Assessment criteria

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Assessment criteria form a critical part of the standards based assessment process in signposting important aspects of a course both for students and their teachers. Thus, whether you are revising an existing framework, creating a new framework or simply implementing an existing one, it is important to consider how it is received and understood by all those who are involved in the course.

If you are unclear as to what is meant by standards based assessment you will find it useful to look at this guidance before reading further.

Why do assessment criteria matter?

First and foremost, assessment criteria and the standards that accompany them measure to what extent students have achieved the intended learning outcomes (ILOs) for a course or programme. In so doing, assessment criteria can help ensure that any assessment judgements made are ‘defensible, consistent and transparent’ (Hughes, 2005).

Assessment criteria communicate to students what is expected of them, and students make choices about their learning and engagement with the course material in line with what is required for assessment. As such, we should ensure that both the method of assessment and the criteria by which it will be judged reflect the learning behaviours we seek to support and encourage.

What are assessment criteria?

Assessment criteria consist of a set of descriptive (not evaluative) statements that explicitly communicate to students what knowledge and skills will be assessed. As such, when creating assessment criteria for an individual assessment task, we should ensure the criteria reflect the method assessment. For example, the criteria relating to a poster presentation may look considerably different than that of an oral presentation, despite nominally addressing similar characteristics such as clarity, cogency, etc.

Each assessment criteria should be accompanied by a set of pre-defined statements outlining different standards of achievement (1st, 2:1, etc.). 

Defining specific assessment criteria

The design of new assessment criteria will necessarily be an iterative procedure. Such discussions, as well as contributing to the development of the framework, serve to develop a shared understanding of assessment frameworks.

Both standardisation meetings and moderation processes can help develop and secure this shared understanding, as well as ensuring markers feel prepared and supported in their role.

Simple teaching activities such as peer assessment (against the criteria), class discussions (about assessment criteria), the provision of exemplars, and even mock assessments can be used to prepare students to better understand assessment criteria.

Three key things to consider when designing or revising assessment criteria

  1. Ensuring that the criteria used are aligned with method of assessment being used, and clearly identify the knowledge and skills that will be assessed.

  2. Using high levels of discussion and engagement to ensure a common understanding of criteria by all involved.

  3. Incorporating criteria more explicitly into teaching to provide students invaluable signposts for their learning.

Two great resources on assessment criteria


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