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Initiatives and resources supporting the objectives of UCL's Education Strategy 2016-21

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Improving assessment and feedback: objective three of the Education Strategy

To work with staff and students to design effective assessment and give effective feedback.

Assessment and feedback are challenges for the whole higher education sector, as we know from responses to the annual National Student Survey.

UCL students are telling us that the way that we support their learning and evaluate their progress needs urgent attention.

Assessment shapes what students learn and the emphasis they place on various aspects of the taught curriculum, so it needs to be well designed, with careful consideration given to volume, mode and frequency.

Students and staff may have different ideas about what makes effective feedback, so communication is key.

In addition, UCL education is developing a growing emphasis on learning through research and our assessment practices need to respond to this.

Our priorities for objective three

1. Review all assessment practices at UCL and make recommendations for improvement

We will have implemented the recommendations of a root-and-branch review of assessment at UCL, with the aim of identifying long-term measures to improve our students’ experience of the assessment process and their assessment literacy, including a substantial reduction in the volume of assessment.

We will ensure that staff are supported to mark consistently, as well as given opportunities to innovate and develop, including through the use of e-assessment.

The review will be completed by 2017 and we will revisit this objective then to confirm further objectives.

We will have audited the assessment culture in every faculty and identified recommendations for change and the resource needed to bring about this change.

  • The TESTA (Transforming the Experience of Students through Assessment) pilot was developed for launch with departments early in 2019/20. The output of this pilot will help us implement a review process that is student-focussed and looks in depth at all stages of the student lifecycle. 
  • The Annual Student Experience Review (ASER) process has been streamlined to create a continuous quality improvement cycle that will focus on the areas that matter most to students, including a focus on assessment and feedback (September 2019)
  • Taught students to be assessed across entire main examination period 27 April – 5 June 2020 (May 2019)
  • The Academic Model Project rolled out system updates and processes to support Exam Boards. The new Exam Board process makes best use of Portico to support the examination and assessment process efficiently and accurately, freeing up staff to focus on more important and complex issues and getting confirmed results to students more quickly (2019)
  • The Academic Model Project data collection is underway to capture assessment volume and methods for each module. (March 2018)

2. Support minimum standards of assessment and feedback

An immediate focus on assessment practices, through our quality assurance processes and the work of the Arena Centre for Research-based Education with departments, to ensure that all programmes are meeting minimum standards, including the requirement that all assessed work is handed back within four weeks with feedback.

3. Provide benchmarks for marking

The dissemination of indicative marking criteria as a starting point for departments to develop their own, discipline-specific criteria.

  • Update to follow.

4. Improve communication and expectation-setting with students

Improved central communication with students about assessment practices at university so that they understand what they can reasonably expect from their tutors and why they are being assessed in particular ways;

5. Support staff in using a variety of assessment formats

To ensure our regulations and enhancement programme supports staff to develop and make use of a variety of forms of assessment, including e-assessments.

6. Embed the Connected Curriculum in assessment practices

There will be opportunities in every programme for students to present their work to external audiences, for example alumni, employers, and online interest groups.

7. Improve the digital infrastructure around assessment and feedback

The systems we operate to ensure staff can record and monitor students’ achievement and students can track their own progress will be substantially improved.

8. Support students in understanding the transition in assessment from school to university

To identify how we can draw on our education partnerships (with UCL Academy, City & Islington Sixth Form College and Newham Collegiate Sixth Form College) to support students with the transition from assessment in Years 12 and 13 to first-year undergraduate study.

  • Update to follow.

9. Should we have a grade point average scheme at UCL?

To review our position on the introduction of a grade point average (GPA) scheme at UCL.

  • Update to follow.