Supporting our students

When introducing changes to assessment at the course or programme level, it is important that students feel comfortable with these changes and that they will be able to attain grades in line with their individual potential. In order to help support our students it is a good idea to keep them informed about the justification behind the assessment selection; how they will experience the new assessment, and the rigour and validity of the selected assessment.

Student learning and intended learning outcomes

Assessment has many forms and can be used for a number of reasons. In this guidance, assessment is mainly conceptualised as checking the level at which students are meeting set learning outcomes. The intended learning outcomes (ILOs) outline the knowledge, skills and conceptual understanding that a student will gain through studying for a course. The task of formative assessment is to check whether the student is on the right track to attaining these ILOs and to offer them guidance on how to improve as they move towards the end of the course. The task of summative assessment is to check the level that each student has attained, in relation to the ILOs, at the end of the course. Likewise the development of a programme involves reflection on what exactly a student will gain from studying on this programme. Each programme will have its own identity and its own ILOs and there should be a relationship between what is learned on each course and how these courses are drawn together as a programme.

Selecting the ‘right’ assessment methods

The LSE Assessment Toolkit offers a range of assessment methods that can be used to assess a course’s ILOs both formatively and summatively. Selecting assessment methods involves referring back to what students are expected to learn and reflecting on the best way to assess this. There is no default setting to this process and the Toolkit can help you select the most appropriate method based on what you expect students to gain from their studies. If a course has four ILOs, some of these will be better assessed using one method (perhaps an essay, a policy paper or an annotated bibliography) and some of the ILOs will be better assessed through methods such as a presentation, a portfolio or a blog. At the programme level, the convenor should take a step back and reflect on the various courses that constitute the programme. From this perspective they should consider whether the various assessment methods that are used across the difference courses also meet the requirements of the programme ILOs.

Students’ assessment mix: Selecting the ‘right’ assessment conditions

Assessment conditions describe the context in which an assessment method will be employed. For example, it may be decided that students sit some multiple choice questions (method) in an exam hall (condition) or they may be asked to write an essay (method) at home (condition). The selection of assessment conditions should be done after the assessment method has been decided. Students should be supported to realise that the rigour and validity of assessment in different conditions is maintained but that changes are introduced to allow assessment to be more aligned with the specific outcomes that are being assessed. The ‘right’ assessment conditions are not the most controlled conditions but are the ones that allow for learning to best be assessed. The process of selecting the ‘right’ assessment conditions looks like this:

 

AT - support for students - diagram v2

 

The student journey: Ensuring a programme’s ILOs are met

Each programme has its own identity. This identity will inform the programme’s aims and ILOs. The courses that make up this programme must then align with the programme’s specificity. Not all courses on a programme will meet all of the programme’s ILOs. Some courses will naturally focus on one area and some on another. It is the programme convenor’s role to ensure that whatever selection of courses a student makes, they will have addressed all the programme ILOs by the end of their studies. The programme convenor is also in a good position to ensure that a range of assessment methods and assessment conditions have been used throughout the programme. The ILOs of some courses will lead to the selection of certain assessment methods but the difference between courses should mean that there is a range of assessment methods used throughout a programme. The programme convenor can take a step back and look at the whole student journey to assess whether they feel there is the right balance of assessment overall. Perhaps they will notice that students are never summatively assessed on their presentation skills or that students are overly assessed on the ability to answer problem sets. Since each programme seeks to offer students a number of outcomes (knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities), it is likely that a blend of assessment methods should allow students to show their capabilities against these various outcomes.

Supporting students: Reducing assessment anxiety

Introducing changes to the methods of assessment used formative and summatively at the course and programme level may cause some discomfort for our students. Students may have become accustomed to the existing assessment provision or they may come from educational backgrounds where the range of assessment methods is somewhat limited. This might lead to some students feeling anxious. This anxiety is likely to focus on two areas – the rigour of the assessment method, and how they will personally experience and perform on this method. In supporting the former of these two points, you may wish to direct students to the relevant pages in this Toolkit where they will see clear guidance on a range of assessment methods. In relation to the latter point, colleagues in LSE LIFE will be able to offer students support and guidance that will talk them through the ‘logistics’ of various assessment methods.

Supporting students: LSE LIFE

LSE LIFE can offer a myriad of resources to support students when preparing for various assessment methods.  On LSE LIFE’s event page, students can sign up for a wide range of workshops that may link to specific assessments (for example: presentation skills). The workshops can be filtered by skillset to see what LSE LIFE offers, and you can encourage your students to attend those that will best support them. Alternatively at LSE LIFE’s moodle page, both you and students can find self-study resources as well as slides, handouts, and other materials from workshops that they have held on specific assessments and/or the skills related to those assessment methods.  Finally, LSE LIFE meets with course convenors to discuss the specific needs of students to meet the assessment provision in order to deliver a bespoke, course specific workshop.  Email them at lselife@lse.ac.uk for more information.

 

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