There is a lot of anxiety for students around assessment, and one of the ways we might tackle this is to be very clear as to the task in hand. In a recent online discussion this question was posed to a group of university teachers in the UK: how do you launch assessment? What can you do to make sure your students have a full understanding of what they need to do in order to succeed in an assignment? We could think of this as assessment feed forward.

Below is some of their advice on communicating assessment requirements to students.

Take time to prime

Use a brief video exploring and outlining all of the assessments in a single subject or module, with exemplars included. This helps to give the students tangible goals.

A progressive approach

Begin the subject with a focus on community building and offer a ‘tasting’ of the subject content and assessments. After the first lesson, distribute the assessment brief to students along with a short explanatory video. Students can then post their questions about the brief in a shared online space, perhaps a discussion space in Canvas. In the next lesson, split the full brief into a series of sections and provide to students, who can discuss and make comments in small groups. You can do this in Zoom using the breakout group function. Comments and questions can be continuously added to the Canvas discussion throughout the semester.

Draw on past assessments

Provide examples from prior students’ work, with permission. By using the rubric and analysing how the examples used the literature and reflected on practice, students develop a better understanding of what was required. Printed copies of the examples can be provided in Canvas, or you could share the examples in an online presentation over Zoom with a discussion.

Video reminders

Students may need refreshers to remind them of the assessment requirements over the course of a long-term project. You could provide a video explanation of the assessment brief on Canvas, which can be viewed at any time.

Build understanding with webinars

Regular contact through Zoom webinars can help in developing a better understanding of the assessment requirements. You can use time in your Zoom webinars to explore different elements of the assessment, breaking them down into simple steps, and allowing the students the following weeks to complete that step before moving onto the next. This approach is especially helpful for encouraging students to develop good time management, and “saved many potential meltdowns as the deadline looms”.

Common themes

The clear message from the discussion was that providing additional support ahead of students doing the assessment, and acknowledging that understanding the assessment brief was a process rather than something that should be expected to happen immediately, students had a better understanding of what the assessment required. Students and teachers responded positively to using a range of asynchronous practices and designated synchronous face to face time to support students in completing their assessments.

Further reading

Keen to find out more about how to launch assessment? The Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement at Edinburgh Napier University has produced a fantastic quick guide on ‘Giving formative feedback prior to submitting summative tasks’.

Plus, learn more about designing assessment at our upcoming event ‘Co-constructing rubrics with your students: an experience from Alison McEwen’ on 11 August. You can register at the link below.

Feature image by Ian Dooley.

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