George Brown is a retired professor from the University of Nottingham

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Assessment methods and tasks

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However, the model is not as simple as it appears. It leaves open the questions of whether the outcomes that are being assessed should be those of the degree programme or those of the module (or short course) and whether every learning outcome should be assessed. There are arguments for and against the use of programme or module outcomes as the basis for assessment tasks. If one opts for assessing every outcome of every module then one runs the risk of over-assessing students – and UK students are probably the most overassessed students in Europe. If one opts for programme outcomes one risks not assessing essential knowledge and skills but one has a framework for estimating student progression and achievement. On balance, the better strategy is to ensure that within each module, teaching and learning opportunities are provided which move the students closer to the programme outcomes and that some programme outcomes are assessed in some of the modules so that by the end of the programme all the outcomes have been assessed at each level on at least two occasions. This approach ensures that one has repeated and therefore probably more reliable measures of achievement, and a realistic, not unduly burdensome approach to assessment. A matrix of the learning outcomes of a programme and the assessments used in different modules helps one to identify the links between programme outcomes and their assessment.

An expanded version of the model is shown in Figure 2. It shows the connections between the model and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) approach to evaluation. Whilst some of us may have reservations about the micromanagement techniques of the QAA, the model does facilitate the fulfilment of its requirements. The approach of the QAA is authoritarian: it is about X doing things to Y and Z judging them. But within its straitjacket, it is possible to build in some freedom to learn.

Figure 2: External influences on assessment

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