Assessment is a central feature of teaching, learning, and the curriculum. Given its crucial role in the student experience, academics and providers are keen to explore how best to use assessment to enhance student learning. Universities are under pressure to swiftly review and renew the way they assess. Best practice tells us assessment needs to be authentic, strategically designed in an integrated and scaffolded manner with iterative two-way feedback opportunities between students and academics. Some light insight into aspects of online assessment from the academics perspective can be found in the TEU Edge of Discover Podcast Series. Included in this series are 2 x short interview (approx. 15 mins each) with academics discussing online assessment.
Some specific examples of initiatives and approaches DCU Teaching Enhancement Unit (TEU) are involved in are outlined below.
Assessment Design to Promote Academic Integrity
TEU use a set of twelve academic integrity principles for assessment design as a framework for all assessment design initiatives. These principles were designed as part of an Erasmus+ project, to enhance academic behaviour and performance. These principles are divided into three overlapping categories - university standards; assessment design; and student ownership. They offer an evidence-based framework to help rethink assessment design in DCU. A suite of resources were developed, using the principles as a framework, by the TEU to support assessment design to promote Academic Integrity.
Assessment Communities of Practice
Students as partners in assessment is getting a lot of traction over recent years. There is a growing recognition that in order for students' learning and assessment experience to be successful they should have a sense of agency and investment in the process. The TEU secured some university funding to engage in a Students as Partners in Assessment (SaPiA) project. The work is informed by a scoping review and conversations with students, to design a resource that represents a variety of opportunities to partner students. Examples of both formative and summative assessment, along a continuum of low to high level partnerships, are presented. A small team of DCU academics are currently piloting and researching some of these assessment approaches that partner students to engage and empower them.
TEU, along with a small group of DCU academics, are collaborating with Griffith University, Queensland, Australia, to pilot online Interactive Orals as a viable alternative assessment to the traditional end of semester exams. An interactive oral is a natural conversation or exchange which explores a student’s understanding in a simulated authentic learning environment. Griffith University has extensive experience, and a body of evidence-based research to show that interactive orals are an authentic assessment approach that effectively helps prepare students for employment, and when used as part of strategically designed integrated assessment, promotes academic integrity. Whilst being an effective alternative assessment tool to end of semester exams, it is also proven to be efficient and scalable. A TEU Interactive Oral User Guide is available to support academics wishing to use this approach.
The TEU is co-lead with the University of Limerick, in a national project that secured funding under the Strategic Alignment of Teaching and Learning Enhancement Funding in Higher Education 2019. The project brings the sector together as part of a Reimagining Assessment Community of Practice (CoP). The CoP is exploring what the most recent assessment challenges are from both the student and lecturer perspectives; and then shares ideas, examples, and proposed solutions on how to redesign assessment to suit the current higher education environment. The final output will be an eResource to support academics reimagine the way they assess students.
Programme Assessment Strategy
TEU use the TESTA model to support programme teams undertake a comprehensive review of the programme assessment strategy with a view to redesigning a cohesive and scaffolded assessment that is vertically and horizontally integrated throughout the programme. The ABC learning design approach that TEU support is also an excellent tool to help design integrated programme and stage assessment strategy.
Assessment can be a high-stakes, pressured process at times, so taking some simple steps when approaching it can help take the stress out of things, for both staff and students. This resource, created jointly by the TEU and the Counselling Service, offers some advice for staff around assessment design, inclusivity, assessment management and consultation/feedback.