What constitutes a good assignment?

I am a member of  the Assessment and Feedback group led by the Assistant Principal Susan Rhind. This is an exciting membership as I have the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to improve University’s assessment and feedback practices  with academic and professional colleagues who are also interested in pioneering technological innovation in assessment.

The University is committed to review the ways in which we assess our students and the way in which we engage with students around feedback. In 2016 it was created a subgroup of the assessment and feedback enhancement group  to review the Feedback Standards and Guiding Principles document originated in 2012 in order to provide a more practical approach on how to enhance our feedback (and assessment) practices. The final review was presented to the Senate on the 24th May and will be circulated around the appropriated channels.

Reviewing University’s policies and providing guides that includes practical ideas on how we can engage our assessment methods, and how we can engage students in the discussion around assessment methods, are key actions if we want to improve the assessment literacy of our tutors and students.

I see my role as assessment and feedback advisor as a bridge or facilitator  between the strategic approach that assessment policies and guides provide and the practical assessment literacy skills that tutors need to develop. In order words: how to translate the principles and guidance documents into “a good assignment”?

This brings us to the question of what constitutes “a good assignment”.

There is not an “ultimate recipe” to design a good assignment. However, here are some tips to help you identify all the factors that contribute to design an assignment which is accessible, inclusive and aligned to the University’s approach to assessment:

  • Do you have a good insight into the University and school regulations on assessment and feedback? Assessment regulations set the minimum academic requirements and standards for students and staff, but these policies leave the door open for individual initiative and the introduction of new technologies and methods of assessment.
  • Does the assignment task guarantee that students will distribute their efforts evenly across all important topics in the course? An assessment pattern that works is to have a large number of regular tasks or assignments distributed across the course to generate a well-balanced intellectual effort from students. Having more assignments also supports accessibility and inclusion as you can try different assessment methods to measure the same core competency.
  • Does the assignment include clear instructions on the goals and standards expected from students and how those standards will be measured? It is important to provide students with detailed information on the marking criteria but avoiding that students get excessively focused on marks. You may want to circulate exemplars of previous assignments among your students and discuss the assessment criteria with your students.
  • Do you include formative assignments that can build progression over time? Good assessment design includes a balanced number of tasks in which students receive formative and summative feedback that can be used to prove improvement in the next task. You should include at least one opportunity of formative feedback in your course and establish regular circles of feedback and practice to make sure that the students read and understand the feedback provided to inform the next assignment.
  • Does the assignment support feedback that “feed forward”? Always avoid assignments in which the feedback comes too late, it is not relevant to the next assignment, it is too vague or excessively specific to the content of the assignment. When scheduling an assignment, make sure that students can internalize the feedback and show improvement during the course.
  • Have you consider different multimedia formats and platforms to support your assignment? An assignment does not necessarily have to be a written easy and technology is now mature enough to support multimedia assessment, in which students can submit their work as audio, video, images, websites or online animations.

Find out the technologies and platforms available at the University that can support different assignment types.

 

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