New dimension in presenting assignments - making clear the compiler's perspective

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Assessment and feedback (A&F) are aspects of increasing importance in contemporary higher education, not least the many internal evaluations, league tables and external surveys - including the NSS. For league tables in particular, A&F are often the criteria for which there is the greatest variation - and so which determine the ranking position of departments. This issue is partly due to the increase in student numbers and also because students are nowadays more concerned about how the feedback can be used to feed forward to their next submissions - it is not just the number. The major challenge is then how to deliver meaningful feedback within a reasonable time frame: at times, A&F can sometimes feel like A&E. There have been a number of initiatives for dealing with this issue including peer marking and the greater use of educational technology for automatic marking. It could be argued that the "A" part of A&F does not always get the attention it deserves. The starting point might be: what is an ideal assignment? Assignments and tutorial questions, as opposed to exams, are important in HE because they allow subjects to be considered in greater depth. The pedagogic literature and experience would suggest that there are many indicators of good practice. Certainly, the ideal assignment should have clear assessment criteria - and it should be clear what is required to achieved the pass mark and the higher grades. This is an area where there is much good practice in further education, where the assessment of HNCs and HNDs are based on three levels: pass, merit and distinction. An ideal assignment should be based on a typical scenario or application. Perhaps also, the ideal assignment should be developmental - it should form part of the learning process - as well as be a tool for assessment. In this work, it is now suggested that there is another important dimension in good assignment practice - that is, the decision making and choices that have taken place in producing an assignment. Consider the example of a set of tutorial questions on a particular topic. There are two types of commentary: vertical (the development from Q1 to Q2 and Q3) and horizontal (for example, how Q1 might be modified from year to year). A vertical commentary might explain why the questions are arranged as they are, typically in order of increasing difficulty. A horizontal commentary might then explain how such a question has been developed from the previous year - and how it might be improved for the next year. These such commentaries, as well as giving a unique insight to students, also help the compiler to reflect on the choice of questions. For the case of this author, this approach has helped to avoid duplication, change the order and improve the balance of questions. The evidence from a small case study for a Y1 UG class would also suggest that students also appreciate the decision making behind how course material is converted into assignments.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2017
EventChemEngUKDay 2017 - University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Mar 201728 Mar 2017


ConferenceChemEngUKDay 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • assessment
  • feedback
  • higher education


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