The Access Curriculum has a diverse range of students, including many who have not studied for a considerable period of time, are nervous about their ability to study in Higher Education, or who have not enjoyed much success in previous education. The Access Curriculum Team has been doing a funded scholarship project over the past year exploring the language of assessment on the Access programme. Within a distance education programme, where students and tutors may not physically meet, assessment is hugely important in helping students and their tutors gauge their progress and so getting the language of assessment right is vital. For the project, therefore, we wanted to know how clear the assessment tasks are, how well students understand what they are expected to do in their assignments, and whether the feedback students receive from tutors make sense to them and helps them in their learning. Essentially, we were evaluating the inclusivity of our own assessment language, and the extent to which our booklets supported assessment for learning.
To find this out we have been reading the literature on the language of assessment, analysing the assessment tasks and the feedback provided by tutors, interviewing tutors and sending a questionnaire to students. The idea was to get a full a picture as possible of assessment as experienced by students and tutors.
What we discovered was that the language used in assessment tasks can be misleading and students and tutors sometimes have a different understanding of what is required. We are therefore trying to make improvements to the assessment on the Access programme by:
- redesigning the assignment booklets so they are shorter, clearer and easier to read
- making the language used in assessment tasks more accessible and easy to understand
- providing more direct guidance to students on how to complete particular assessment tasks
- helping tutors provide more focused feedback to their students
We will be implementing these changes shortly, so it will be a question of watching to see whether students better understand what they are meant to do for their assignments, and, hopefully, get better marks.