What is the role of assessment type in awarding gaps?
Eric Hewitt (School of Molecular and Cellular Biology) and Andrew Peel (School of Biology)
Awarding gaps exist between different categories of students in the Faculty of Biological Sciences (FBS). The percentage of ‘good degrees’ (1st & 2.1) awarded to black and minority ethnic (BAME) students is lower than that awarded to white students, whereas mature students are awarded fewer good degrees than young students. A study found that for cell biology at University College London (UCL), the BAME awarding gap was due to examinations not coursework. Our project will build on the UCL study by analysing the performance of different groups of students in FBS to identify which assessment type(s) contribute to awarding gaps.
We will cross reference the student module and individual assessment marks with information on student characteristics (ethnicity, age, etc.). This will allow pairwise statistical comparisons between groups, with data for undergraduate students in each academic year. From this we will identify the assessments associated with the generation of awarding gaps. These quantitative analyses of marks, will be complemented by qualitative input from students, guiding the analyses of specific assessment types, co-creating recommendations for change and designing targeted interventions.
The research approach
The University of Leeds Access and Student Success Strategy 2025 makes closing and eliminating key awarding gaps a strategic priority. For this we need a better understanding of how awarding gaps arise. Indeed, whilst, there are likely to be multiple factors that cause awarding gaps, these factors will converge on assessment. As such understanding the role of assessment type and changing assessment practice is important if we are to close the awarding gaps.
Our aim is to identify the assessment types associated with awarding gaps in FBS and then use this information to design informed targeted inclusive interventions to eliminate the gaps. Moreover, this project will have wider implications for the University of Leeds. We will share our workflow and methodology to enable other Schools and Faculties to perform analyses of student performance and to monitor the effect of interventions. Our findings will also feed into the University’s Inclusive Assessment policy/guidance, the Marks Project and could influence approaches to Award Classification.