The assessment set out for a module will often be a driving force for students seeking to achieve well in their studies. If students can see value in their learning activities in supporting their completion of planned assessment activities effectively they are often more motivated to engage with the activities. Integrating assessment activities into the curriculum provide students with opportunities to gain feedback on their learning and plan further development activity. Designing summative assessments that prompt and drive students learning can also be an effective strategy for module design, as explored in part in the section on Problem Based Learning.
Integral to all learning are opportunities for students to gain feedback on how they are progressing with their learning. While summative assessments posed to measure achievement of module learning outcomes contribute to this, it is essential that other formative opportunities are integrated into the learning and teaching strategies adopted for modules. Such opportunities should normally have the following two outcomes:
Well designed formative opportunities may also have further outcomes:
The assessment that students are set tends to be a key, if not the key, driver for their learning activities. While this can be seen as a negative aspect of student approaches to learning, making sure that planned assessment activity is integrated into the students' intended learning experience can ensure students engage with the course curriculum meaningfully.
Purposed in-class interaction is a key element to linking assessment and learning, with clear sign posting through a module to students on how the planned learning activities will support their completion of the assessment tasks. However, the design of the assessment component themselves can have a significant impact on the students' engagement with the whole of the module's learning activities.
In the discussion below we look at some of the standard forms of assessment used within the University and consider how these can be configured within the curriculum to encourage and enhance student learning. The Course Team Guidance content below further illustrates how assessment can be designed to ensure it is an integral part of students' learning experiences.
In addition to the assessment types listed above, there are a variety of more innovative or unusual assessment types that course teams have used at the University which may be worth considering. For each, we have included further information in the case studies and exemplars box at the bottom of the page.
While the majority of formative opportunities will be integrated into students learning programme, there is also a critical value in setting assessment activities that are specifically designed to prepare students for their engagement with their summative assessment components. In particular, formative assessment will:
It should be recognised that, typically, getting students to engage with a formative assessment will require a significant portion of the student’s learning time within a module. Consequently, such opportunities should not be employed unless there will be a clear benefit for the students. Any formative assessment must be complemented with an effective feedback process that will allow each student to gain meaningful feedback that is pertinent to, and proportional to, the work they have invested in, and will support their onward learning and development planning in preparation for the subsequent summative component.
Below we explore some possible formative assessment activities and when and how they can be employed effectively for students.