Feature: Improving assessment criteria

Assessment criteria across higher education vary greatly, with a real disparity in their design, delivery and measurement. LITE’s Huahui Zhao introduces her project on the subject here and discusses the wider picture.

Global concerns

The importance of assessment for learning is widely recognised. Yet, students’ low satisfaction with assessment and feedback is evident in the National Student Survey (NSS).

Most of the debate, however, is predominantly focused on enhancing the quality of teacher feedback, assuming that teachers are the only legitimate agents of assessment and feedback.

However, what support and guidance has been provided for the tutors to conduct assessment?

What are the students’ roles in assessment? What should be the objectives of assessment?

How could we make assessment better serve its purpose?

AUTHOR: LITE’S Dr Huahui Zhao.

Opportunity and challenges

The University of Leeds has urged schools across the University to introduce their own discipline-specific assessment criteria since 2017, aiming to enhance learners’ positive learning and assessment experience.

This poses a number of questions: how are the assessment criteria constructed across disciplines?

Who is involved in the process of developing these criteria? How are they introduced to staff and students?

Has the implementation of the criteria affected assessment practice as expected?

What are students’ and staff’s perceptions and experience of the assessment criteria?

These are the questions we intend to answer in my LITE project: New assessment criteria: an interdisciplinary investigation of their construction, introduction, implementation and impact across schools.

Stakeholder voices

One of the key designs of this project is to elicit viewpoints from different stakeholders who play different, yet important roles in constructing, introducing, and implementing the current assessment criteria.

We consider assessment as a practice within its local learning and teaching community.

We recognise the essential role of students in assessment and we value students’ voices in evaluating the effectiveness of the current assessment criteria and related practice.

Our three undergraduate student researchers from different disciplines have been actively involved in different stages of this project.

They’ve reviewed and piloted the student survey on the current assessment criteria.

They are collecting students’ perception data about their involvement, understanding and use of the current assessment criteria via surveys and focus groups.

They will play an important part in interpreting students’ perceptions of the current assessment criteria and present their suggestions for improvement.

Wide pool

We understand good assessment practice starts with appropriate construction, followed by proper introduction, and realised by effective implementation in order to generate positive impacts on learning and teaching.

We are inviting staff and students who have been involved in different stages of the development of the current assessment criteria to reflect on their experience.

They will give us their thoughts about the support that has been or should be provided and improvements that should be made to increase students’ engagement in assessment and enhance their experience of assessment at Leeds.

We regard good assessment practice as a cyclical process as shown in the graphic below:

ASSESSMENT criteria: Four research dimensions of the current assessment critieria

Expansive learning environment

Through exploring the four dimensions, we expect to generate comparative and cross-disciplinary attitudinal and evidential results of:

  • How new assessment criteria were constructed, introduced and implemented in different schools
  • Whether and how new criteria have actually informed and supported assessment practice
  • How the development, introduction, implementation and consequential impact of the criteria affected each other
  • Where improvements could be made and support could be provided
  • How participants could improve their assessment practice via acknowledging effective practice across disciplines.

In this way, we aim to create communities of practice wherein students and staff could cross boundaries into other schools and openly share, closely collaborate and learn from each other.

The dissemination of results could also generate international impact considering the emergence of global attention to assessment.

Looking forward  

We aim to draw upon the findings of a critical review of the current assessment criteria to understand and subsequently develop tutors’ and learners’ assessment literacy of why, what, and how the assessment criteria are/should be implemented and how their assessment practice could be informed by and align with the criteria.

For more information, contact Dr Huahui Zhao at: H.Zhao1@leeds.ac.uk.