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Ideas for assessment and feedback

thanks to Anne Quinney,Assessment and Feedback Theme Leader,
FLIE , Bournemouth University for the original post

(1) The University of Leeds has published a compendium of assessment types which includes student perspectives.

(2) JISC has recently published a report on the future of assessment – setting out five principles and 5 targets for 2025.

The 5 principles are:

• Authentic assessment
• Accessible assessment
• Appropriately automated assessment
• Continuous assessment and
• Secure assessment

(3) Leaflet on promoting assessment literacy – available on the Assessment and Feedback Toolkit website

Moving exams online – some principles

part of the assessment and feedback series with Anne Quinney, theme leader for assessment and feedback, and thanks to our visiting Professor, Prof Dai Hounsell, FLIE, Bournemouth University

Transforming how university exams are designed, managed and completed is far from straightforward. Without careful preparation and piloting, there are challenges in relation to fairness (a reasonable test of what students are expected to have learnt), fitness-for-purpose (the task reflects the intended learning outcomes and enables learners to meet the appropriate academic standard), equity of treatment (to avoid some students being disadvantaged), and robustness (i.e. confidence that technologies will work reliably and that there are effective back-up procedures in case of problems).

It therefore makes good sense to ‘make haste slowly’, drawing a distinction between what is feasible in the short term – this spring and summer – and what may be possible in the longer term as part of a more thoroughgoing shift in exam practices.  As you plan for a short term response to traditional exams please be aware of the principles set out in the BU policy document Principles of Assessment Design (6c).

“BU promotes alternatives to traditional handwritten exams, by expecting a wider range of time-limited assessment tasks and retaining traditional hand-written exams only where there is a PSRB requirement or other context-driven requirement.” (para 4.5)

In this material we focus on short-term options — what can be feasibly accomplished over the coming weeks and possibly months, when measures to combat the coronavirus have made some of our usual assessment practices impractical.

Creating different spaces

Some Guiding Principles

  1. Consider whether an exam is a requirement of the professional, statutory or regulatory body for your programme. Could you set another form of assessment?
  1. Wherever practicable, work with existing technology that is already familiar to staff and to students – for example those available in Brightspace or supported by the university. The Learning Technology team have produced guidance (see the Brightspace Staff Resources area ) and there are suggestions in the TEL Toolkit.
  1. Give careful thought to designing exam tasks that set a fair challenge to students, and couldn’t easily be sidestepped by simply looking up the answer on the internet, for example by including a requirement to comment on how this knowledge has been applied/can be applied by the learner to a real-life or hypothetical situation.
  1. Plan around a timetable that includes the following:
  • letting students know what form the exam will take, how they can prepare for it, when it will take place, and how they will submit their exam answer or response. A new Assignment Brief will need to be provided
  • wherever appropriate, posting up sample questions or practice materials, to prepare for the possible exam content and to check that students have access to suitable IT equipment off-campus
  • fixing a ‘release date and time’, when the exam question/problem/test materials are to be communicated to students
  • deciding on a submission date and time which is realistic and feasible (e.g. which gives students time to put together their considered response to the question set, and to submit it electronically in a secure way through the submission box set up in Brightspace
  • planning how to advise and support students with questions about any aspect of the exams (e.g. via FAQs or a Q&A discussion board)

As you plan alternatives to traditional on-campus exams in the current situation and begin to think ahead to the next academic year please be aware of the principles set out in the BU policy document Principles of Assessment Design (6c).The policy applies to Levels 4 and 7 currently and will also include Level 5 in the academic year 2020-21, and Level 6 in the academic year 2021-2.

“BU promotes alternatives to traditional handwritten exams, by expecting a wider range of time-limited assessment tasks and retaining traditional hand-written exams only where there is a PSRB requirement or other context-driven requirement.” (para 4.5)

Assessment & Feedback Toolkit: Promoting Assessment Literacy

Photograph shared by Anne Quinney

We have developed an online toolkit to support staff in updating their assessment and feedback practices with the support of Professor Dai Hounsell

This was part of a far-reaching response to the HEA publication by Ball et al (2012 p7) that

“assessment practices in most universities have not kept pace with the vast changes in the context, aims and structure of higher education. They can no longer do justice to the outcomes we expect from a university education in relation to wide-ranging knowledge, skills and employability ” and the HEA recommendation of “a radical rethink of assessment practices and regulations” with a “holistic and proactive approach” (Ball et al 2012 p8).

The material in the Toolkit is evidence-based, builds on best practice in the Higher Education sector, and forms part of a wide-reaching project to radically transform staff and student experiences of assessment. The Toolkit continues to grow as new resources are developed or identified, and FLIE Blog posts alert staff to new materials or key ideas to support the development of assignments for the next academic year.

Other dimensions of the project included the redesign of the university-wide Generic Assessment Criteria with feedback and feedforward statements for each grade-band and level from Level 3 (used in partner colleges), and Levels 4 to 7; a radical re-writing of formal assessment policies; a series of workshops and Masterclasses; a conference on assessment & feedback; individual, team and programme consultations; and input into the PGCert/PGDip/MA Academic Practice. In addition to the online materials, pocket guides for staff on assessment & feedback and on promoting  assessment literacy accompanied the Toolkit. In order to facilitate this complex, multi-layered and inevitably disruptive change we drew on the leadership strategies presented in our journal paper on extending academic roles and identities (Quinney et al 2017) and worked in close collaboration with a stakeholder group, in particular with the Students Union at BU.

We were fortunate to work closely with Visiting Professor Dai Hounsell, internationally known for his work on assessment and feedback in higher education. Dai has developed resources for the Toolkit, shared other resources he has developed (for example the Wise Assessment series of ‘Briefings’ in conjunction with the University of Hong Kong which you can find in the Toolkit) and is able to alert us to projects and publications on assessment and feedback as a result of his global networks.

The team shared aspects of the ongoing work at the ALDinHE conferences in 2018 and 2019

in the form of interactive workshops and would welcome any comments, feedback and additional open access resources to continue to build this valuable resource.

The external  link to the toolkit can be found here

If you would like to learn more about the other dimensions of the work on transforming assessment and feedback at BU please contact Anne Quinney.

If you would like to subscribe to the FLIE blog please follow this link


Quinney A, Thompson S, Luce A and Holley D. (2018)  Assessment and Feedback Fiesta: ALDinHE Conference, Leicester University

Quinney A, Lamont C, Biggins D and Holley D. 2017. Optimising disruptive approaches: extending academic roles and identities in higher education. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education Issue 10

Quinney A,  Thompson S, Luce A and Holley D. 2019. From assessment of learning to assessment for learning; Leading assessment policy change supported by an Assessment & Feedback Toolkit. ALDinHE Conference, Exeter University.

Anne Quinney, Principal Lecturer and University Lead for Assessment & Feedback, FLIE

Debbie Holley, Professor of Learning Innovation and National Teaching Fellow

In the last week, National Teaching Fellows Kay Sambell and Sally Brown have been exploring what kinds of alternative assessments can be used by universities when face-to-face attendance for exams and other assessments isn’t possible.

Professor Sally Brown.
Her work is available at

Sally was very grateful to the #LTHEchat in adding to the work with very helpful comments via Thursday night’s additional tweetchat.

The preliminary guidance note is attached here: Contingency-planning-exploring-rapid-alternatives-to-face-to-face-assessment-w.docx (129 downloads)