Beyond the “real world”: exploring authentic assessment design

Mary Simper ~ Learning Designer

The Learning Design team at the OU has been exploring assessment practices, which has led to some rich discussions on accessibility, student choice, learning outcomes and authenticity. Discussions around authentic assessment have led us to think about how we can design assessments, well… more authentically!

Let’s start with an analogy…

Imagine being given a recipe for the best brownie in the world. Wouldn’t you want to bake and taste the brownies? This is called a taste test and it gives bakers the opportunity to experiment before selling products.

Similarly, authentic assessment provides students with a taste test where they mix, measure, and stir ingredients, applying methods to create a final product. A key stage is reviewing how well the process worked and this is akin to reflection, a major component of authentic assessment.

Now that we’re all hungry for brownies, here’s a more concrete definition: Continue reading “Beyond the “real world”: exploring authentic assessment design”

The power of celebration: An exploration of how the simple act of celebration can impact student outcomes and wellbeing.

Catriona Matthews, Clare Hill, James Openshaw ~ Learning Designers

Here at The Open University, we annually recruit a panel of students called the Curriculum Design Student Panel. Students who volunteer for the panel take part in activities designed to gather their views on learning experiences and this feedback can be used to inform the early development of activities, materials and tools. We also ask panel students a ‘Question of the Month’ in a forum, which is usually a brief question about their study experience.

Recently, we asked panel students to tell us how they celebrate their achievements, big and small. Whilst a seemingly light-hearted question, it led to some useful insights about the student experience. There was a lively discussion in the forum with panel students sharing what they considered to be celebratory study events and telling us how celebrating is beneficial to their study. It even led to some panel students vowing to start celebrating or to celebrate more, so the discussion had an immediate positive effect on those involved.

Continue reading “The power of celebration: An exploration of how the simple act of celebration can impact student outcomes and wellbeing.”

“It’s OK not to know!”: Professor John Hattie and the power of feedback

Hayley Johns ~ Learning Designer 


Feedback, according to Professor John Hattie, is ‘one of the most powerful notions we have’ in education – and also one of the most variable.

Earlier this year, I joined an instalment of Phil Anthony’s award-winning Digitally Enhanced Education webinar series to learn more about how institutions around the world are prioritising feedback as a key part of learning. Amid a wide variety of talks on assessment and feedback, a few really stood out. I’m particularly excited to share with you some of the wisdom of Professor Hattie on the power of feedback as a process of constant learning, of asking questions, and of low stakes ‘failure’ in a supportive environment.

Continue reading ““It’s OK not to know!”: Professor John Hattie and the power of feedback”

Will wonders ever SiSE?: Designing for Students in Secure Environments

by Hayley Johns

During my work with the Open University so far, I’ve been really privileged to work with students from all walks of life. One key part of the OU student community, and a new one for my own practice, is students in secure environments. The OU’s work reaches over 200 prisons and secure hospital units around the country, and students who are studying from these institutions can take undergraduate modules across all four faculties (FASS, FBL, STEM and WELS), as well as Access modules for those who are new to higher education or haven’t studied at university level for some time.

Continue reading “Will wonders ever SiSE?: Designing for Students in Secure Environments”