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and this weeks finale – we launched our assessment and feedback toolkit at the ALDinHE conference 2019. Here is the link to the webpage and last years presentations Direct link to the Assessment and Feedback toolkit

Informed by the conclusion of Ball et al (2012 p8) that assessment practice in most universities has not kept pace with other far-reaching changes in HE and that “a radical rethink of assessment practices and regulations” and a “holistic and proactive approach” is required, the Centre for Excellence in Learning at BU (now FLIE) implemented an evidence-based vision involving radical change to institution-wide assessment policy. By using a collaborative and partnership approach the development of key resources in the form of an Assessment & Feedback Toolkit was made possible. The principles-based and evidence-based strategy focused on a rebalancing of summative and formative assessment tasks; a broader menu of assessment types; and the promotion of technology-enhanced learning strategies facilitated by a new VLE. The CEL team drew on leadership strategies set out in Quinney et al (2017) and invited large-scale engagement through Faculty Fiestas and external events (Quinney et al 2018) to critically inform the process.

Building on the success of the TEL Toolkit (Biggins et al 2017) an online Assessment & Feedback Toolkit was developed to support the changes. We will share critical reflections on our approach to enable others to undertake a similar institution-wide approach to bring about clear benefits for staff and students. The Toolkit includes resources for formative assessment activities; assessment literacy strategies and has help, guidance and suggestions for planning assessments.

The development team:
Professor Debbie Holley, (former head of CEL) Anne Quinney (assessment and Feedback Theme leader (pictured); Learning Technologist Vince Clark, sincere thanks to BU Visiting Professor Dai Hounsell for his advice and guidance.

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)

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)