The University’s Assessment Policy and Procedures defines a series of general principles and policies behind the assessment of individuals' knowledge, understanding, abilities or skills.
In line with the UK Quality Code for Higher Education Chapter B6: Assessment of students and the recognition of prior learning (QAA, 2013), assessment describes any processes that appraise an individual’s knowledge, understanding, abilities or skills. There are many different forms of assessment, serving a variety of purposes. These include:
In addition, as a higher education institution with responsibility for the academic standards of awards made in its name, the University is required to have effective procedures for:
These principles draw on published guidance on best practice in assessment in higher education and reflect the UK Quality Code for Higher Education Chapter B6: Assessment of students and the recognition of prior learning (QAA, 2013).
2.1 Assessment will be reliable
Reliability refers to the need for assessment to be accurate and repeatable. This requires clear and consistent processes for the setting, marking, grading and moderation of assignments.
2.2 Assessment will be valid
Validity ensures that assessment tasks and associated criteria will effectively measure student attainment of the intended learning outcomes.
2.3 Information about assessment will be explicit and accessible
Clear, accurate, consistent and timely information on assessment tasks and procedures will be made available to students, staff and other external assessors or examiners.
2.4 Inclusive and equitable assessment
The University is committed to the provision of an environment which encourages and properly supports a diverse learning community.
The University will continue to work towards ensuring that assessment tasks and procedures are designed to be inclusive and do not disadvantage any group or individual (for example students with disabilities, students with varied cultural backgrounds). Programme teams should show that they are aware of the University’s regulations on the assessment of disabled students. The equality impact assessment carried out early in the process of planning a programme should explicitly cover assessment as well as other aspects of the learning and teaching strategy for the programme.
2.5 Assessment will address all of the programme/level aims and outcomes
Assessment tasks will primarily reflect the nature of the discipline or subject but will also ensure that students have the opportunity to develop a range of generic skills and capabilities.
2.6 The amount of assessed work required will be manageable
The scheduling of assignments and the amount of assessed work required will provide a reliable and valid profile of achievement without overloading staff or students.
2.7 Formative and summative assessment will be included in each course and at each level of study
Formative and summative assessment will be incorporated into programmes/levels of study to ensure that the purposes of assessment are adequately addressed. Many programmes will also wish to include diagnostic assessment.
2.8 Feedback will be an integral part of the assessment process
Students are entitled to feedback on all (submitted) formative and summative assessment tasks. The nature, extent and timing of feedback for each assessment task should be clear to students in advance. The University has developed a set of 7 Feedback Principles that will be included in every Programme/Award Handbook (see Appendix A).
2.9 Each programme/level will include a variety of assessment types
Variety in assessment (including computer aided, and self and peer assessment) promotes effective learning and allows a range of intended learning outcomes to be appropriately assessed. In addition, varied assessment tasks support a range of approaches to learning and ensure that inclusivity is planned for and addressed.
2.9.1 Assessment tasks will be designed so as to minimise opportunities for plagiarism
While the primary responsibility for good academic practice lies with students, plagiarism can also be minimised through careful task design, explicit education and appropriate monitoring of academic misconduct.
The purpose of summative assessment is to enable students to demonstrate that they have fulfilled the outcomes of the programme of study and that they have achieved the standard required for the award(s) they seek. All programmes of study are subject to regulations, which relate the assessment requirements of the programme to its outcomes, and it is within those assessment regulations that the examiners make their judgements on the performance of students.
3.2 Confirmation of standard
Assessment should reflect the achievement of the individual student in fulfilling the award outcomes. At the same time, assessment should relate that achievement to a consistent national standard of awards. It should, therefore, be carried out by competent and impartial examiners, using methods which enable them to assess students fairly. External examiners should be involved in the assessments which may count towards the classification of an award and their particular role is to ensure that the standard of the institution's awards is maintained.
3.3 Examiners' judgement
Students’ work will be marked in accordance with the published assessment referencing criteria. The calculation of degree and other classifications is normally undertaken automatically (within the appropriate award regulations) using the University’s Student Information System which gives an indicative classification for ratification by the Award Board.
3.4 Award Assessment Strategy
All awards shall develop an assessment strategy, which will be defined in the Programme Specification, to ensure that the defined outcomes of the award are explicitly and appropriately tested through a variety of methods in the context of the programme of summative modular assessments. Where appropriate to the subject area, the assessment strategy may include a proportion of assessment under controlled conditions.
3.5 Modular Assessment Design
The choice of format of module assessment shall be appropriate to test the achievement of all the specified module learning outcomes and designed as an integral feature of the process of learning. When appropriate, assessment shall also be designed to meet the requirements of professional, statutory and regulatory bodies. Subject teams will be expected to develop assessment criteria which encourage the use of the full range of marks. In order to secure comparability of task and parity of treatment, Schools shall create appropriate procedures for the internal scrutiny and review of all summative assessment tasks prior to any required submission to External Examiners.
3.6 Volume of Modular Assessment
Module assessments shall occupy a specified proportion of the notional learning time allocation of the module/unit of study. Subject Areas will be expected to develop consistent guidelines on issues such as length, complexity, intellectual challenge and the volume of assessment. The overall award assessment strategy should set the context for the range and number of assessments. The specified learning outcomes should be assessed through the minimum of discrete tasks. The same range of tasks will be used for the same module regardless of mode or location of delivery, although implementation may reflect experiential learning opportunities or cultural contexts where appropriate.
3.7 Summative Assessment and Formative Feedback on Modules
The study of all modules will include both summative assessment and formative feedback. Explicit criteria against which performance is to be assessed will be published in advance of all summative assessments.
A summative assessment may also provide the necessary formative function if the student receives detailed feedback normally no later than 20 working days (excluding days on which the University is officially closed) after submission and at least 10 working days prior to the deadline for any end of year/teaching block summative assessment. Such feedback must be given against the published performance criteria for the assessment.
As appropriate, students will receive purposeful and systematic feedback on their learning and progress through participation in other activities that fulfil a formative function (for example, seminar presentations). Such feedback may be provided in a variety of forms, including oral, written and electronic formats to individuals or to groups of students.
3.8 Annual Assessment schedule
Student & Academic Services (SaAS) will publish an annual assessment schedule, which will include the deadlines for:
Coursework and Examinations
The Head of Department has overall responsibility for overseeing the internal moderation of assignment briefs and examination papers for modules at all levels of study.
Internally moderated briefs and papers for those modules delivered both on campus and at partners and which contribute to the classification of students’ awards (levels 5 -8 and 4, where appropriate), both first sits and resits, will be sent to the External Examiner by the Student and Course Administrator for approval prior to their publication. Any changes recommended by the External Examiner, if accepted by the module leader, shall be incorporated into the final version of the brief or paper. If the proposed changes recommended by the External Examiner are not accepted by the module tutor, the module tutor should discuss the issue with both the Head of Department and the School Associate Dean Students before providing feedback to the External Examiner.
The module handbooks made available to students must include outline assessment briefs including the assessment criteria, approved by external examiners prior to publication, and both hand-in and return dates.
Arrangements for the submission of coursework shall be detailed in the course handbook made available to students studying both on campus and at Partners. Students must be directed to submit coursework through Blackboard, except in those instances where this is not possible (artefacts etc).
Schools and Partners will also take reasonable steps to ensure that all students are aware of the procedures and process with regard to claims for extenuating circumstances.
The University will ensure that information on the date, time and location of all examinations is published in good time. Students are responsible for making themselves aware of the date, time and venue for all examinations that they are required to take and for presenting themselves at the examination room in good time before the examination is due to begin.
Coursework and Examinations – Partner Institutions
For franchised and validated provision Schools must ensure that:
Partners are provided with approved University examination papers, coursework tasks and other assessments in good time, where the partner is utilising assessments developed by the University.
School staff should review and approve the form and content of proposed examination papers, coursework tasks and other assessments developed by the partner before their submission to the External Examiner. Designated staff will ensure that:
School staff should review comments submitted by the External Examiner on any proposed examination papers, coursework tasks and other assessments developed by the partner and liaise with the partner to respond to these.
In the case of common assessment tasks used by multiple partners, Schools should ensure that:
In the case of dual or joint awards, a shared understanding must be reached at validation regarding the assessment responsibilities of each partner in relation to maintaining oversight of the academic standards of those components of the programme for which they are responsible. In many cases, subject experts from both institutions will work together to develop examination papers, coursework tasks and other assessments.
All formal written examinations, including those at Partners, must be marked anonymously.
With the exception of assessed activities for which the anonymity of the candidate is not possible or desirable, all summative coursework assessments must also be marked anonymously. Examples of assessments which may not be marked anonymously include:
6.1.1 Internal moderation is a process separate from that of marking and provides assurance that assessment criteria have been applied appropriately, reflecting the shared understanding of the markers (UK Quality Code for Higher Education Chapter B6: Assessment of students and the recognition of prior learning (QAA, 2013)).
6.1.2 Second marking is an aspect of examining and assessment which is important for a number of reasons. It is one of the means by which the University seeks to ensure that students are assessed accurately, fairly and with only those aspects of subjectivity which are academically justifiable.
6.1.3 The University has a policy of refusal to hear appeals from students against the marks awarded to students as this questions the academic judgment of examiners, although the University will hear appeals against failures in process. This is an essential protection of an important part of academic freedom but does depend on the integrity and efficiency of the assessment processes which are used.
6.2.1 Moderation of module results involves marking and second marking by tutors and review by External Examiners. Heads of Department are responsible for ensuring that this takes place. It is not the expectation that external moderation is required for referral assessments.
6.2.2 Tutors are responsible for ensuring that students have been fairly assessed in accordance with the module assessment criteria and also for maintaining accurate records of students’ marks. Where two or more staff are involved in the assessment of a module, the module leader is responsible for moderating marks, entering those results into the University’s computerised student record system and checking them.
6.2.3 The 60 credit dissertation in masters programmes must be ‘double blind’ marked. This means that the two markers must mark the work without having sight of the mark awarded by the other marker. The markers must then determine an agreed mark and the form and content of the feedback.
6.2.4 All final year undergraduate dissertations (and not a sample thereof) must be second marked for verification purposes. The second marker will review all work already first marked, with annotations and/or marks still attached from the first marker in order to verify overall standards. Verification means that the marks awarded by the first marker are scrutinised in order to verify that they are fair and consistent with the marking scheme for the assessment.
6.2.5 For all other forms of assessment, Head of Departments have overall responsibility for ensuring that a sample of all coursework submissions and examination scripts are second marked for verification purposes.
6.2.6 The sample for verification second marking is at least ten or ten per cent (whichever is the greater) of the scripts. Where the number of scripts is less than ten, then the marking sample should be set at 50%. The size of the sample will only vary in exceptional circumstances, such as being a requirement of a professional, statutory or regulatory body.
6.2.7 Where there are significant discrepancies between the first marker and second verification marker (either within classification boundaries or at a classification borderline), and this discrepancy cannot be resolved between the two markers, this should be reported to the Head of Department to take appropriate action, which might include:
It must be noted that any amendment to the marks of the sample as a result of the internal moderation process must be applied to the rest of the cohort in order to ensure equity and consistency.
6.2.8 In those cases where the overall module mark is at the borderline of pass/fail or a classification threshold (module marks of 39, 49, 59 or 69), the module leader must review the mark in advance of the moderation process.
6.3.1 Schools should ensure that appropriate staff review a sample of examination scripts and a significant proportion of summative coursework marked by each partner institution to verify the standard of marking for at least the first three years of (a) a new partnership or (b) the delivery of programmes in a distinctively new subject area by an existing partner. The sample of assessments must represent fully the cohort of students’ work and the spread of classifications in the module.
6.3.2 Following this period of three years, the partnership Due Diligence Group may decide that the partner can assume more responsibility for internal moderation. The outcomes of annual monitoring and reports from External Examiners will inform the Partnership Due Diligence Group’s decision. Schools wishing to delegate internal moderation to partners must make a recommendation to the Group.
7.1.1 The UK Quality Code for Higher Education Chapter B6: Assessment of students and the recognition of prior learning (QAA, 2013) states that institutions should provide:
“Feedback on assessment which is timely, constructive and developmental.” (p18)
7.1.2 The aim is to ensure that there is a consistent approach to giving feedback to students throughout the University and also to make students aware of the processes which staff are required to follow in order to provide effective feedback to support continual learning.
7.1.2 These arrangements apply to all taught undergraduate and postgraduate University awards, irrespective of the length or mode of delivery.
7.2 Key principles
7.2.1 Feedback is an important and integral part of the ongoing student learning process. Although feedback is given in relation to an assessed task, it is a key mechanism which is used to inform future learning and to motivate students to continue learning. To be meaningful, feedback is:
7.2.2 At the start of each award, and then periodically thereafter, students should be reminded about the importance of feedback to their learning. As part of the annual monitoring process, the views of students on the methods, content and timing of feedback is gathered. These views are considered, and, wherever possible, used to further inform the feedback regime in each area.
7.2.3 Guidance on providing high quality feedback to students is provided through the 7 Feedback Principles (Appendix A).
7.3.1 Feedback refers to any comments (both written and verbal) on an assigned task. This can either be formative or summative.
7.3.2 Formative feedback does not contribute to a formalised, recorded mark and is normally used as an ongoing mechanism to enhance the development and progress of students. Examples of the way in which formative feedback might be given are:
7.3.3. Summative feedback is always formalised and recorded.
7.4 Content of feedback
7.4.1 Whilst accepting that each subject gives feedback in a way that is appropriate for their area, the following precepts are expected to be observed by all staff who provide feedback relating to assessment:
7.5 Timing of feedback
7.5.1 Students will normally receive feedback on all their assessments within 20 working days following the date of submission. For some assessments the feedback period will be less than 20 working days. However, it may be the case that the 20 day rule for some assessments cannot be met for justified reasons (for example, modules on which a large number of students are enrolled). However, it is anticipated that this will apply to only a small number of modules and, in those cases, the feedback return period will not exceed 25 days.
7.5.2 Any information on marks or performance that is provided to students prior to completion of moderation and approval by Boards of Examiners must include an explicit statement that the marks are provisional, and subject to change by moderation, and the decision of the Board of Examiners.
7.5.3 All students are informed about the assessment and feedback schedule. This information is normally communicated to students through module and/or award handbooks.
7.5.34 As part of a University-wide agreed service standard, all feedback on summative assessments is given to students normally within four working weeks.
7.7 Communication to students
7.7.1 In order to manage expectations, information about the nature and extent of feedback and the timescale for this to occur must be made available to all students. This is normally done through module handbooks.
7.7.2 Prior to commencing an assessment, students are made aware of assessment criteria, marking schemes, the content and structure of agreed feedback templates.
7.7.3 The planned schedule of assessment and feedback is explicitly communicated to students. This is normally achieved via module/award handbooks issued to students at the beginning of the academic year, and tutors are required to signpost students to where this information is available (electronic and, where appropriate, in hard copy).
7.7.4 Any unforeseen changes to the method and timing of feedback are communicated to students at the earliest opportunity. In all cases, this must be before an assessment is taken.
8.1.1 Having access to post examination feedback makes a significant contribution to the on-going learning process of students. Due to the variety of subject areas and the wide range in the size of student cohorts, post examination feedback may take a variety of formats. As a minimum, however, generic feedback must be made available to all students who take written examinations.
8.1.2 Feedback must also be given in a timely way so as to inform the future performance of students in either referrals or subsequent examinations. The manner in which post examination feedback is provided should be made explicit at the start of every academic year and communicated to students to ensure transparency of the process.
8.2 Definition and context
8.2.1 Examinations are regarded as time-limited, formal, summative assessments which normally occur at the end of a module. If class test scripts are not normally returned to the student, then they too are covered by the provisions of this policy.
8.2.2 For final year students, feedback should be provided on examinations and class tests that occur part-way through the year (normally at the end of semester 1). Where appropriate, feedback on examinations at the end of the last teaching block in the final year should be provided in the form of generic, group feedback through Blackboard, the University’s VLE.
8.3 Feedback methods available to subject areas
8.3.1 Although post-examination feedback is guaranteed in all areas that use this method of summative assessment, this takes a variety of formats and may be either generic or personalised, dependent on the strategies agreed by each subject area. This decision is dependent on a number of factors including the nature of the subject, the nature of the examination, student needs and the numbers of students in each cohort.
8.3.2 As part of the annual process of curriculum planning, subject areas select the method of post-examination feedback. Examples of how this feedback might be provided include:
8.4 Timescales for feedback
Examination feedback should be provided as soon as possible after the relevant examination and in advance of the next examination period for the relevant cohort.
Single-Tier Award Board
Each named course will have a single-tier Award Board to receive module results and confirm progression and award decisions. The Award Board will normally meet at points of progression and completion within a course, and will operate within the Staffordshire University Academic Award Regulations.
The constitution of the Award Board comprises:
Dean of School or nominated Associate Dean for the courses under consideration (Chair) The Course Leader(s) for the courses under consideration A representative of each subject area contributing core or option modules to the courses under consideration The Award External Examiner(s) for the courses under consideration The Student & Course Administrator (Secretary)
Terms of Reference
The Award Board is empowered to:
a) receive confirmation of module results, following moderation, to ensure that standards are comparable to those of cognate subjects both within the University and in other higher education institutions; b) confirm decisions on progression and awards; c) confirm decisions on termination of registration, along with any intermediate awards, d) approve, for release to students, results and any associated recommendations on the retrieval of assessments; e) confirm the application of compensation; f) receive the outcomes of Academic Misconduct Panels and to confirm the agreed recommendation; g) receive the outcomes of Extenuating Circumstances claims and confirm the recommendation; h) inform the External Examiner Annual Report regarding the health and standards of the courses under consideration.
10.1 The Officer from Student & Academic Services (SaAS) present at a Board of Examiners will record the Board’s decisions on the progression of students and the awards for which they are recommended.
10.2 SaAS is responsible for the publication of official results to students following the meeting of Boards of Examiners. Publication of results will be made electronically via the Evision student portal (SOLE) and will include access to individual module results, the progression decision and the award agreed by Boards of Examiners.
10.3 It is the student’s responsibility to ascertain his or her results.
10.4 As examination results are personal data, student results must not be displayed on notice boards and students should be encouraged to access their results via the Evision student portal. Results should not be disclosed over the telephone, unless a suitable security system is in place to ensure that the caller is in fact the student concerned.
10.5 When the Award Board has confirmed student results, SaAS will provide the student with an official transcript, access to the HE Achievement Record and award certificate (where appropriate) .
11.1 Students hold the intellectual property inherent in all work produced for assessments, but the material produced by students for assessment (essays, projects, examination scripts, dissertations, artworks, computer disks, etc) is the property of the University, and may be retained pending confirmation of marks awarded by Examination Boards, possible appeals and quality audits. With the exception of examination scripts, the University will endeavour to return to students any artefacts or hard copy dissertations whenever a student explicitly requests this. Arrangements for returning assessed work to students are the responsibility of individual tutors.
11.2 Assessed coursework that has not been collected by the student will be retained by the University for six months after the relevant Examination Board, after which time it may be disposed.
Equality issues have been taken into account during the development of this policy and all protected characteristics have been considered as part of the Equality Analysis undertaken.
1. Be an interactive process involving student-tutor and student-student dialogue
There should be an agreed point of reference and common starting point between students and staff as to what constitutes the purpose and use of feedback as part of a learning process. The content of this originates from the knowledge and professional expectations of the subject discipline. Determining the common starting point is an iterative process emerging out of interactive dialogue between staff, students and their peers, where all participants challenge and are open to each other’s views.
2. Facilitate the development of self assessment and reflection
The feedback should generate a series of questions for the student which makes them think about their learning now, and what they need to do to develop their learning in the future. This will enable them to understand the purpose of the feedback in each specific context; create the capacity to developing evaluative judgement; the ability to review their own performance against professional and academic criteria; and to think about learning strategies they need to develop in the future.
3. Clarify for students and staff, through dialogue, what good or bad performance actually is in the assignment or task.
This involves identifying and justifying the strengths and achievements of the assignment, artefact or task under discussion. This should also then lead to outlining how changes and improvements may be made, through reference to discussion around what constitutes the criteria for good performance and how the outcomes of the task have been met. Students need to be aware that feedback is a process that can take place at any time or place, and isn’t restricted to formal learning situations.
4. Be developmental, progressive and transferable to new learning contexts
The dialogue and understanding that emerges from the feedback should be applicable both to the current debate and also contain elements that are able to be translated to a range of current and future learning situations. As the student progresses through their learning journey they should be developing a more sustained and sophisticated approach to their learning, culminating in the expression of the graduate attributes appropriate to their level and subject specialism.
5. Be ongoing and embedded in the learning process
Feedback isn’t simply an activity that takes place after assessment – it isn’t something that is simply done to students! Feedback that is effective and timely occurs when students know when they need it, recognise what they want it for, and know how to ask for it in a way that is appropriate to their needs. It is multi faceted both in terms of content and format.
6.Motivate, build esteem and confidence to support sustainable lifelong learning
Feedback needs to point out what has been done well, both in terms of the task process and the product. Feedback needs to offer ‘do-able’ actions for future learning/work, so that students are able to improve. Modules/awards need to engage students with multiple feedback opportunities.
7. Support the development of learning groups and communities
Good feedback – as outlined in Points 1- 6 - should create the environment whereby effective and productive learning is taking place, leading to the emergence of a flourishing learning community.
The University’s generic assessment criteria draw together the university eight learning outcomes into three groups, and adds a further criterion relating to professional requirements. Separate criteria have been provided for each academic level. This information can be used by both students and staff to explain how work will be assessed and assists in the provision of written feedback which aligns to the university learning outcomes statements and the percentage grade awarded.
Knowledge and Understanding
(Not usually weighted and usually a pass/fail component of assessment)
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