This post is co-authored by Ann Wilson, Caroline Havery, Anna Stack, Natasha Sutevski and Sylvia Singh.

A high-quality assessment should be innovative and display creative ideas that require critical thinking.

Student survey comment

Distinguished Prof Tracy Levett-Jones presented feedback from a recently completed survey on students’ view on quality assessments. The keynote from Guest speaker Emeritus Professor David Boud , ‘The future of assessment: some challenges’, focused on where assessments will go post-COVID.

We are in a volatile period of change, where assessments are going to change dramatically in the next few years.

David Boud

Assessments can also have negative effects on learning – exacerbated by COVID, a narrow version of assessments and exams including closed book, time limited and invigilated, have created challenges. Post-COVID, “the door for change is open”, and this is the time to rethink how we create and administer assessments. 

David identified three purposes of assessment: 

  • Assure learning outcomes have been met – summative assessment 
  • Enable students to use information to aid their learning – formative assessment 
  • Build students capacity to judge their own learning – sustainable assessment 

David also identified some challenges: 

  1. Assure and report learning outcomes – students pass courses without meeting all the learning outcomes
  2. Assessment as a program responsibility – course LOs should have priority, programmatic assessment to be summative assessment across curriculum map 
  3. We need to eschew spurious levels of accuracy in marking – essay type assessment can only be marked to four levels of accuracy
  4. Portray what students can do – transcripts are an abstract code, need to describe what students can do clearly
  5. Normalise students judging themselves and peers, to develop necessary graduate skills
  6. Assessment should always be designed as inclusive
  7. Student activated feedback processes, feedback requires action  
  8. Student feedback literacy – orientating students to be feedback seekers, from a range of sources, including peer feedback 

Assessment Showcase 1: From Theory to Practice School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation (facilitated by Rob Bower

The presentations focused on well-integrated assessment design for the Bachelor of Sport and Exercise science. These assessments must adhere to the requirements of their accrediting body – Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA), graduate attributes, and CILO 2.1 which centres on application and integration of practical problems in sport, exercise and health.  

  • Lee Wallace walked us through the structural and functional anatomy  introduced within a closed environment with high fidelity models. Students identify and differentiate anatomical structures and how they relate to other components of the musculoskeletal system. When students learn about functional anatomy they do a practical assessment explaining the functions of bones, muscles, joints, muscles and nerves. They then apply this knowledge to a basic and complex movement analysis using models, diagrams and videos.  
  • Katie Slattery presented how students in 2nd year learn about strength and conditioning and making an exercise prescription. In the assessment, students demonstrate exercises, work with peers to develop coaching skills and design and evaluate an athletic testing battery within a controlled environment.  
  • Dr Libby Pickering Rodriguez described how students in their final year work in groups to apply fundamental biomechanics and anatomy knowledge to write a research proposal and collect data. In their subsequent assessment, they analyse the motion using open-source software and footage of their peers with reflective markers placed on their body.  
  • Kellie Ellis spoke about how students gain experience with real world clients, engage in telepractice, project-based learning and work placement. By the time students graduate they have been supported through the progressive complexity in Sport and Exercise Science and are well prepared as industry practitioners. 

Assessment Showcase 2: School of Nursing and Midwifery (facilitated by Amanda Wilson

  • Dr Deb Fox (Midwifery) focused on written discussions that guide students in evaluating evidence on  the high rate of caesarean births in Australia, a key debate in midwifery. Dr Elizabeth Brogan presented on assessments that use simulation to create authentic scenarios in clinical practice for nursing students, with a first year assessment focusing on communication skills. Students make a video of themselves with a ‘patient/client’ addressing a health topic and are assessed on their ability to interact in a therapeutic way.  
  • Suzy Ladanyi examined final year assessment, which uses simulation to create authentic scenarios involving clinical skills, teamwork, and communication. It uses the high end technology in the nursing laboratories, including patient manikins. Students work in teams to resuscitate a patient in as close to a real-life scenario as possible. To reduce student stress, this is completed in a two-stage assessment process. Students undertake the scenario, watch a recording of the event and then debrief with the tutor and by themselves. A week later they attempt the scenario again.  
  • Dr Carmen Axisa and Ass. Prof. Pete Sinclair discussed a postgraduate assessment in UTS Online where students develop a healthcare poster. Prior to completing the assessment, students are provided with current published posters and asked to grade them using the assessment marking rubric. They are then guided by expert commentary. This activity helps students both in understanding assessment and developing judgement.  

Assessment Showcase 3: School of Public Health (facilitated by Andrew Hayen

  • Dr Deb Debono talked about Assessing Health Equity: the Australian healthcare system in relation to the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the subject Foundations of the Australian Health Care System. The subject uses a strengths-based approach, mapped to the IGA, encouraging students to draw on examples of Indigenous-led health research and initiatives to answer the question: ‘How could the healthcare system better address the inequities in health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?’.  
  • Dr Suyin Hor presented on using ‘Scaffolding critical reflection using a H5P documentation tool’.  She created a simplified framework to aid students in reflective writing using H5P. Students reflect on what happened, influencing factors, test the theories (the critical thinking part) and then create a document.  Students found this structured approach easy to use and other colleagues have adapted this into their own subjects.  
  • Dr Klaus Gebel presented ‘Assessment using a video presentation for journal club contribution’.  Klaus talked of the importance of presentation skills, and how the pivot to online caused this to become a recorded video presentation rather than a live presentation to peers.  The assessment focused on the social determinants of health in peer reviewed literature, allowing students to pick one of four options: COVID infections, malaria, drug use or mental health. Support was provided on how to make a presentation.  
  • The last presentation by School of Public Health was by Dr Sally Fitzpatrick, who spoke about ‘Hyping success in indigenous Health and Wellbeing’, an assessment for a second-year cohort.  Students are asked to tell the story of Indigenous people’s health, and the impact of racism, using a range of media including video.  

Assessment Showcase 4: Graduate School of Health (facilitated by Kathy Rose

  • There was a focus on what the virtual and hybrid world of placement and support looked like from Dr Joshua Pate, Physiotherapy, through a hybrid student reflection on clinical placement, and Lucinda Freeman, Genetic Counselling, presenting on a virtual telehealth placement simulation. Both were received well by students, providing safe spaces for reflecting on and practicing their clinical skills.  
  • Dr Amanda French showed us how the Master of Orthoptics embedded a development of clinical reasoning in a course-led approach, seeing students build progressively on their skills. A particular highlight was listening to Prof Bronwyn Hemsley who assessed students’ activity on social media platforms for Speech Pathology.  Students took on the role of promotion and governance in their use of social media in an impactful assessment which was public, creative, networked and authentic. 

The Great Debate: Assessment drives learning … or does it?   

The day wrapped up with The Great Debate: Assessment drives learning….or does it? Amanda Wilson and Kathy Rose spoke for the affirmative, and Aaron Coutts and Andrew Hayen spoke for the negative.  Amanda opened the debate with a definition of assessment, giving examples of a range of assessments and why it might drive learning. Aaron led the argument for the negative, emphasising that learning is a process not an outcome. 

Further resources 

Join the discussion