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Assessment literacy and student success

Assessment literacy and student success: investigating how embedded academic literacies provision in the curriculum develops student assessment literacy

Jiani Liu (Learning Development Team / skills@library)

Project overview

This project explores how students develop their confidence and readiness for assessments in undergraduate modules.

Assessment literacy is the capability of students to make sense of assessments and, armed with this understanding, to exercise more control over their learning. Developing students' assessment literacy through transparent and inclusive assessment dialogue could bridge the gap between student understanding and staff expectation, which will contribute to an enhanced student performance (e.g., Price et al. 2012, HEA 2012 and Bovill et al., 2021). Academic literacies provision in the curriculum, such as embedded, contextualised academic skills workshops and online learning resources in the module VLE area, provides a space for such development. However, limited research has been carried out on the impact of embedded academic literacies on developing student assessment literacy.

This project aims to analyse and evaluate the impact of embedded academic literacies provision on the development of students’ assessment literacy. It is intended to inform a more systematic approach to evaluating academic literacies provision in the curriculum. The project may also establish a model of good practice for embedding academic literacies into the curriculum and the development of students’ assessment literacy.

Key findings

  • Students find consideration and discussion of exemplars in embedded academic skills sessions[1] most useful for understanding assessment standards and expectations
  •  Students perceive the marking criteria as ambiguous and difficult to use for self-regulation with their current level of assessment literacy:

“I'd say that it's kind of I feel like I understand [marking criteria] more after the session, but like only like relatively a little bit and I feel like it's kind of a thing that we'll need to keep doing, and it's yeah, a cumulative process.” (Speaker 2, student focus group 3)

“I think, like, judging my own work is, like, really hard. Like if someone gave me an essay, I feel like I will be better at analysing it than my own work, like, for some reason with my own work I can't really tell what's wrong about it, but on someone else's work I can, I don't know. It's just easier to see.” (Speaker 3, student focus group 1)

  • Students desire more contact time, skills sessions, and formative assessment and feedback opportunities to develop their assessment literacy
  • Staff report tension between content and literacies development, due to the limited space in the curriculum
  • Staff report low student engagement with feedback; however, students find it difficult to get access formative feedback and some find summative feedback not constructive:

“I wish there was like more opportunities, like a little bit of time in the class just to, like at the end, maybe finishing like a few minutes early, so you could actually ask the teacher instead of having to book an office hour.” (Speaker 4, student focus group 1)

Implications for practice

The findings of the research suggest several recommendations that could be adopted to elevate practice in supporting students to develop assessment literacy. Some of these are quick and easy to implement, whilst others are longer-term considerations:

Quick wins

  • Use clear signposting in teaching to develop student assessment literacy. For example, “here the author of this article points out X and it is a demonstration of critical analysis because…...”
  • Provide at least one session per semester for assessment support (analysing and discussing exemplars and marking criteria) in first-year modules or whenever a new assessment method is introduced
  • Allocate two brief time slots (5-10 minutes each) for student questions about assessment: once when the assessment is first released and once closer to the submission deadline
  • Use module-specific assessment exemplars and marking criteria in embedded academic literacies teaching
  • The scheduling of embedded academic skills sessions should be tied to when assessments are released
  • Make academic skills resources in Minerva assessment-specific and avoid generic signposting

Long-term recommendations

  • Design formative assessment and feedback opportunities in first-year modules or whenever a new assessment method is introduced
  • Integrate assessment literacy development into programme-level assessment strategy
  • Engage staff and students in more dialogue about assessment practice and expectations

[1] A typical embedded academic skills session is a 50-minute interactive workshop in a module timetabled slot, after assessment is released (e.g. week 6-8 in semester 1) or before the holiday or assessment period (e.g. week 23-24 in semester 2).

If you want to find out more details about this fellowship or what the next steps were upon completion please read the full snapshot (PDF) or contact Jiani (

Project start date: February 2022