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Developing a more holistic approach to assessment policy and practice
Prof. Ranald Macdonald

Published on 21st February 2006

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Assessment is a complex issue requiring a more holistic approach to developing policy and practice in order to recognise the importance of the individual elements. This commentary focuses briefly on a limited number of aspects to highlight the complexity but also to stress the need to build on existing literature and evidence to better inform our practice.

The elements considered include: the need to align learning, teaching and assessment; the importance of looking at a variety of levels within and external to institutions to improve assessment; being clear about the purposes of assessment; recognising that assessment has to perform multiple functions at the same time; and adopting a scholarly and evidence-informed approach.

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Biggs, J (2003, 2nd ed.) Teaching for quality learning at university. Buckingham: Open University Press/SRHE

Boud, D (2000) Sustainable assessment: rethinking assessment for the learning society. Studies in Continuing Education, 22, 2, 151-167

Macdonald, R & Carroll, J (2005) Plagiarism ? a complex issue requiring a holistic institutional approach. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 31, 2, 233-245

Related links:
Formative Assessment in Science Teaching (FAST) project website

Centre for Promoting Learner Autonomy (CPLA) - Centre website.

"I think that the most important of the given purposes for assessment is it being ?a key factor determining a student?s learning experience?. Keeping this in mind aids the aligning of learning and teaching with assessment and focuses good practice at the different organisational levels. It informs the balance in the double duty of formative and summative assessment and it puts issues such as plagiarism in context.

However this purpose needs to be the students? purpose, as well as that of the teachers. Students need to see assessment as a key factor contributing to their learning." (Judy Ekins, The Open University, 21 February 2006)