Skip main navigation

Assessment: What students think

In this video students at UNSW discuss their experiences of assessment practice in their faculties.
Well, most generally, we have mid-session tests and exams. There’s always some kind of tutorial assessment also, whether that’s online or whether it’s tutorials. But generally, about half of it is examinations at least, with some small assignments. But the majority being examinations. We generally have a group project worth about a third of the course. Online assessments. So that’s a lot of the time weekly online assessments, about 2%. And end of semester final exam. So for the last three or four semesters, we’ve been– at Uni, it’s always been a written assessment that we’ve had somewhere due halfway through the semester. And it’s mostly been that, I think, up to this semester now, we’re having more group presentations.
Yeah, it’s just starting to be the group assignments. Yeah, I don’t think we’ve ever had a group one for law until this semester. And with actual physical presentation, but mostly, or if not almost always, it’s just writing up or solving problem questions. And, yeah, just written reports or legal research reports is what we’re expected to hand up. A lot of them are like, handed in. So you work throughout the whole semester on them. We don’t have tests, so you do an assessment piece. And it’s a body of work, essentially. And then, you have I would say, three of them– Yeah. –throughout the whole semester. And they’re all weighted around 30%, then you hand them in at each interval.
And then, the last one seems to be the most significant one. Yeah, it’s kind of a build up. Yeah. Yeah. That’s kind of how the assessment structure works. In commerce, it’s generally projects and group assignments. In law, they vary from problem questions to essays. And they’re generally individual. In technical classes, we’ll have more exams, usually in the lower years. And they can be multiple choice or they could be written essays. I tend to find that the multiple choice don’t necessarily target what skills you need. It’s great for getting the dot points of the course across. But it doesn’t necessarily show a greater depth of understanding.
And for the courses that have like a longer essay written exam style, tend to give you the option of applying your knowledge to real life circumstances as opposed to just hypothetical issue that’s been pushed to you in one particular way. So there’s more, I suppose that in a way, there’s more thinking involved in a lateral sense. My exams are usually like, 40%, 50%. They’re usually really big. So when I– so when I don’t do well in one exam, it really affects me for the other ones. Generally, they’re about the same like, over each subject. So there’s a 20% class participation. Somewhere mid throughout the semester, there’s some 30% essay or problem question. And then the final exam.
And generally, that problem question helps you in the exam, because they have one of those problem questions in the exam. Well I guess it’s applying theory to scenarios. For example, in law. So, a test whether you’ve understood the content. In commerce, I guess it’s more to do with applying very basic knowledge to a larger sort of problem in a group scenario. So I guess they’re quite useful. Assessment tasks are good in terms of assessing you at each kind of different stage of the semester. I think without kind of the assessment task in there, it would get to the end and you wouldn’t have really noticed that you’ve learned anything.
And also, the best part of about assessments for me is getting the feedback from them as opposed to actually doing them. So while it’s good to actually do the assessments themselves, I like when I get the feedback back from them so I can see where I can improve, and what exactly I know really well and what I don’t know so well. The group work, it can be good. It depends on the group. But overall, I would say I do like group work. I like when they set out exactly what is to be done. Otherwise, it can be a bit confusing and some people get a lot more of the work.
In the online quizzes, or just weekly quizzes, they’re really good, because it keeps you up to date. My assessment tasks benefit my learning by always making me do the work that’s set, so I’m ready to do the task. So, if you have assigned reading, you do it so that you’re ready to do whatever assessment you have to do. And I find that if you don’t, you really fall behind and you don’t do that well in your tests. I think for assignments, they’re particularly useful for me to catch up with everything that’s going on outside the scope of the lectures. Because for the assignments, you’re basically forced to– they ask you to do some kind of research.
And for example, formulate a model for yourself, which is not exactly taught in the lecture. And I find it very useful because the things that they cover in the lectures are pretty basic. But you have to expand your knowledge. One of the problem questions was, if I say some offensive word to somebody and then I punch them in the face, like, what can I be liable for and what can I not be liable for and stuff like that. So it’s kind of real life, almost, scenarios. And the research essay’s pretty helpful also.
I mean, it forces you to really work hard throughout the semester as opposed to like, getting to the end and having an assessment– I mean, having a test period. Yeah, you’re really pressured for time. All the time, but it’s good. It’s good. I think it works well for me, personally. And I think it kind of prepares you for the industry as well, to work on big projects at a time rather than just handing in little one-offs. I think major assessments is kind of what it’s going to be essentially. Which is also there, like, the group assessments, where you’re given is also like, helpful for industry style, that sort of thing, group presentations.
I think it, for learning, it’s not so much. It just results in a lot of cramming for the exam. And inherently, you forget a lot of that information. I think that’s why project work and assignments and assessments tend to work better in terms, in comparison to exams, or questionnaires because they show an extended application to the topic, as opposed to an exam. Which everyone knows everyone crams for an exam at the end of it. But, in terms of actually learning and applying yourself over a long period of time and actually looking at something you’re interested in, that’s where good learning comes from. It’s not about cramming for an exam just to tick the boxes.
It’s like– well this semester, we’re doing like, a client interview, which will be really helpful for when we finish. It’s actually useful. Exactly. And a lot of people, like, tutors who have been in practise and now coming to teach, their basic thing is, you’re going to be interviewing. You’re going to be dealing with people, especially if you go into those sectors. And you also get some people who are really shy about talking to different people. And I think if you’re able to do something in a more practical sense– And apply all the theory into like, actual– Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, actual practise. That would really have more relevance or make learning more dynamic. I recommend more group assessments.
So like, the opportunity to kind of like, interact with other people and to kind of like, really like, to know where you can improve and things like that. Or making more small– like, more small class tests, more intermediate exams. Improving. So definitely telling you what’s required before you do the assessment. Giving some sort of outline of what they expect, which is, I just found, never given. Maybe a bit more feedback. Because our teachers just kind of write one comment. And if you want more, you have to go see them. But maybe if they wrote a bit more about it, it’d be good. I think it’s mostly about being clear about what you want the students to achieve.
I think in technical subjects, because the questions are quite precise, they tend to be a clearer solution that they want you to arrive at. But when you’re looking at creative subjects, it tends to be a little bit more vague about what you want to achieve and in a way, sometimes that depends a little bit too much on the staff and how they perceive your work. More practical activities. Possibly more industry based activities. I think would be– that would be a good way of being assessed, as not just course work, but how it’s actually going to be applied in a real world situation.
We talked to students at UNSW across a range of disciplines and years and asked them about their experiences of assessment in their faculties.
Watch the video and listen to the responses to the questions we asked:
  • What types of assessment are used in your faculty?
  • How does assessment benefit your learning?
Reflection point
Think about the following question while you watch the video.
Which of the assessment strategies have you used as a teacher or experienced as a learner?

Talking point

How do you think one of these strategies benefits student learning? Why?
This article is from the free online

Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education