Context > Characteristics of enrolled students

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.

Assessment considerations:

  • 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’ needs for support?
  • How do you think your expectations and your learners’ 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 ‘first’ 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:

Tasks > Activities which drive learning

Interactions > Learner requirements

Educator experiences

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’ submissions are actually around transition issues. Lots of kids have moved away from home to study, and they’re desperately homesick, or this isn’t the course that they wanted to do, they’ve 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’ve got English-language proficiency issues. So there’s so much that needs to be invested in care for those students, and I think that needs to be considered in what’s 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 “Mindfulness and Wellbeing” sessions, academic writing workshops and “learning how to reference” sessions. – Education lecturer

Working with diversity

It’s 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’ve 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’s needs. Kind of similarly, I’ve 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’s a question of balance and it’s not always easy to keep that balance. – 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… – Journalism lecturer