Case examples and a guide to action
Professor Dai Hounsell and Dr Sue Rigby
University of Edinburgh
Stimulus Paper, March 2013
Our research forms part of the Leadership Foundation membership benefit. Hard copies of this Stimulus Paper have been distributed to all member institutions and the PDF is available for members to download by clicking the image below.
Since the introduction of the National Student Survey (NSS) with early published statistics indicating student dissatisfaction with respect to assessment and feedback, the spotlight has been shone, and rightly so, on this aspect of pedagogic practice. At the Higher Education Academy (HEA) our surveys work has focused on the need to take an institutional approach to policy, strategy, and change with respect to assessment and feedback, working with the sector on enhancement activity using the results from the NSS and from the HEA’s postgraduate experience surveys for taught and research students: PTES and PRES.
As the sector increasingly recognises the need to move from assessment of learning, to assessment for learning, higher education has benefitted from the findings from a number of CETLs (Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) and National Teaching Fellowship Scheme awards, as well as other projects focusing on how best to support student learning through use of more innovative and student-centred practices. This publication follows ‘A Marked Improvement’, a report produced by the HEA in October2012 which includes an institutional assessment toolkit , providing a targeted approach to strategic change. Leading change in assessment and feedback: case examples and a guide to action provides a useful and timely addition to those seeking to take an institutional approach to leading and managing assessment and feedback.
Hounsell and Rigby (both University of Edinburgh executive team members), take us through the approach deployed at their institution. In their clearlywritten paper, they provide a useful background to territory, mapping out the key concerns underpinning their approach: working within firstly, the university’s broad regulatory framework and procedures, secondly, fairness, equity and inclusivity procedures; and, finally, managing the interface between academic standards and assessment and feedback - concerns which will be well known to all readers. A devolved approach within this framework ensured engagement, and the resulting examples of changed approaches, each of which addresses tricky issues that many staff grapple with, such as ‘the word processing challenge’, ‘clarifying and simplifying assessment regulations’ and ‘enhancing feedback’, are all examined as case studies.
I commend this publication to you. It is both practical, and inspirational. It sets out the challenges, and responds in a way that respects the diversity not only of the sector as a whole, but of the disciplines within an institution.
Professor Stephanie Marshall
Deputy Chief Executive (Research and Policy)
Higher Education Academy
Within the growing literature on management and leadership in higher education the topic of strategic change in the area of student assessment and feedback has hitherto been the focus of little attention. This paper is a contribution to remedying that gap. First, it reviews the distinctive challenges that assessment and feedback poses because practices and procedures (which must accommodate disciplinary needs and purposes) are, to a significant extent, devolved to departments and schools. Second, it presents three case examples of strategic initiatives for enhancing assessment and feedback. Third, it highlights a set of questions that may need to be addressed in pursuing initiatives of this kind.