Assessment and feedback
The initiative
It was decided to undertake a pilot project to address these issues on two fronts.

1 Module/Assessment Structure
Previously, each project had been assessed and marked individually at its conclusion, with the average of all the project grades creating the module grade. This structure did not allow much opportunity for formative feedback to be acted upon and also created an undue emphasis on individual projects and their requirements, rather than allowing students to identify the important underpinning factors which help to develop their design practice.

A new approach was trialled, where students still had to present finished project work by a certain deadline, but at this point the work was not graded; instead, the students were given extensive verbal and written formative feedback (see below) at a crit and had until the conclusion of the module to put this feedback into practice in order to improve the work before assessment and grading took place. It was hoped that this system would allow both immediate implementation of advice, to the benefit of the resulting work, and for students to transfer lessons learnt from one project to another in the same module and see the connections more clearly.

At the end-of-module assessment point, staff were also able to take a more holistic approach to assessment, taking into account overall attitude, design capablitlies, progression and the ‘exit velocity’ from each module, as well as any particular negative factors which may have affected a student’s performance.

2 Feedback format
It was felt that more effective use could be made of written feedback, so that it would become a tool for reflection and analysis by the students. Copies of these could be kept both as part of the students’ own Personal Development Files as a reference resource on their development and progression, and also by the course team to give a much clearer picture of the underlying strengths and weaknesses of each student.

A marking grid sheet was developed with assessment criteria as one axis while qualitative statements which captured the characteristics of performance at different standards and levels of achievement were along the other. These were written in more accessible language which made specific links both to the project/module requirements and to aspects of working design practice. This allowed students to identify at which point in the project cycle they were particularly strong or weak.

A further refinement was added when numerical grade bandings were removed from the sheets in order to try to concentrate the students’ attention on the comments being made than on grades

link to specimen assessment sheet