Assessment Principles

Lancaster has established a series of guiding principles for the development of effective assessment and feedback in programme design. The principles are informed by research and practice at Lancaster and the wider sector. Accompanying practical guidance, design tools and examples of practice can be located in the sections below.

Tab Content: Programme Focus

Principle 1: Programme Focus

Assessment and feedback should form an integral part of programme design, aligned with what programmes of study are aiming to achieve within disciplinary communities.

This emphasises the importance of taking a programme level approach to the design of assessment and feedback, to ensure authentic practices relating to programme learning outcomes and to support learning across modules. This principle may be characterised by:

  • An emphasis on programmatic and discipline-level thinking for assessment and feedback that enhances the learning experience of a diverse student population.
  • The adoption of authentic assessment approaches which are congruent with programme aims, enabling students to demonstrate how they have met disciplinary learning outcomes.
  • A programme-level assessment and feedback strategy that supports and integrates learning across the programme and its modules.
  • Assessment that adopts an anticipatory approach during the design phase. This involves devising assessment strategies that are inclusive or, that offer equitable alternatives, reducing the need for reasonable adjustments.
  • Active collaboration with students and other stakeholders during the assessment design process.

Below you will find an Advance HE document which summarises and lists a range of assessment methods, potential benefits and considerations. Using this list, the activity is a simple mapping exercise. The activity is designed to help identify issues within a curriculum and assessment design and offer pointers to adjustments.

AHE summary overview of assessment methods

Guidance Resources

CEDA Developing Programme Focused Assessment Strategies

What are the benefits of designing holistic assessment strategies at a programme level? This short briefing paper provides insights into integrative approaches that pay attention to the overall body of assessment across the curriculum. [Updated August 2021]

CEDA Designing Plagiarism out of Assessment

Plagiarism is gnarly and complex challenge for contemporary Higher Education. But how do we determine between poor academic practice and the intention to plagiarise? And how can plagiarism be discouraged in the assessment design process? This briefing document, based on contributions by Professor Jude Carroll, offers a series of strategies for designing out opportunities for plagiarism when devising assessment. [Updated August 2021]

Examples of Practice

Anna Wos, Teaching Fellow, Department of Marketing

Digital induction programme for LUMS students

READ: Blended communities: empowering learner transition to HE

Transition to University level learning may be overwhelming for many new students. Particularly, first weeks of the experience might be filled with a lot of new information, getting used to a new place and systems. The information provided during induction week can be quickly forgotten.

Paul Newnham, Faculty Librarian, Library & Learning Development

Information literacy and the transition to University education

WATCH: ICE Fellowship Project Story: Information Literacy and the Transition to University Education

The Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) describe Information Literacy as ‘a set of skills and abilities which everyone needs to undertake information-related tasks; for instance, how to discover, access, interpret, analyse, manage, create, communicate, store and share information’ (CILIP, 2018)

Dr Ruth Mewis, Educational Developer, People & Organisational Effectiveness

Design for learning: exploring assessment literacy development in the curriculum

VIEW: Assessment literacy, Sway presentation

Assessment is often cited as the most important driving factor for student learning, with more influence than teaching (Bloxham, 2007). The NSS has consistently identified assessment and feedback as the aspect of programmes with which students are least satisfied (OfS, 2020), and this has firmly placed discussion of student expectations of assessment on the HE agenda (Medland, 2014).

Tab Content: Holistic knowledge

Principle 2: Holistic knowledge, skills and understanding

Assessment tasks and feedback should encourage students to develop their subject knowledge, skills and understanding, in a holistic way.

This emphasises the importance of assessment and feedback supporting learning not only in terms of disciplinary knowledge and skills, but also transferrable and employability skills, and preparing the student for life beyond university. It encourages assessment contextualised in real-world tasks. Characterised by:

  • Consideration of the connectedness of discipline knowledge development with professional and transferable employability skills development. Whilst not every task has an immediate or obvious connection to the discipline knowledge, it is likely to have some relevance and connectedness that can be articulated and explained to the students.
  • Assessment designs that encourages students to apply and contextualise knowledge and skills to real world situations.
  • Assessment that supports learning beyond the curriculum/degree scheme, preparing students for life beyond university.
  • The volume and timing of assessment reflecting the credit value of the module and, wherever possible, taking into consideration the assessments (task, timing and nature) on other modules.
  • Assessment tasks that enable students to draw upon their diverse backgrounds and experiences, valuing their knowledge, skills and understanding.

Guidance Resources

CEDA Designing Formative Assessment

Good formative assessment generates feedback and dialogue about student learning and progression of understanding. This quick guide provides a five-step process for designing formative assessments that engage students and support their learning. [Updated August 2021]

CEDA Assessment Workload and EquivalencyCEDA Assessment Workload and Equivalency

How can we ensure that assessment tasks are of an appropriate size? What are the factors to be taken into account when deciding on the length of an assignment? How do we know if an alternative assessment is equivalent to another? This guidance offers some key considerations when trying to determine summative assessment workloads. It refers to general principles of good assessment design, and should be read in conjunction with the other assessment design guidance available. [NEW August 2021]

Examples of Practice

Dr Mark MacDonald, Director of Teaching (UG), School of Mathematical Sciences

Surveying workflows for creating and maintaining Moodle quizzes

WATCH: Using Moodle quizzes in mathematics assessment

Computer-marked assessments (CMAs) are becoming more prevalent as an educational tool. As technological advances are made, including in machine learning, the potential quality of our CMAs will continue to increase. Whilst there are no staff resources required for the actual marking of such assessments, there are considerable staff resources required in the design, creation, and maintenance of these quizzes. In the design phase, a decision must be made about the process by which questions are created, and this is especially important if the questions involve any random element.

Tab Content: Timely Assessment and Feedback

Principle 3: Timely Assessment and Feedback

Assessment and feedback should enable the student to develop their understanding of their subject in a timely way.

This stresses the importance of assessment for learning, not only of learning, and of students receiving feedback in time for them to apply it to later assessments; it emphasises the need for a balance of formative and summative feedback to support learning.

  • Within programme design, there should be a mix of genuinely formative feedback and summative feedback, with early formative feedback and feedforward desirable.
  • Students should be supported to act on feedback, particularly by enabling them to make connections between assessment tasks across modules and levels.
  • Assessment tasks should be scheduled within an overall programme timeframe that facilitates student learning, and that feedback on assessments is received at a point where it can enhance their related assessed work.
  • The number of assessment points should be considered, and staff are encouraged to think about the quality of assessment tasks over quantity, to ensure we are designing assessments in a constructive way, avoiding over-assessment of students.

Guidance Resources

CEDA Strategies for Effective Feedback

What is feedback? How can its potential for student learning be maximised? This short briefing paper presents insights into current research and practice for creating effective feedback strategies that engage students and support them in their ongoing learning and development. [Updated August 2021]

CEDA Effective and Efficient Feedback Methods

Crafting good quality written feedback takes time. However, not all feedback has to be written comments on summative work. In this exercise you can look at a range of possible feedback approaches and consider their workload implications versus the potential learning payoff for students. A worthwhile 10 minute activity that could save you hours in the longer-term. Original resource developed by Race, P. (2014) Making Learning Happen; London: Sage.

Tab Content: Facilitating Learning

Principle 4: Facilitating Learning and Improving Standards

Assessment tasks and feedback given should facilitate learning and improve standards.

Assessment tasks and mode – encouraging variety and innovation where appropriate, constructive alignment with disciplinary understanding and employability goals, and consideration given to the amount and type of assessment – with quality valued more highly than quantity.

  • Through our discussions we became aware of a range of ‘myths’ surrounding what can/can’t be done relating to assessment task setting, and it is important that such myths do not act as a constraint on programmatic assessment design.
  • Staff should consider style, design and variety of assessment to enhance student experience. Varied methods of assessment are encouraged where appropriate, in accordance with academic regulations (from CDDA). Staff should also be supported and encouraged to try out innovative assessment practices.
  • Use of technology can both help and hinder our commitment to inclusion. It can provide flexibility for disabled students, or students studying at a distance and support collaboration for group assessment tasks. It is important to ensure course assessment is transparent and presented in an accessible format using accessible software.
  • It is important that there is transparency and validity of assessments towards the disciplinary thinking and employability goals.
  • There are also opportunities for use of diagnostic assessment, which can carry low weightings, which may be useful to students and teaching staff.
  • We emphasise the importance of anticipating accessibility and inclusion when planning the assessment of placement, fieldtrip/fieldwork or lab work elements within a programme. We should consider how students will take part or where an alternative, equivalent assessment may need to be offered to enable all students to demonstrate attainment of essential skills and knowledge.

Assessment standards and marking criteria - specifically how students understand and engage with the standards and clear marking criteria in way which supports their learning.

  • We promote a collaborative approach to the construction of transparent assessment standards, encouraging staff and students to engage in dialogue about standards and marking criteria, in advance of the assessment being completed.
  • This will facilitate the development of a shared understanding of the standard, in terms of what is expected in the assessment process that has been designed and why, i.e. assessment literacy.
  • The assessment standards establish the threshold knowledge and understanding expected of students, providing a way of monitoring and encouraging learning to take place at an appropriate level.
  • The marking criteria help to articulate that expectation for tutors and students. Marking criteria are important for indicating what is expected of students, and how they can achieve higher levels of attainment through the learning journey (student progression).
  • We recognise that some learning outcomes are competence standards. Where a competence standard has legitimately been confirmed, it is important to ensure students are aware of the alternative inclusive assessment opportunities before the start of the module.

Content and nature of feedback – stressing the value of constructive, personalised and respectfully expressed feedback with which students can engage to improve their learning.

  • The nature and quality of feedback to enhance student use of feedback is important, and faculties and departments/divisions are encouraged to find ways to encourage student engagement with feedback
  • Students raised the value they placed on progressive feedback, i.e. comments that are constructive and have a clear feedforward dimension, recognising both strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Feedback should be accessible (legible), clearly written and sensitively framed, respectful in tonality and generally encouraging.
  • Students feel strongly that feedback should be specific to them, rather than generic statements that apply to a whole class or cohort, avoiding generalisations.
  • Assessment and feedback should be tailored to individual student needs: specific to the style, the background and the learning method of the individual, using a considerate and respectful tonality, this was a major theme in the student consultation.

Guidance Resources

Reflecting Back Thinking Forward: Experiences & learning in teaching practices: Anonymised Marking Versus Person-Centred Teaching and Assessment

Keynote: Dr Patrick Hagopian, Senior Lecturer in History & American Studies

Patrick’s talk drew on his practice as a teacher to oppose the recent proposal to anonymise the marking of students’ coursework. The talk drew attention to the risk to the student-teacher relationship when one does not know the name of the student author because it has been transformed into a number. Engaging with relevant scholarship to assess the purported benefits and costs of anonymisation, the talk set this specific problem in the wider context of evidence-based institutional decision-making.

Watch Patrick’s talk in full

CEDA Marking and Moderation: A Guide for Discussion

Marking students’ work fairly, objectively and consistently is an expectation of those who mark in higher education. This briefing paper is intended to support discussion at module, programme or department level about marking and moderation processes, to provide reassurance for markers and students about the robustness of the process.

Marking and feedback (podcast)

This brief podcast (c. 11m) provides a general overview of the factors and considerations for marking and feedback in higher education.

Tab Content: Learning Journey

Principle 5: Learning Journey

Assessment and feedback should be part of an ongoing learning journey, facilitating the development of students as effective peer- and self-assessors/regulators.

This principle emphasises the importance of assessment and feedback in developing students’ self-efficacy as life-long learners are able to make judgements about themselves and the quality of their own work, for example through self- or peer-assessment and reflection. This principle is characterised by assessment and feedback which...

  • Promotes the idea of the student on a learning journey, building on their learning experiences in a holistic way;
  • Integrates assessment literacy (the students’ ability to understand the purpose and processes of assessment, as well as the language associated with assessment, marking criteria and feedback to enable them to accurately judge their own work) with learning;
  • Supports students to learn how to interpret and act on feedback, including modelling the use of effective feedback practice as a strategy for helping students to do the same;
  • Recognises students as lifelong learners, with assessment and feedback impacting students’ wider development as self-aware and self-reflective learners. With this in mind, assessment should promote effective peer- and self-assessment, as well as reflection skills.
  • Is provided in such a way that students act on it and change their future studying and way of thinking about their discipline, their careers and beyond.

Examples of Practice

Assessment & feedback: Students, strategies & standards, Jan McArthur, Lancaster University (link to Panopto)

Dr Corinna Peniston-Bird & Joanne Wood

Corinna is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History

Joanne is the FASS Learning Developer

Talking about writing – a community of practice approach to PGR writing development

WATCH: Talking About Writing: Conversation

READ: Talking About Writing: Summary

Academic Writing (capitals intentional) has become something of a behemoth - a mysterious, and awkward specialism beset by rules and instructions. The more we teach it, the more we can reinforce the impression that it was invented by bigger people than us and that we should learn the tricks, follow the rules, play the game.

Sadie Whittam & Dr Maarten Michielse

Maarten is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology

Sadie is a Solicitor and Lecturer in the Law School

Authentic learning and assessment: diversifying student experience, enhancing employability, and driving institutional change

READ: Authentic Learning and Assessment

This collaborative project explores how we can introduce and further develop authentic learning and assessment opportunities and experiences at a cross-disciplinary level. Authentic learning and assessment opportunities simulate the real work done in professional, cultural and societal contexts (Herrington, 2014; Herrington & Herrington, 2006).