• Author(s): Dr Rosalind Duhs
  • Title: Assessment and feedback to students
  • Subject: HE - Education
  • Keywords: UKOER, UKPSF, OMAC, CPD4HE, assessment, feedback
  • Language(s): English
  • Material type(s): Text, Presentation
  • File format(s): ZIP, HTML, PDF, RTF, ODT, PPT, DOC
  • File size: Various
  • Publish Date: 6th July 2011, 12th August 2011
  • Licence: CC-BY-NC-SA


Assessment tasks for inclusion in portfolios


This resource draws on the learning outcomes in the Honours Degree subject benchmark statements for a few subjects and sketches how students might demonstrate that they have achieved them. These learning outcomes would be relevant across a range of subjects.

The benchmark statements are available here:


They are written at threshold level, the minimum for achieving a pass.

The assessment tasks in the tables could also be used singly outside a portfolio or clustered with other assessment tasks to evidence the attainment of multiple learning outcomes in a portfolio.

Electronic portfolios are versatile

The rationale for recommending electronic portfolios is that they are flexible and allow for the inclusion of sound, film, figures and other images. They can be accessed by a range of people who might want to see what a student has achieved.

Preparing students to work on portfolios

The scope of each task needs to be limited by the tutor and students should be given assessment criteria before they embark on the tasks. Although portfolios are normally produced by individual students, group work can be included. Students can reflect on their role within the group and produce an analysis or critique of a specific aspect of the task which can be individually assessed.

A series of tasks spread over time (a term or year or a certain aspect of a programme) lend themselves well to inclusion in portfolios, but there is nothing to prevent the approach being used for shorter pieces of work with multiple facets, such as short enquiry-based projects, design projects, cases in healthcare courses, or small-scale undergraduate research projects. Students can derive a sense of satisfaction from appreciating what they have achieved when work is assembled in a portfolio.

Teacher workload and assessing portfolios

Teachers can spread their workload by encouraging a cycle of drafting with peer feedback and redrafting. Tutors can look at sections of the portfolio as they are completed and provide feedback.

Final tutor assessment of the whole product is important if the portfolio is to contribute to final course results, but very detailed reading of the completed portfolio will not be necessary if feedback has been provided on separate elements. The key is the annotated table of contents with the student’s explanation of how attainment of learning outcomes is evidenced and where the relevant texts or virtual artefacts are to be found. Hyperlinks can be used in electronic portfolios for easy access to the appropriate sections of the portfolio. The link between learning outcomes and evidence of how these have been achieved needs to be strong. Tutor evaluation of the attainment of learning outcomes is the essence of the assessment of the student’s work.

Examples of learning outcomes and assessment tasks

1. Anthropology


Learning outcome Possible assessment tasks for portfolio inclusion

Show a basic ability to recognise some of the ways in which anthropological knowledge is applied.

Study a piece of anthropological research. Excerpts from journal articles can be used or students can be invited to choose their own topic. See for example this cultural anthropology website. http://www.culanth.org/

Students should produce a text (web page, mind map, presentation, or essay) which explains how anthropological knowledge has been applied in the example.

Demonstrate some ability to recognise the ethical implications of anthropological research and enquiry.

Anthropological research could be used to demonstrate this learning outcome. Students could plan their own small research project and consider the ethical implications. This would be a good group activity. Reflection in the form of a log of the process could be included. Images, films and written texts could be used to trace students’ development of their awareness of the ethical implications of anthropological research.

2. Construction, property and surveying


Learning outcome Possible assessment tasks for portfolio inclusion
Present quantitative and qualitative [construction, property and surveying] information, together with analysis, argument and commentary, in a form appropriate to the intended audience, including appropriate acknowledgement and referencing of sources. Study specific aspects of a building project (real or planned). Students may choose from a range of relevant options. Students prepare and give a short presentation which demonstrates their ability to analyse, structure an argument, and make a commentary tailored to a specific audience. Students have the opportunity to practise and get feedback from peers. Handouts should be carefully referenced. The process of preparing the presentation should be documented in the electronic portfolio. A video of the presentation can be uploaded using YouTube or Flickr for example.

3. Chemistry


Learning outcome Possible assessment tasks for portfolio inclusion
Apply standard methodology to the solution of problems in chemistry.

Students are given a series of chemistry problems and apply standard methodology to solve them. The problems could be solved theoretically in which case mathematical problem-solving could be used. They could also be solved practically in a lab environment in which case lab reports could be put into the portfolio. Incidentally, this is a very clear presentation about problem-solving in chemistry:


4. Sociology


Learning outcome Possible assessment tasks for portfolio inclusion
Provide an analytical account of social diversity and inequality and their effects

Students select a case study from a selection. They analyse how inequality of certain social characteristics have impacted on the examples in the cases. Students could work in groups and suggest which elements of inequality appear most damaging in the cases. What steps might be taken to help lessen these inequalities?

The analysis and suggested solutions could form part of a portfolio. If the work was detailed, drawing on a range of resources, it could be submitted as a portfolio. Further learning outcomes such as referencing and structuring a report, and team working if chosen, could be evidenced.

Concluding comment

Note that all these examples show how the learning outcome is demonstrated in the assessment task. If, for example, application is required, application is carried out in the course of the assessment task, and so on.

Core learning outcomes can be complemented with outcomes related to the process of the production of the portfolio, such as working successfully in teams, reflecting on professional practice, referencing and writing a certain type of text (report, essay, review etc).

All outcomes need to be based on learning activities. If students are asked to reflect, they need to be provided with guidance as to what reflection means in their context, be given the opportunity to practice reflection, and understand how reflection might be evidenced. The same applies to many other complex skills such as analysis and critical thinking.


Creative Commons Licence
Assessment and feedback to students by Dr Rosalind Duhs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at www.ucl.ac.uk.

Contact us: cpd4he@ucl.ac.uk

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