The University of Waikato - Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
Staff Assessment Handbook
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Internal/External Assessment

Assessment is undertaken by a range of assessment tasks. In some courses this is a combination of internal assessments and formal examinations, while in other instances, all the assessment may be internal. Internal assessment can be due at different times throughout the semester and is managed by the individual lecturer. Formal examinations are managed centrally by the Student Services Division - Assessment and Graduation Office, and are held outside semester times.

Types of assessment tasks

Assessment tasks can take many forms. Some of the more common assessment tasks are exams, tests and essays; however there is a wide variety of other types, both formal and informal. A sample of assessment types is listed below. Assessment tasks should be aligned with learning outcomes and be a tool for learning as well as for evaluation.

  • Essays help students to learn academic writing skills, including formulating argument; presenting evidence; integrating material from sources; and referencing appropriately. Essays teach students to synthesise and evaluate theoretical ideas and concepts, and develop their research skills. Additionally, students can learn academic and discipline specific writing conventions and develop drafting, editing and revising skills. The essay is a flexible tool that can be used for a wide range of theoretical and analytical discussions.
  • Group work emphasises collaborative learning, problem-solving and critical evaluation, and is a valuable preparation for the workplace. Through group work, students can make use of complementary skills, deepen their understanding through interaction and discussion, and deal with a range of perspectives thereby enhancing their critical thinking skills. Students can develop team skills and learn to work with a range of people.
  • Computer lab practicals allow students to become familiar with various types of software for different types of applications. Critical evaluation of the output is appropriate in some contexts and so helps to develop thinking skills. For some disciplines, the computer practicals allow students to implement algorithms, become more proficient in computer programming, and possibly develop software for practical applications. In other disciplines, the computer practicals allow students to do tasks relevant to their studies which would not be possible by hand (eg visualisation of data or analysing large amounts of data). The practical skills developed in these computer practicals will be of use in the workplace.
  • Problem-solving assignments help to reinforce material that has been taught in classes and helps to develop the students’ problem-solving skills. These assignments allow students to put into practice the concepts and theory that have been taught. Difficulties that students face in completing problem-solving assignments help point to aspects on which they need to clarify their understanding.
  • Journals encourage an ongoing personal connection with learning. The less formal writing approach can promote creative and lateral thinking around paper content. Journals can help students to evaluate their learning, link theory and practice and integrate different kinds of knowledge. The journal is a good way to promote dialogue between lecturers and their students and to help students develop reflective writing and analytical skills.
  • Oral presentations assist students to master learning, oral communication and persuasive skills. Students learn how to organise arguments using supporting evidence, select relevant material and engage critically with ideas while developing understanding and confidence. Not only do oral presentations promote the sharing of ideas in the classroom but they can also give immediate feedback on the quality of students’ understanding of the material.
  • Seminars allow students, individually or with a group, to research a topic, provide a presentation to their class and facilitate the discussion. This is also an opportunity to promote student autonomy by handing over some of the management of the teaching and learning process.
  • Case Studies apply theoretical ideas to practical contexts. They enable students to see the relevance of academic ideas, prompt them to use ideas creatively and to think laterally. All of these attributes need to be developed for the workplace.
  • Field work provides an opportunity for on-site work on a project in a context related to the discipline. Field work provides an authentic context to link with classroom learning.
  • Participation marks engage students with paper learning and develop their ability to communicate and discuss ideas. These can improve levels of participation in the class and participation provides immediate feedback on the learning of students.
  • Practicums give students the opportunity to demonstrate the skills or competencies that will be needed in real life situations. They may include practice teaching, interviewing of a client or conducting a laboratory experiment.
  • Portfolios enable students to represent their learning in a range of ways and to take responsibility for their learning progress. In a portfolio, students select the items of work that they wish to include to represent the learning that has occurred in a particular paper. Students are usually asked to demonstrate how the items they have selected connect with paper learning outcomes. Portfolios promote reflection, self-evaluation, and ongoing personal engagement as well as demonstrating practical and creative abilities. Additionally, they provide a valuable source of information regarding students’ abilities for prospective employers.
  • Written preparation exercises (such as focus questions) encourage reading and teach academic reading and writing skills. They promote active, focused and critical reading of materials, enhance writing development, paper skills and the development of relevant competencies and allow students to get regular feedback on their learning progress. By promoting active participation, written preparation exercises provide lecturers with an effective way of evaluating student participation.
  • Tests provide a simple mechanism to check student knowledge and understanding. They can also provide evidence of students’ unaided work.
  • Examinations:
    • Closed book, fixed time period examinations provide evidence of students’ unaided work and allow integration of learning from the entire paper.
    • Closed book, prepared answers examinations encourage integration of ideas from a wider range of sources.
    • Open book or restricted book, fixed time period examinations can reduce anxiety as they do not focus on memorisation yet still provide evidence of students’ unaided work.

Although lecturers write the examination paper and mark the scripts they do not produce and manage the procedures. Students cannot approach lecturers about examinations between the time the examination is taken and notification of final grade.