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Course Design Blueprint

Progressive assessment

As for Delivery, there is an expectation that the assessment strategies (compromising the types and numbers of assessment components, the associated workload, and the support provided to students as they engage with the assessment) at each level of courses will reflect the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy's model of learning, with students expected to take more responsibility for the learning and activity involved in assessment at higher levels opf study.  Typical depictions of assessment at each of the undergraduate levels is provided under the three tabs below.

At level four, assessment tasks are precisely structured to enable students to understand exactly what is expected of them, with any resources they require to complete the work clearly signposted.  Reflecting the transitional nature of level four studies, the amount of summative assessment set for students, particularly within the earlier parts of the year, are limited. This is to enable students to develop resilience and confidence before facing significant formal, assessment challenges.  Students are provided with clear guidance and support on how to complete assessment components, along with opportunities to practice and gain feedback on the essential skills and attributes required to complete the assessments, prior to employing them in earnest in summative assessment tasks.

At level five, assessments involve students employing theory and its practical application in combination, typically in tackling detailed and involved scenarios.  While the learning outcomes for modules may require multiple assessment components to be set, students will get the opportunity to tackle more involved assessment components counting for the whole weighting of a 20 credit module. Students take some responsibility in determining how their work should be completed and presented, while being able to access advice and support to inform their decision making.  However, whenever new types of assessment are introduced to students, they have signposted opportunities to gain support and developmental feedback to enable them to achieve to the best of their ability.

At level six, assessments involve the analysis of complex and sophisticated problems and scenarios in order to develop solutions or recommendations. It is normal for a 20 credit module to incorporate a single assessment component. Students are responsible for determining how they complete their assessment tasks, according to any broad parameters provided.  The exploration and discussion of the processes involved in tackling such assessment tasks form an essential element of the students’ learning and they have the opportunity to do this with tutors through scheduled sessions or tutorial opportunities.

As students progress through their course, they should encounter assessments that are aligned with the level of study they are at.  Course teams need to consider the means by which they will enable students to develop the abilities to complete the more demanding assessment tasks set to demonstrate their achievement of final year learning outcomes.  As explored in the table below, level six assessments are likely to involve significant pieces of work, requiring students to select and apply a combination of theories or approaches to address complex and ill-defined problems or scenarios.  In combination, the learning activities including formative opportunities and the summative assessments provided within the earlier levels should ensure students are prepared to, and have the confidence in their ability to, embark on such assessment effectively.


Assessment approach




Level four: guided

smaller assessments that give students insight and practice in the fundamental subject specialist, academic, and/or generic skills

concise academic writing tasks such as literature reviews, …

Presentation of facts or ideas to peers

Single issue case study summary drawing out key points and linking to theory

Level five: negotiated

involved assessments that require students to choose and employ skills in combination, to address real scenarios, and evaluate their proficiency and effectiveness

3000 word essay

Presentation of case study with personal analysis, with question and answer defence.

Multiple issue case study analysis discussing links between theory and practice

Level six: Independent

Substantial assessment in which students demonstrate critical proficiency in selecting and applying skills to address ill-defined scenarios in a professional and work ready manner

Dissertation or capstone project report

Presentation to professionals exploring either cutting edge research or practice improvement along with practical implications.

Ill-defined or complex case study review reflecting multiple theoretical standpoints and providing carefully justified conclusions and recommendations.


Assessment through partial completion

One approach to developing progressive assessment strategies is to require students work on partial assessment components rather than complete pieces.  This approach focusses students on a part of a process, focussing learning and assessment effort into developing confidence in specific skills and learning.  While this approach is often most suited to formative assessments, it could be used in summative assessment:

  • We could provide a part completed item for the students to complete
    • Students take notes while someone completes a lab task, then have to produce the lab report individually.
    • A part written essay is provided and students are required to write an introduction and a conclusion.
  • We could require students to complete the initial work (literature search) but not the whole piece
  • We could ask students to take some pre-prepared analysis, work to develop a solution, but not formally write up the solution.

Illustrative example: developing essay writing skills through the levels

A course team might consider the skills and abilities students will need to be able to complete an esssay as would be required to meet final year expectations.  In doing this, they arrive at a number of separate skills, as set out in the left hand column below.  In considering their students' development through the course, they decide that at level four they would not expect students to achieve all of these. In particular, they omit number 5, and revise three others as set out in the right hand column.  Finally, they recognise that at level five students should be able to almost achieve level six skills, albeit with a few minor adjustments as shown in the central column below.

Level six essay production skills

Level Five skills

Level four skills

research their topic selecting current and seminal academic literature

research their topic locating relevant current academic literature

Locate and consider relevant academic literature

derive and present conclusions

as L6

as L6

present their own critical analysis

as L6

present their own analysis

plan and realise an essay structure

as L6

as L6

select their focus and title

negotiate their title

critically review the literature

as L6

Review literature

manage their time in completing the essay to deadline

as L6

as L6

draft and refine their text

as L6

as L6

employ appropriate academic standards and conventions

as L6

as L6


Building on this, the team plan assessments at level four that each employ a few of the skills listed rather than all at once:

  • a literature search involving the application of skills 1 and 7;
  • a 500 word summary of two journal articles involving the application of skills 6, 8 and 9;
  • a draft essay plan along with a more developed analysis of a case study drawing out some conclusions involving skills 2, 3 and 4.

Finally, a short form essay requiring the use of all the leevl four skills will be required.

At level five the team employ more complex essay assessments whilst providing opportunities for students to learn more advanced skills in literature searching and to refine those skills developed at level four, resulting in their preparation to complete well formed essays by the end of the level, and in preparatrion for final year essay assignments.