Context > Institutional assessment principles and policies

All universities have formal policies and/or procedures governing assessment which staff members are expected follow. Many also have less prescriptive guidelines. Policies, procedures and guidelines will often support good practice, though this is not always the case. A faculty and or school or department may also have mandatory procedures. However, it is important to distinguish what really is institutional policy and what is not. Many common assessment practices within schools and faculties may be historical and are not necessarily consistent with current policy. Keeping up-to-date with relevant policies can assist as certain procedures are mandatory when designing assessment for a new course or changing assessment for an existing course. Additionally, it is not uncommon for colleagues, even senior ones, to believe that policies and procedures limit assessment options when they may no longer be applicable, resulting in unnecessary constraints.

Assessment considerations:

  • Are you familiar with the policies of your university/faculty/school/department?
  • Do the requirements of any professional bodies need to be considered?
  • What administrative procedures must be followed, e.g. timelines and documentation for changing assessment tasks?
  • Is your assessment consistent with formal requirements? What might you be able to do if it is not?
  • Who formally approves assessment in your courses (e.g. head of school; faculty assessment committee)?
  • Are there less formal guidelines that might help you to plan your assessment?
  • Who are the best people for you to talk to about policies and procedures?
  • How can you describe and develop your assessment practices so that they meet requirements while still leaving you opportunity to make small modifications to suit changing local conditions?

Also refer to:

Interactions > Resistance or engagement

Educator experiences

Don’t limit your own room to manoeuvre

I guess one of the other things that we learned was not to put too much data into the Faculty Education Committee documents. I remember in the early days, again, we proposed a 1500-word essay on topic X. And then afterwards when you go “that’s crazy”, then we had to go back to the committee and complete that load of paperwork and things. So, we are much more general about what we’re putting into the documentation which gives you a bit of freedom then to change things year-to-year. But we do need to keep an eye on making sure that we’re not moving away from the subject learning objectives or the competencies that we need to achieve. – Science lecturer

The faculty process: independent feedback

The faculty processes are very time-consuming. They are incredibly frustrating. But my experience is they’re actually very helpful too. I’ve found the feedback really makes you think, “Why are you doing it this way?” So if you put up a unit proposal, the faculty is very concerned about the unit objectives and the unit content, and that these assessment tasks have a certain level of coherence. And so I’ve always found faculty processes terribly helpful, as I’m writing about the assessment, because they make me think about which learning outcomes an assessment will support. The faculty processes also help you think, “Why don’t you think about assessment this way or that way?” So, it gets you thinking through, in more detail, in a way that, I think, is only possible when you have an independent review because you get caught up in what you’re creating, and it’s then very difficult to look outside your blinkered view. On the other hand, when the review comes back with requests for further work and you think, “Oh, I spent hours on that, what the- ?” But I’ve certainly found it a positive process, if somewhat cumbersome. – Arts lecturer

Beware the unapproved change
For example, if I decided to drop out one of the orals, not saying that I would. Perhaps I could do that, if I notified all of the students and said, “Look, we’re not gonna have the second oral. We’ll put the extra 5 per cent onto this.” I mean, you could do that, and that sort of thing does happen, but it’s not officially approved by anybody. But you could get into a situation where if that’s not agreed to and approved by everybody, and one student’s gone on and prepared their second oral, well then, you’re in strife, because you’ve got a dispute and you’re not conforming to what’s in the handbook. – Science lecturer


These are contextualised and include:

  • your institution’s formal assessment policies and procedures
  • most faculties and/or departments have local assessment procedures, and some have policies as well
  • other non-obligatory institutional, faculty or departmental guidelines. These are often available through the websites of central learning and teaching units
  • assessment requirements of your professional body (where applicable).