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Step 4: Decide how much and when is most appropriate to assess

The amount and timing of assessment are important considerations in ensuring fairness. These must be addressed at the design stage and need to be considered both within the individual modules and across the whole programme. As a general rule students should have multiple assessment opportunities within each module to minimise high stakes assessment, and to offer a variety of assessment methods to promote inclusivity.

It is also important to ensure that assessment is timed to ensure that there is an opportunity for students to benefit from the feedback they receive. Carefully connecting tasks with areas of overlap provides an opportunity to create an assessment narrative for a module, with multiple opportunities for learners to act upon feedback and demonstrate how they have improved. This assessment narrative includes alignment with other activities such as lectures, tutorials and practicums. The effort required to complete a task should also be considered. Scheduling feedback opportunities is an important issue, as time must be allocated for judging assessment and providing feedback. Talking with colleagues about the assessment in their units can help pre-empt assessment ‘pinch points’ throughout the term where learners have many tasks due at once. It is also essential to remember that not every outcome has to be explicitly assessed in every task, but students should generally have more than one opportunity to demonstrate the achievement of an outcome.

Prompts for critical thinking:

  • Does your department have any rules about the scheduling of assessment tasks?
  • What are the assessment schedules of the other units your learners are undertaking? Are there potential synergies or conflicts?
  • How much time do you expect each task to take learners? How do you know if these are reasonable estimates? Does the planned assessment fit with the CATs allocation for the module?
  • Is the assessment you have designed manageable – for students and for assessors?
  • What arrangement of these tasks will most encourage a sustained engagement and development over the module?
  • Are any of your intended learning outcomes sequential – does the pattern of assessment reflect this? When is the best time in the module to assess each of the intended learning outcomes? Do intended learning outcomes need to be assessed in sequence, so a student masters one aspect knowledge, skills, behaviours consolidating learning before moving on, or are learning outcomes developed concurrently?
  • How will you support learners who underperform or miss earlier tasks so they have a chance to complete later tasks?
  • What formative assessment will students undertake to prepare them for the summatively assessed tasks?
  • How will you distribute formative and summative assessment tasks to ensure that they provide useful and timely opportunities for students to practice, to ensure assessors and learners have multiple opportunities to engage in feedback? See section on feedback strategy below.
  • What adjustments might you need to make to the teaching schedule so assessments can be completed and feedback provided in a timely fashion?
  • What activities will you integrate into your teaching strategy to ensure that students are assessment literate, i.e. they understand the nature of assessment and the standards against which they will be evaluated? See section on assessment literacy below.

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