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Assessment is the most important thing we do for HE students
Prof. Sally Brown

Published on 21st February 2006

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How we go about assessing HE students has such a significant impact on student learning that we need to rethink our whole curriculum design process to foreground assessment. Nothing we do for students is more important. Our roles as teachers must radically change so we can concentrate our time and energies more on formative feedback and less on curriculum delivery, since students can access information from a variety of sources. Helping students develop the ability to evaluate themselves and the resources they use is crucial for effective learning. Institutional stratgeies need to be designed to ensure a radical overhaul of assessment to make it fit-for-purpose.

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Boud, D (1995) Enhancing learning through self-assessment, London, Routledge Falmer.

Sadler, D R (1989) Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems Instructional Science, 18, 119-144.

Yorke M, 1999, Leaving Early: Undergraduate Non-Completion in Higher Education, London, Taylor and Francis.

Yorke M and Longden B, 2004, Retention and Student Success in Higher Education, Maidenhead, Open University Press.

Related links:
Leeds Met University Assessment, Learning and Teaching Strategy

Leeds Met Assessment Learning Teaching Reflections - Leeds Met staff write 200 words daily about Assessment, Learning and Teaching

"If we take it as true that assessment is indeed the most important thing we do for HE students then we should take this a step further and contend that assessment should be the first thing we plan and design when designing any new course/module. The style, nature and focus of the assessment should determine both what is taught and how it is taught - not vice versa." (Mirabelle Walker, The Open University, 21st February 2006)


"I agree [with the contention that : assessment is the most important thing that we do for HE students] and so feel that assessment needs to be an integral part of any course, as that it drives student learning. In the OU we now include the assessable outcomes in the course design from an early stage.

Sally mentioned the role of computers in formative assessment, but it important that students see the value of this to help them tackle summative assessment. The OU is now using a package called ?Open Mark?, in science and maths. Students can do (short) formative questions prior to the summative and get immediate feedback on their answers. These are similar to the summative questions, which also give feedback after incorrect answers (3 attempts permitted for decreasing numbers of marks). They can do the assessment in stages or in one final attempt. It is flexible enough to accommodate various learning styles. Setting up the assessment increases staff workload initially, as multiple questions are required, but afterwards workload is less. Staff can get a wealth of feedback on student performance on the formative and summative questions to enable them to improve the module and the feedback." (Judy Ekins, The Open University 21 February 2006)