Professor Alejandro Armellini, Director of the Institute of Learning and Teaching, talks about assessment and innovation.

Why do we assess?

“The purposes of assessment may overlap and be reciprocal or can conflict.” (Lubinescu et al., 2002, p. 15)

Assessment in UK Higher Education has evolved as a result of a number of different drivers, each with its own emphasis and agenda (Boud, 2014). The collection of practices we now refer to as ‘assessment’ therefore serves a range of purposes, related to the different stakeholders involved.

The quote at the beginning of this section, although referring to the US higher education system, highlights a tension often encountered by academic staff around the world when designing assessment: how to create assessment tasks that meet the needs of all the stakeholders in the process?

The QAA (2012b, 2013b) outlines the roles involved in assessment and their differing requirements. Briefly,

  • For students, assessment is an opportunity to demonstrate understanding or competence, as well as to gauge progress and determine areas for further development.
  • For staff, assessment can help to evaluate not only the progress of the students, but also the teaching and learning support provided on the course.

Assessment also serves at the institutional level to enable the award of academic credit, by assuring achievement in line with nationally recognised academic standards. Demonstrating alignment with these standards is important for a number of reasons: it helps students understand what is expected of them, and what they can expect to achieve; it helps external stakeholders interpret the value of awarded qualifications; and it reinforces the reputation of the University. We’ll look at aligning assessment to standards in the section on Assessment Design.

In this guide, we will look at good practice for assessment from the perspectives of students and staff. It is important to keep quality in mind throughout, as it informs a number of the decisions we make around assessment practice. Quality and standards form the framework within which any innovation can happen.