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Course Design Blueprint


The primary purpose of all assessment strategies is to securely and fairly assess the students' achievement of the course's learning outcomes and to measure the quality of their achievement through the allocation of marks.  As explored in the other assessment themes within this blueprint, there are many other purposes and roles of assessment that should be taken into account in course and module design and delivery, but pursuing these should never compromise the ability for assessments to measure student achievement accurately and securely.

Assessment is an integral part of students’ learning experience, prompting learning activity, providing opportunities to test and apply learning, and enabling students to gain confidence in their learning.  Assessment takes many forms within the University’s courses, contributing opportunities for knowledge acquisition and use, cognitive and practical skills development, and synthesis. The receipt of feedback informs students about their progress and achievement and encourages them to reflect and plan for further and future learning activity.  Normally, and where the number of credits studied for allow it, all courses include assessments that involve students making individual presentations, authoring academic, reflective and public facing documents or artefacts, employing pictorial/visual production skills, working with employers or relevant stakeholders to respond to real scenarios, demonstrating professional aptitudes, and working within a group

University Principles for Assessment and Feedback

A set of principles for Assessment and Feedback for the University have been developed as set out below

Assessment design
  • Course design processes should be based upon a strategic and integrated approach to assessment and feedback
  • Assessment should be designed for learning
  • Assessment tasks should be closely aligned to the programme and module Learning Outcomes
  • Assessment should assure that students meet the necessary standards for an award
  • Assessment design should take in to account the workload of both staff and students
Assessment in practice
  • Students should receive clear and timely information about assessment
  • Students should be provided with clarity on what good performance means
  • Learning opportunities, including formative assessment, should always fully prepare students for summative assessment
  • Assessment tasks should be inclusive
  • Assessment processes should emphasise academic honesty and integrity
  • Feedback on student performance should be provided continuously as part of a process of dialogue between a student, their peers and the teacher
  • Feedback may take a variety of forms. There is an expectation that students will normally, as a minimum, be provided with electronic feedback for summative assessments.
  • Students should be provided with specific feedback on all forms of assessment
What feedback should do
  • Feedback should provide high quality information to students about their learning
  • Feedback should be provided in a timely manner to optimise its effectiveness
  • Feedback should facilitate self-assessment and critical reflection on learning
  • Feedback should identify how the student could improve in order to reach the desired performance
  • Feedback should encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem

Assessment Strategy Essentials

The standard model of assessment is for each module within a course to have its own assessment strategy - one or more summative assessment components that students will complete to demonstrate their achievement of the module's learning outcomes, and to demonstrate achievement above threshold as would be recognised by marks above pass level.  As explored further in the content in this section, a course team will need to consider the following factors when designing assessment strategies:

  • Student progression and development: students will need to be given the opportunity to learn and develop the skills and competencies associated with completing assessment before they are expected to employ them in a summative assessment component.
  • The provision of Feedback is an essential contribution that assessment makes towards students' learning and needs to be planned throughout the curriculum and provided in a consistent and constructive manner.
  • By employing a variety of types of assessment components, students are given opportunities to develop, demonstrate and gain credit for a range of skills and talents.  As explored in the Assessment Types section, course teams are encouraged to include a range of assessment component types, including written and oral presentation, digital and physical artefacts where appropriate, and requiring students to work in groups and to employ their critical and practice based skills in authentic and challenging scenarios.
  • The amount of work, or assessment load, that students will need to do within each module to complete their assessment tasks alongside the planned learning activities should be balanced across the curriculum.
  • In general, the award of higher marks should not be dependent on the effort dedicated to the assessment task, but rather on the quality of the work that the students submit.
  • Recognising the learning benefit that students can gain in being required to engage with more substantial projects or assessments, requiring more sustained engagement and opportunities for reflection, and giving space for mistake making and correction, teams are encouraged to explore integrating such opportunities into course delivery and assessment.  This can be achieved through Problem Based Learning, and through the use of Synoptic assessments.
  • Assessment strategies and processes across a course need to be designed to ensure students can be confident that it is fair and to Promote good academic practice.

Assessment for skills and attribute development

A course should seek to include within its overall assessment strategy opportunities for all their students to develop and demonstrate:

  • Digital skills including the abilities to employ pertinent software effectively and to communicate effectively in a variety of digital formats.
  • Team working skills including the negotiation and meeting of work responsibilities and deadlines, and possibly leadership and project management.
  • Independent learning skills
  • Prolonged engagement requiring personal attributes such as persistence, motivation and self-management.
  • Intra-professional skills, demonstrating the ability to work effectively with those of a different subject specialist or professional role, and skills involved in working with or for customers, clients, or service users.
  • Presentation skills, often alongside creative and expressive skills.

Assessment Literacy

The language and processes associated with assessment can be a barrier for student's engagement and achievement.  Course teams should embed in the curriculum opportunities for students to become comfortable and confident in approaching and completing assessment tasks. 

  • Students should be provided with an opportunity to engage with each type of assessment in advance of their need to complete a summative assessment of that type.  Engagement opportunities might include mock or practice events, and formative activities, and should allow students gain feedback on how they approached the tasks and how they might address areas of weakness and improve their performance and achievement.
  • The Academic Skills Advisors provide workshops for students exploring assessment practice including sessions on time management, preparation for exams, and critical thinking.  Such sessions should be signposted for students, and the team would welcome invitations to provide these or similar workshops as part of the planned curriculum.
  • Interpreting marking criteria and understanding how they are applied is not always easy (for tutors and for students).  Course teams are encouraged to provide opportunities for students to discuss and apply all marking criteria used in the course with academic staff to gain deeper understanding and skills in their use and application.