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Assessment in the online context

Before rushing to put traditional assessments online, we must briefly pause to remind ourselves of what meaningful assessment should be.
Someone marking work on their desk at home
© iStock

In the previous step we asked you to consider assessment and feedback in general, not just online.

Before rushing headfirst into shifting traditional assessments online, it is worth pausing to remind ourselves of what meaningful assessment should be, and identify if we have the possibility to innovate instead of replicate.

Teaching and assessment in the COVID-19 context

Many of you are working at pace to get your teaching and learning online, and are in the difficult situation of trying to work out how to support your students, deliver new content, and prepare them to evidence their learning.

Some of you may be free to assess based on asynchronous submissions (such as pre-recorded presentations, portfolios, essays, project work) but aren’t sure which approach to choose. Others (for example those teaching younger students) are considering the difficulty in assessing based solely on what is produced, which might not take into account the processes and social interactions that were part of the student producing the end result.

And of course, there’s the elephant in the room: the traditional high-stakes, one-chance-only exam. Students, their parents or carers, and maybe you yourself are worried about moving from the familiar format of exam-hall timed assessment to the unknown.

We also know you’ll want to support student revision during this time, and you’ll be especially mindful of maintaining student activity.

Guiding assessment decisions

It is not possible for us as course educators to offer one ideal response to the problem of assessment, particularly because so many of these decisions are ‘higher up’, perhaps coming from official exam boards or governmental policy makers.

What we can do is outline some key questions which put your students and their learning at the centre of your decisions, regardless of whether you are planning informal homework assessments or higher-stakes summative assessment.

Catherine Shea Sanger, Yale-NUS Lecturer, in Times Higher Education, March 2020: “Sometimes we spend more time thinking about how to minimise cheating than how to enhance learning.”

To make student-centred assessment design decisions it’s worth considering:

  • Why we are assessing?
  • What is being assessed?
  • How it could be assessed fairly?
  • How assessment and feedback choices could impact students?
  • What are student concerns about assessments?
  • How assessment and feedback decisions will impact you as educator?

These and other guiding questions are available with additional detail within the Assessment Planner which you’ll find in the resources section at the end of this step.

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