Context > Departmental, disciplinary and personal conventions

Academics bring to their units a range of expectations and ideas about assessment, formed through their own life experience and careers. Some disciplines have forms of assessment that have become typical of that discipline. For example: case studies in management, essays in philosophy, clinical examinations in health sciences, and practice teaching in education. There are also the influences of immediate colleagues, which are not always written down – ‘the way things are done around here’ is a part of every workplace. It is useful to critically examine these norms in order to improve assessment practices. Challenging ‘normal’ practice can be surprisingly difficult to do, and it is often worth looking to perspectives external to the department, discipline or work environment. Collegiate review, particularly interdisciplinary review, of assessment practice can be helpful. Additionally, looking to the different purposes of assessment may also be beneficial, as historically the emphasis has mostly been on assessment as a means of certifying achievement.

Assessment considerations:

  • What are your views on good assessment and how did you come to these beliefs?
  • What are your discipline’s or profession’s general expectations of assessment and the assessment design process? How do you feel about these?
  • What is the ‘way things are done around here’, in your department and/or teaching team? Does this align with the discipline/profession?
  • In what ways do these accepted forms of assessment match with the purposes of assessment (supporting student learning, generating grades, supporting learners’ ongoing evaluative capacities)?
  • What alternatives might you consider to these ‘standard’ forms?
  • Is there someone within your own department as well as someone outside of your discipline or environment who might be able to exchange reviews of your assessment?
  • If you are thinking about alternatives, how will you ‘sell’ this to your department and to your learners?

Also refer to:

Purposes > Support learning

Purposes > Generate grades

Purposes > Future judgements

Interactions > Resistance or engagement

Educator experiences

Reflecting on influences

Early on in my career, I was very influenced by the institutions that I taught in as a postgrad, and the institutions that I’d been taught in, by the institutional culture and the way they did things. I didn’t often think about other ways of doing things because that’s just the way that it is, and when you don’t have any authority, you tend to assume that the way the people are tending to do things is a good way to do them, ‘cause “they would know”. Later in your career you see that this is not the case… – Arts lecturer

Wanting peer review

I don’t know how other people teach. One thing we don’t have in this faculty is regular conversations about how people teach or how people assess. That would be productive to do that. It’s something of a real revelation to find out how other people assess, or I see a subject or outline being printed out … I might take a copy of it you know, to find out what other people are doing, but in my experiences, there’s no kind of formal or structured forum in which you talk about, discuss or improve your teaching or assessment. I’d like this. – Arts lecturer