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Co-creation in Assessment

Co-Creation in Assessment Documentation

Following IATL’s commitment to Co-Creation within the teaching and learning space, we have incorporated this approach in the Assessment Design on the modules ‘Forms of Identity’ (IL001/IL101) and ‘Global Connections’ (IL014/IL114). This case study, prepared by IATL's Director of Studies (Dr Heather Meyer) provides a snapshot into this initiative.

Introduction to Co-creation

While co-creation is becoming increasingly popular across a range of educational contexts, due to its positive impacts on pedagogy, learning, and socio-emotional development, one particular area that is debatable in terms of student involvement is Assessment. The reason for this is due to the theoretical, practical and ethical complexities co-creation in Assessment raises – including whether students can contribute to this space as partners in a meaningful way (Cook-Sather, Bovill, & Felten, 2014).

Therefore, while co-creation is relatively uncommon within assessment design in HE (Deely & Bovill, 2017; Doyle, Buckley & Whelan, 2019), this is an area worth exploring further - when we consider inclusion and accessibility as central factors. With these themes in mind as an overarching objective for the co-creation project, the staff-student partnership in assessment programmes on HE modules becomes more meaningful and importantly: authentic.

Given the innovative nature of assessment on IATL modules, students from different disciplinary backgrounds from across the university may be expected to encounter something very new. When a student has engaged largely with conventional/traditional academic assessment formats (e.g. exam, essay, presentation), they have likely had many opportunities to enhance their assessment literacy in the conventional medium, as well as have gained confidence in these traditional formats. When taken out of this ‘assessment comfort zone’, students can find this experience liberating, but also rather daunting. Some students have never been given an opportunity to choose a research topic on their own, or to explore a research project through a different medium aside from the conventional format. In this sense, I would argue that transparency and accessibility in assessment documentation for unconventional assessment formats is essential to learning and attainment.

To tackle inclusion issues – including accessibility and attainment – in ‘strategically ambiguous’ assignments such as the ‘Student-Devised Assessment’, I worked with one of IATL’s Co-Creation Officers, Pula Prakash in 2021 to co-create Assessment documentation on the two aforementioned modules. This included Assignment Briefs and Marking Schemes.


The task of co-creating assessment documentation has three objectives relevant to staff and students engaging with these materials:

1) To ensure, wherever possible, that assessment documentation on these modules is transparent enough to be ‘read’ across disciplinary, cultural, academic, linguistic, professional (etc) backgrounds.

2) To encourage equitable evaluation in student-negotiated projects

3) To design a feedback process that would be helpful (i.e. ensure progression) to students across disciplines and academic levels

What is the Co-Creation on these Assignments FOR?

This is an important question, as there are elements of assessment design that a student would not be able to partner equally in the co-creation process. For example, the selected student co-creator(s) involved in a project like this would not be present in the delivery of the day-to-day teaching and learning, and therefore would not play a role in the assessment literacy activities built into the weekly course provision on these modules. There are, in my view, ethical considerations here as well – the students participating in the co-creation of these assessment documents should not be students (past, present or future) on the respective modules. Moreover, while an undergraduate student would not be expected to have experience creating descriptors, their insight is invaluable when assessing whether the descriptors are accessible to this level or not – and in this sense, valuable partners to co-create the descriptors as amended variants of originally conceived/authored descriptors by the convenor(s).

The focus for myself and the student co-creator was accessibility, transparency, and inclusivity. We co-wrote the assignment briefs, co-designed the marking scheme, and co-created the core marking criteria and weightings.

Co-Creating Assignment Briefs

The student co-creator and I first held a few meetings to discuss the template of our Assignment Brief, how it would be written (tone, language used, etc), what core information would need to be on it, and the desired length and design. We then had a shared document, which we both edited, shared comments, and co-wrote over the course of a few weeks.

Co-Creating the Marking Schemes

The student co-creator was in favour of the idea of designing marking schemes that would ensure differentiation between academic levels. They also had experience in another department, with a marking scheme that they felt was very transparent and useful – one in which relevant descriptors could be highlighted by the assessor for clarity. We discussed how feedback would be provided to the students – what kind of feedback students like to see, how much feedback they like to get, and what students do with the comments when they receive feedback. The insight was integral to the design of the schemes.

As mentioned previously, while we co-created the core criteria for the individual assignments, including how these would be phrased (e.g. accessible, simple, no jargon, and straight-to-the-point), I put together the individual descriptors, once we had our template, and the student co-creator amended them when they felt they were unclear.

My (Staff) Reflection on the Co-Creation Process

This exercise opened my eyes to some of the assumptions I was making about how students engage with assessment documentation and with the feedback they receive. It made it all the more clear the value in including a student co-creation partner in creating assessment documentation that is indeed accessible, approachable and ‘humanised’ – that is to say, not intimidating. There is so much anxiety surrounding assessment, and while this has always been on my radar when designing assessment documentation on my own, I discovered I was only privy to a certain extent of potential anxiety ‘triggers’ – such as inaccessible ‘assessment jargon’.

Following this experience, I would strongly argue for the case that if we indeed want to make our assessments more inclusive and accessible, then we should do far more co-creation work in this area, as opposed to naively assuming we (by nature of being professionals in HE) understand all facets of the student experience in assessment. This was a wonderful learning opportunity for me and I do believe our objectives were successfully achieved.

Student Reflection on the Co-Creation Process – Pula Prakash

“Having the opportunity to collaborate with Heather on the assignment briefs and rubrics for her modules was one of the most empowering experiences as both a student and IATL co-creation officer. Co-creating together enabled us to birth something unique, useful, relevant and impactful. Which would not have been possible without creating a space of trust, appreciation and open-mindedness from multiple perspectives.

Being an intrinsic part of the assessment design process really gave meaning to the term, ‘student as producer’. By enabling, encouraging and engaging students in these processes, not only do we optimise stakeholder engagement but also reinforce the value of our students. Unfortunately some aspects of the current system undermine this. By taking active steps to diminish the hierarchies and collaborate as equals, we remove these barriers. However it all comes down to a teacher’s comfort and ability to say ‘I don’t know what’s best, what will help you?’ I felt really appreciated by Heather due to her willingness to learn from me and truly understand students needs and vice versa.

I noticed that having a student involved in the assessment process creates a greater sense of trust amongst students and teachers. It allows them to have confidence that their opinion has been captured. In order to make this a sustainable process, it is important to gauge students with relevant experience but not direct relation. Create a system for engaging alumni or those from the year above to give input or having student co-creators for each module/department.

The success of this process has been eye-opening and promising. There was amazing feedback on the rubrics from both the cohort and exam board, which felt extremely rewarding. It would be wonderful to see this as a basis for assessment design going forward.”


Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C. & Felten, P. (2014) Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Deeley, S.J. & Bovill, C. (2017) ‘Staff Student Partnership in Assessment: Enhancing Assessment Literacy Through Democratic Practices’. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 42(3), 463-477.

Doyle, E., Buckley, P. & Whelan, J. (2019) ‘Assessment co-creation: an exploratory analysis of opportunities and challenges based on student and instructor perspectives’. Teaching in Higher Education. 24(6), 739-754.