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Assessment and feedback

Assessment and feedback can make or break a student’s experience of tertiary education. In a project funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Boud and colleagues (2010) proposed that assessment has most effect when,

  • Assessment is used to engage students in learning that is productive;
  • Feedback is used to actively improve student learning;
  • Students and teachers become responsible partners in learning and assessment;
  • Students are inducted into the assessment practices and cultures of higher education;
  • Assessment for learning is placed at the centre of subject and program design;
  • Assessment for learning is a focus for staff and institutional development;
  • Assessment provides inclusive and trustworthy representation of student achievement.

Excerpt from:
Boud, D. and Associates (2010). Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education. Sydney: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.)

Each of these propositions is important in its own right, and could be used as a lens to self-evaluate your own courses. Taken as a whole, the key points are (a) that the primary purpose of assessment and feedback should be to facilitate student learning (rather than simply allocate grades), and (b) that students need to be assessment-literate and engaged in the processes of assessment.

For more in-depth consideration of the issues around assessment and feedback at tertiary level, please see the following booklets summarizing key principles and practices in this area. We will be updating these booklets in due course, so if you have any feedback on the content of any of the booklets, please get in touch.

If you are interested in examining assessment theories and practices in greater depth, there is a specialised paper on this topic, TERTL508 Assessment (NET), scheduled to be offered in 2021 Semester B, as part of the PGCert in Tertiary Teaching and Learning. Assessment is also a key topic in the “Learning, teaching and assessment in tertiary education” paper that is offered annually in Semester A as part of the PGCert in Tertiary Teaching and Learning. For further details, please contact [email protected].

You are also very welcome to contact CeTTL staff at any time if you want to discuss ideas about assessment, or already have clear ideas and would like some support implementing them. We would love to work with you!

Selected books on assessment and feedback

Boud, D., & Falchikov, N. (Eds.). (2007). Rethinking assessment in higher education: Learning for the longer term. Abingdon-on-Thames, England: Routledge.

Brown, S. (2015). Learning, teaching and assessment in higher education: Global perspectives. London, England: Palgrave.

Brown, S., & Race, P. (2012). Using effective assessment to promote learning. In L. Hunt, & D. Chalmers, (Eds.). University teaching in focus: A learning-centred approach. Camberwell, Australia: ACER Press.

Selected recent articles on assessment and feedback

Brown, S. (2014). Assessment literacy: The foundation for improving student learning. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 39(3), 395-396.

Evans, C. (2013). Making sense of assessment feedback in higher education. Review of Educational Research, 83(1), 70-120.

Fletcher, R., Meyer, L., Anderson, H., Johnston, P., & Rees, M. (2012). Faculty and Students Conceptions of Assessment in Higher Education. Higher Education, 64(1), 119-133.

Medland, E. (2016). Assessment in higher education: Drivers, barriers and directions for change in the UK. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 41(1), 81-96.

O’Donovan, B., Rust, C., & Price, M. (2016). A scholarly approach to solving the feedback dilemma in practice, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(6), 938-949.

Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia, O., Hans, A. P., Kuhn, C., Toepper, M., & Lautenbach, C. (2016). Assessment practices in higher education and results of the German research program modeling and measuring competencies in higher education (KoKoHs). Research & Practice in Assessment, 11, 46-54.

Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia, O. Shavelson, R., & Kuhn, C. (2015). The international state of research on measurement of competency in higher education, Studies in Higher Education, 40(3), 393-411.

Useful websites