Common Problems

Although assessment can happen in many different ways, there are a handful of common problems that tutors experience – particularly if they are relatively new to assessment. It’s therefore important to be mindful of the following points:

1. You must assess the learning that has taken place – not the student. Your personal views about a particular student should not enter in to the assessment process, your focus should be solely on assessing the learning that they have demonstrated through the work they have produced.

2. You can only assess things such as attendance, timekeeping, effort if they have been clearly specified in the Learning Outcomes and Assessment Criteria. For example, if you want to assess students on attendance this must be clearly stated in the LOs and ACs as something like ‘Technical and Applied Skills Through: Expectations of Professional Behaviour’.

3. You should be using the assessment criteria to assess the learning that has been demonstrated through the work – this is called ‘criterion referencing’. You are not supposed to compare one person’s work with another – this is ‘norm referencing’.

4. You are assessing against the criteria and not against individual progress made. You can mention how much a student has progressed in your feedback, but you must assess their learning and not their progress.

5. You mustn’t assess effort. A student may have put in a huge amount of effort, but you must assess what they have learned and not the effort they have put in.

Common problems with feedback

  • feedback may come too late to be acted on by students
  • feedback may be backward-looking – addressing issues associated with material that will not be studied again, rather than forward-looking and addressing the next study activities or assignments
  • feedback may be unrealistic or unspecific in its aspirations for student effort (e.g. “read the literature” rather than “for the opposite view, see Smith Chapter 2 pages 24-29”)
  • feedback may ask the student to do something they do not know how to do (e.g. “express yourself more clearly”)
  • feedback may be context-specific and only apply to the particular assignment rather than concerning generic issues such as study skills or approaches that generalise across assignments
  • feedback may be discouraging and lead to less study effort rather than more there may be no follow-up to check if students have taken any action, so they can ignore feedback with impunity. (from Gibbbs, 2010 Using assessment to support student learning).

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