When planning assessment in the block and blend approach, it is important that each assessment component plays a clear and articulated role in the students’ learning experience, and that none form a distraction from planned learning activities and thus divert students’ attention.
Within a focussed period of learning (four weeks in the university’s standard block model) we should ensure that everything that a student is guided to do within this period will contribute to the module’s learning in some way. To have an assessment piece in the middle of a module that both distracts or draws students from other learning activity and fails to form an integral part of their learning, can be a significant issue. On the next page we consider some examples of what might be considered distracting and integrative assessment components.
It is well known that many students will plan and manage their engagement with learning activities on the basis on their understanding of how each contributes to their achievement as indicated by the marks awarded for summative assessment. Thus, if such a student does not see a value of an activity in these terms, they are less likely to focus their attention on it. Conversely, where summative assessment forms, or is integrated into, learning activity the level of student engagement is likely to be higher.
Our assessment regulations require students to achieve at pass or near pass level on every assessment component set. Consequently, having many assessment components provides creates numerous barriers to student achievement or progression. This can be mitigated by making assessments non-core so allowing in-module compensation. Other approaches are outlined below.
Ensure all mid-module assessments are integrated into the learning experience and will not distract from students’ engagement with planned learning activity.
Plan assessment to be clearly linked to the learning that students need to engage with. Ensure that preparation for and completion of assessment tasks contributes to the students learning such that they can see how it has played a part in their personal progress.
Embed work in learning activities that will result in the students producing artifacts or pieces of writing, some of which are permitted to form part of final assessment pieces (for example, within a portfolio or as sections or case studies in a larger written piece). Students can be encouraged to experiment or take risks within the smaller pieces or artifacts if they know that a limited number of their pieces will be required.