, expected standards of achievement and their own learning through close involvement with assessment.

What does research say about assessment in higher education?
Research into assessment in higher education suggests the following key considerations:

• Assessment strongly influences students’ learning,
including what they study, when they study, how much work they do and the approach they take to their learning.

• The type of assessment influences the quality and amount of learning achieved by students.

• Poorly designed assessment can lead to students developing limited conceptual understanding of the material.

• Well-designed assessment is likely to be intrinsically motivating for students and lead to better retention of material which students can apply in other settings.

• Students’ prior experience of learning and perceptions of assessment may override attempts by lecturers to change their approach to learning, and they should be helped to a better understanding of assessment tasks.

• Feedback is the most important aspect of the assessment process for raising achievement, yet currently students express considerable dissatisfaction with much of the feedback received and it does not always impact on their learning.

• Self and peer assessment are crucial elements in helping students to learn from their assessment and become more autonomous learners.

• Feedback should inform tutors’ teaching and support strategies as well as student activity.

Tutor led feedback session to small groups of students

student mentoring
First year student mentoring a group of Year 0 students