Visualising Assessment Timelines

I’ve been thinking about visualising a student’s assessments diary on a timeline for quite a while now, and that has been spurred with a conversation with Peter Alston from Life Sciences. It was timely that I came across some resources when accessing the new briefing papers on assessment and feedback in the JISC toolkit.

What typically happens in many schools/faculties/institutions, is that many modules are assessed by way of:

  • Traditional high stakes exam or essay;
  • With significant weighting;
  • And assignment deadlines all within the same 7-14 day period.

So typically twice a year students are mega stressed to meet 4 (or more) high stakes deadlines. If we visualise this, assessments are all bunched together at the end of semesters and there is a lot of stress. So it’s logical we think about:

  1. How and when we assess students, both formatively and summatively;
  2. The wider impact of assessment across a period of time (across module/programme) placed upon students.

I’m not going to touch too much onto setting meaningful and realistic assessments, but more so about the nature and timing of those assessments. We often don’t consider what else students have on i.e. another 3 high stakes assessment tasks, so the call to introduce lower stakes assessment is great, let alone providing a better opportunity to feed forward into future assignments.

As an example, I introduced my final year eLearning Multimedia students (in a previous role) to a continuous assessment of reflective blogging, which I thought worked really well – even for a subject where we don’t traditionally emphasise the practice of reflection. The result – meaningful short pieces of writing, with lower stress levels, a
nd ongoing feedback (by way of comments and even peer feedback). I would definitely follow suit again.Sample visualisation of assessment timelines

(Figure 1. visualises three alternatives for assessments, but these could really blend to include a mix of low and medium stakes assessments).

Now I seldom see a discussion across modules/programme, to deliberately focus on a) when we are assessing students, and b) how we’re assessing them. Shouldn’t such a discussion be paramount to curriculum development at a programme level to ensure students are not i) over assessed, and ii) are assessed by meaningful tasks rather than the same old same old?

As I said this something Peter is interested in and I’m keen to get encourage schools/programmes/modules to consider this as well.

If you are interested in this area, I’d love to hear from you. It’s also worth following the links through to the JISC toolkit as there is plenty of good reading to be had, in particular, the work of the ESCAPE Project at Hertfordshire.



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