Your learners may be a relatively homogenous group whom you know well, who are experienced students, and who are already familiar with your assessment methods. Alternatively they may be new to higher education, studying across a number of programs, have different educational and/or cultural backgrounds, different life experience, and different background knowledge. It is worth explicitly considering your own assumptions and expectations as well as seeking information about potential learners prior to designing assessment. If you find there is a particular challenge due to the diversity of your learners, such as a big range of capability, it is worth revisiting the range of issues surrounding the purposes of assessment, task construction and learning outcomes to ensure that some of the tensions of the diverse needs are balanced across the cohort.
- What assumptions are you making about your learners (e.g. prior learning, skills such as technological proficiency)? How accurate do you think these are?
- What learner characteristics should be kept in mind when designing assessment? How can you find out about these in relation to your learners?
- Are there identifiable subgroups of learners in your course? If so, what implications might this have for the assessment tasks and different learners‚Äô needs for support?
- How do you think your expectations and your learners‚Äô expectations of assessment differ? How will you communicate your expectations to the learners?
- How should you communicate to your learners your expectations regarding plagiarism?
- How can your assessment be made engaging for all learners?
- If the unit contains a ‚Äėfirst‚Äô experience (e.g. first year at university, first independent research project, first experience of a learning environment), how does the transition to a different way of learning affect the way that assessment is conducted and communicated?
Also refer to:
Transition to higher education
One of the interesting learnings for me has been just how much student wellbeing is impacted by transitioning to uni. And all of the issues that we see in students‚Äô submissions are actually around transition issues. Lots of kids have moved away from home to study, and they‚Äôre desperately homesick, or this isn‚Äôt the course that they wanted to do, they‚Äôve taken it as a second option or because their parents thought it was a great idea. Some of them have moved regionally, but some of them have moved from overseas, and so they‚Äôve got English-language proficiency issues. So there‚Äôs so much that needs to be invested in care for those students, and I think that needs to be considered in what‚Äôs required of them in the unit, particularly in relation to assessment. In response to this, we ran a session on how to use education databases, drop-in sessions for assignment one, we ran ‚ÄúMindfulness and Wellbeing‚ÄĚ sessions, academic writing workshops and ‚Äúlearning how to reference‚ÄĚ sessions. ‚Äď Education lecturer
Working with diversity
It‚Äôs hard to get the balance right between adapting everything for everyone and working out when flexibility can happen. Some things, such as mental health or disability, can be very sensitive and I‚Äôve learnt very quickly that the first port of call is always the Disability Liaison Officer or the appropriate referral point within the institution. It can be tricky to work out how to adapt assessment submission forms or deadlines or whatever else might be required in a way that takes account of the task as well as learner‚Äôs needs. Kind of similarly, I‚Äôve also found having students from a range of nationalities also can be challenging in terms of assessment, particularly when someone is a great thinker but has poor English skills. In general, for me, clarifying rubrics and outlines of tasks, clearly laying out expectations, really helps. It feels like it‚Äôs a question of balance and it‚Äôs not always easy to keep that balance.¬†‚Äď¬†Health sciences lecturer
Conundrum of multiple unit purposes
A journalism degree is kind of meant to be training journalists. But of the 300 students who enrolled in this unit, only a third of them are Bachelor of Journalism students. The issue is, in terms of assessment, do we treat this first year cohort as potential journalists or as first year students who are just testing their wings and wanna do something interesting? Because that will change your approach, I think, to the assessments‚Ä¶ ‚Äď Journalism lecturer
- University of New South Wales page about assessment and cross-cultural diversity unsw.edu.au/assessment-responding-cross-cultural-diversity, including a section about Assessing Inclusively teaching.unsw.edu.au/assessing-inclusively
- The United Kingdom Higher Education Academy has a 10-minute video about student experiences of assessment and feedback vimeo.com/channels/154640/9319496
- The University of Sydney‚Äôs assessment website has a section about Disability Considerations itl.usyd.edu.au/assessmentresources/disability_considerations.htm
- The Assessing Learning in Australian Universities project has a page about assessing students unfamiliar with assessment practices in Australian higher education cshe.unimelb.edu.au/assessinglearning/03/intstaff.html
- The Assessing Students Unfamiliar with Assessment Practices in Australian Universities project has a manual for use in the discipline of accounting www.olt.gov.au/system/files/grants_2005project_accounting_manual.pdf