There are four areas of assessment
that should be explored for the purposes of improving assessment:
||The design of assignments
||The management of the assessment process
||Marking for feedback (Formative assessment)
||Marking for grading (Summative assessment)
||Procedures for evaluating the assessment process
||Procedures for evaluating the learning of the cohort of students
Which of the above
have you considered recently?
What counts as a good assignment?
What counts, in your view, as a good assignment task or examination question?
Spend a few minutes jotting down
your views and then compare them with a couple of colleagues.
The Dearing Report is likely to place greater emphasis upon transferable skills and
preparation for work.
A common fallacy which is enshrined in that report is that skills can be learnt and
assessed independently of content. Skills are always learnt in context. The narrower the
context, the less likely the skills will transfer to other contexts. If you do wish to
develop your students' skills then you have to look carefully at the range of assessment
tasks that you set, what feedback you provide and how you introduce the notion of skills
to students. Often students are unaware of what skills they are learning when tackling an
essay, an oral presentation or a group project.
What skills do students learn on
your history course?
Do you discuss them with students?
Which assignments and examination
questions assess which skills?
Types of Essay Questions
There is no clear cut classification of types of essays, but there are families of essays
that share common characteristics. A linguist, a post-modernist, or a philosopher might
enjoy doing a research project on essay questions and their hidden meanings.
|Some types are:
||Quote to discuss
||Describe or Explain
||Compare and Contrast
Some taxonomies for exploring assignments and examination questions
Below you will find a few examples of taxonomies that are useful for assessing the design
of examination questions or for marking them. Look through the examples and decide which
one might be helpful for you in designing or marking assignment or examination questions.
Discuss one or two of them with colleagues.
Hierarchy of the Cognitive Domain
to make a judgement of the worth of something
to combine separate elements into a whole
to break a problem into its constituent parts and establish the relationships between each
to apply rephrased knowledge in novel situation
to rephrase or paraphrase knowledge
which can be recalled
Bloom. B.S. (1965) A Taxonomy of Educational Objectives Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain New
McKay 2nd Edition
At which level do you
normally assess? At which level do your students normally respond?
Compare your questions with those of a couple of colleagues.
A useful activity is to try to design 6 questions on the same topic, one question at each
of Understanding developed during revision
||Absorbing facts and details and procedures related to exams without
consideration of structure
||Accepting and using only the knowledge and logical structures provided in
the lecture notes
||Relying mainly on notes to develop summary structures solely to control
||Developing structures from strategic reading to represent personal
understanding but also to control exam answers
||Developing structures from wide reading which relate personal
understanding to the nature of the discipline
Entwistle, N.J. and Marton, F. (1994) Knowledge Objects: Understanding constituted through
academic study British Journal of Educational Psychology, 62, 161-178
Which approach do your students
Could you use this to develop a marking scheme or a set of criteria?
Biggs (1997) describes how his taxonomy, SOLO (Structure of the Observed Learning
Outcome), may be used for analysing learning tasks, hierarchies of objectives and for
assessing students' work. The five levels of Bigg's schema are:
task is not attacked appropriately. The student hasn't understood the point.
or a few aspects of the task picked up or used but understanding is nominal.
aspects of the task are learnt but are treated separately.
components are integrated into a coherent whole with each part contributing to the overall
integrated whole at the relational level is re-conceptualised at a higher level of
abstraction. This enables generalisation to a new topic or area, or it is turned
reflexively on oneself. (Understanding as transfer and as involving meta-cognition).
Pre-structural could be regarded as barely satisfactory and Extended
abstract as outstanding
Biggs, J (1997) 'Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment', Higher Education (in
Can you translate the
above into your own language and approach assessment? How could you use this hierarchy in
your assessment procedures?
The beginnings of
Each subject has its own
emphases. So descriptions offered here should be adapted for use in your subject.
||Gets to the
heart of the matter. Evidence of wide reading, analysed at depth to support arguments. All
major points covered. Outstanding organisation and presentation for an undergraduate.
Substantial evidence of personal interpretation. Virtually no irrelevant material. Correct
Issues understood and interpreted intelligently. Major points covered. Well organised and
presented. Evidence of personal interpretation and a coherent argument. Material relevant.
Correct referencing. Appraises critically each segment of the evidence and links them in a
coherent informed argument. Hints at his or her personal interpretation.
reading. Issues understood. Presentation and organisation clear. Most major points
covered. Provides the evidence and reports views on it. In so doing provides a fairly
coherent answer to the question. Correct referencing.
evidence and reports views but does not relate them clearly to the question. A few major
points not covered. Some evidence of organisation. Errors in referencing.
points not covered. Contains much irrelevant material. Little evidence of organisation.
The question almost ignored.
evidence of reading or of understanding of issues. Insufficient or misinterpreted evidence
and views. Jumbled. No or little attempt to answer question.