Academic Quality Procedures Handbook

12. Assessment and Feedback

12.1. Definitions

12.1.1 Formative and Summative Assessment

Assessment can be formative or summative.  Formative assessment is a required assessment which does not count towards the module mark, is designed for all students and provides students with feedback on their performance. Formative assessments are designed to help inform students of their progress prior to completing a formally assessed piece of summative work. Summative assessment contributes a final mark to the module.  Both formative and summative assessment can take many forms including, but not restricted to: examinations, coursework, presentations and lab reports.  It can be the result the work of the student alone or the product of group work.

12.1.2 Intended Learning Outcomes

Every programme and every module will have a set of intended learning outcomes which a student should be able to demonstrate on completion of the learning process. Learning outcomes should be measureable and should determine the content, delivery and assessment of the programme and module. They are categorised under the following headings: 

  • Knowledge and Understanding  
  • Subject-specific cognitive skills 
  • Subject-specific practical skills  
  • Generic skills.

12.1.3 University Regulations

This policy document should be read in conjunction with the following Regulations:

12.2. Marking of Assessment

12.2.1 Marking Descriptors

Marking descriptors refer to a description of typical performance at each mark band. Schools should produce generic marking descriptors which cover all programmes within the School/Department, at all levels and all forms of assessment. These will be published to students.

12.2.2 Marking Criteria

All assessed components in all modules are expected to have clear marking criteria which enable those marking students’ work to award marks in a consistent and transparent manner. Marking criteria operate at the level of the individual assessed component within a module and refer to a description of the qualities of the work presented for assessment that would determine the mark to be awarded. The marking criteria should be published to students at the point at which they receive the assignment brief for the particular assessed component. Module teams should review the marking criteria used for all assessed components within their remit on an annual basis to ensure they remain fit for purpose.

12.2.3 Competence to Assess

12.2.3.1 Associate Deans (Teaching) have responsibility to ensure the satisfactory performance of Module Leaders in their School. Associate Deans (Teaching), or their nominee, are required to sign Module Mark sheets from Module Leaders who are probationers and may, at their discretion, fulfil their responsibility by endorsing all Module Mark Sheets.

12.2.3.2 Deans are responsible for ensuring that appropriate support and guidance is provided for individuals who teach on University programmes (perhaps providing special expertise in particular subject areas) who are not full time members of the academic staff.  See:

12.2.4 Student Anonymity

12.2.4.1 All examination scripts are anonymously marked: i.e. the scripts are identified only by Student ID number and desk number and the identity of students is not revealed to the markers.

12.2.4.2 Schools may at their discretion determine that coursework for named modules will also be marked anonymously.

12.2.5 Moderation

12.2.5.1 All examination scripts are subject to internal moderation: i.e. a sample of scripts is scrutinised by a second Module Leader to check that the assessment criteria have been applied consistently (and where applicable that the marking scheme has been followed) and the outcomes of the assessment are fair and reliable. The sample should include examples of scripts from across the mark range and borderline cases.

12.2.5.2 All projects and dissertations are subject to double/second marking: i.e. every piece of work is independently assessed by more than one Module Leader. Each marker keeps a record of all marks awarded, together with his/her rationale for awarding each mark. In some cases, second markers have sight of the first marker's marks and/or comments. Where this is not the case (sometimes called 'double blind marking'), marking sheets may be used to ensure that the marks given by the first marker do not influence the second marker's judgement. The two markers subsequently confer to arrive at a set of agreed marks.

12.2.5.3 Pieces of coursework, other than project reports or dissertations that contribute 50% or more of the overall mark for the module, are subject to internal moderation by selective sampling (cf examination scripts). This applies whether the module is assessed by a mixture of written examination and coursework, or by coursework alone.

12.2.5.4 In cases where there is a difference between the marks of different Module Leaders that cannot be resolved between them, the opinion of a third Module Leader should be sought.

See also:

 

12.2.6 Non-attendance at timetabled sessions and reduction of module marks

12.2.6.1 Principles

If the work undertaken in a timetabled session is assessed, it is legitimate for a mark of zero to be awarded for the relevant session to a student who is absent from the session (and for that zero mark to be carried forward into the computation of the module mark).

12.2.6.1.2 If the work undertaken in a timetabled session is integral to the assessment process (for example, where the session involves the collection of data in a laboratory or fieldwork activity that will form the basis of a piece of assessed coursework), it is legitimate for a reduced mark to be awarded for the relevant assessment to a student who is absent from the session. Indeed students may be unable to submit coursework which is their own unless they are present.

12.2.6.1.3 Schools should not penalise students for non-attendance at any timetabled session by reducing marks except in the circumstances described above.

 

12.2.6.2 Practical Implications

Sometimes, students must experience a session first hand in the interests of their own, or others’, health and safety. Schools may enforce attendance by, for example, not allowing students to use equipment, laboratories or participating in fieldwork until they have completed the necessary training.

12.2.6.2.1 Sometimes, Schools take the view that the absence of an individual student is detrimental to a session as a learning experience for the students who do attend. Marks should not be deducted as a penalty for non-attendance in this situation, though attendance should be encouraged.

12.2.6.2.2 Statements such as ‘students must attend all classes in order to be eligible for a coursework mark to be recorded for the module’ should not appear in module specifications or elsewhere, as they do not accord with the above principles.

12.2.6.2.3 Some Schools underline the key role of particular types of class in the learning process, such as tutorials, by adopting an assessment strategy for the relevant module where marks are awarded to students for their contribution in the context of the class concerned. In such cases mark reductions are permissible in the event of non-attendance.

12.2.6.2.4 Schools are encouraged to award marks for the demonstration of skills that form part of the ILOs of the module concerned.

12.2.6.2.5 Schools are encouraged to emphasise the importance of sessions such as tutorials in the learning process in School and Programme Handbooks.

12.2.6.2.6 Students must be informed when work in a timetabled session will contribute to the module assessment.

12.2.6.2.7 Where timetabled sessions are assessed or integral to the assessment process (and mark deductions are therefore permissible), it would be appropriate for a student absent for good cause to put in a claim for mitigating circumstances.

12.2.6.2.8 Students should be made aware what attendance records are kept by the School in relation to timetabled sessions, and for what purpose.

 

12.2.7 Scaling of Marks

12.2.7.1 The Principles of Scaling

Scaling is the systematic adjustment of a set of marks for a module/assessment in order to ensure that they properly reflect the achievements of the students concerned as defined by the assessment criteria.

12.2.7.1.2 Scaling is a process which may be employed, on an exceptional basis, to enable the mean mark for a given module to fall within expected ranges derived from:

  1. previous student performance over an appropriate time period (e.g. 3-5 years); and/or
  2. the range of mean marks in that particular year for all modules taken by a given cohort of students.

12.2.7.1.3 Scaling is not a mechanistic process, but one which requires academic judgement, the key question being whether marks fairly reflect student achievement. The use of scaling should therefore be exceptional and not the rule.

12.2.7.1.4 Scaling should only occur after a process of internal moderation, whereby a sample is scrutinised by a second Module Leader to check that the assessment criteria have been applied consistently (and where applicable that the marking scheme has been followed) and the outcomes of the assessment are fair and reliable.

 

12.2.7.2 The Scaling Process

After completion of the moderation process for each module, and any resulting adjustments to marks have been made, the range of mean marks for all modules within a year of study that contribute to the final award should be reviewed. As part of this review process, Schools may determine expected ranges within which all mean module marks for a year of study should lie, derived from (i) and/or (ii) above.

12.2.7.2.1 The range of expected mean module marks may differ between degree programmes, cohorts, Departments and Schools but in each case will be based on the evidence of student performance. Schools may also deem it appropriate to take into account factors such as the median range of marks and the standard deviation.

12.2.7.2.2 After investigation of any module with a mean outside the expected range derived from (i) and/or (ii) above, the marks can be either:

  • confirmed, if the marks awarded are deemed to be a fair and accurate reflection of student performance on the module in comparison with performance on other modules in the same year of study
  • scaled, if the marks awarded are deemed not to be a fair and accurate reflection of student performance in comparison with performance on other modules in the same year of study. Scaling should take place using an appropriate algorithm, agreed with the External Examiners, such that the mean is changed by the least amount to lie within the expected range.

12.2.7.2.3 Example Scaling Methods:

  • Simple addition: A notional percentage is added to every mark.
  • Multiplication by a factor: Every mark is multiplied by the same factor.

12.2.7.2.4 Scaling should be applied fairly to all students taking the module and not just a problematic subset (e.g. failures or high passes).

12.2.7.2.5 Scaling must not be applied to assessments for which a zero mark has been awarded for a non-submission.

12.2.7.2.6 With the exception of Part A modules, External Examiners should always be consulted about the process where the marks relate to summative assessments.

12.2.7.2.7 Authority to scale lies with the relevant Programme Exam Board, under the delegated authority of Senate. The system used by the Board should be clearly minuted by the Board.

12.2.7.2.8 If scaling is applied, the Board should identify and address the underlying reasons for the need to adjust the marks so that the situation is not repeated in subsequent years.

12.2.7.2.9 Any adjustment for mitigating circumstances claims should be made after any scaling of marks.

 

12.2.8 External Examining

External Examining provides one of the principal means for maintaining UK academic standards across the sector.  See:

 

12.2.9 Programme and Review Boards

Programme Boards shall have powers delegated by Senate in accordance with paragraph 23 of Regulation XX for Undergraduate awards and paragraph 20 of Regulation XXI for Postgraduate awards. Additionally PGT programmes also have Review Boards which have powers delegated by Senate in accordance with paragraph 21 of Regulation XXI. See:

 

12.2.10 Calculation of Programme Marks

A student’s programme mark will be calculated in line with University regulations. See:

 

12.2.11 Publication of Provisional Module Marks and Feedback to Students

The Academic Registrar will inform Schools of the intended publication date of Module Marks. In the case of Semester 1 modules the intended publication date shall be in accordance with the following schedule: 

  • Monday of Week 3, Semester Two: Parts C, D and T modules
  • Tuesday of Week 3, Semester Two: Part B modules
  • Wednesday of Week 3, Semester Two: Parts A and F modules

12.2.11.1 The intended publication date of Module Marks at other times shall be no later than two working days following the relevant programme board. It is the Module Leaders responsibility to inform the Student Office at least 24 hours in advance should the eventual date of publication be different from the intended date. In such cases, the Module Leader should also ensure that the students concerned are advised of the reason for the delay in the publication of the relevant Module Mark, and of the revised publication date.

12.2.11.2 The communication of marks/grades should be individual (except where a common mark/grade is given for group work); the communication of individual marks/grades by ID number is permitted. Where the release of results takes place during vacations or for students who are studying remotely, care should be taken to ensure adequate academic guidance is provided to these students.

12.2.11.3 Giving feedback to students after assessment is a standard practice. Module Specifications shall state the form of feedback that students can expect and this information shall also be given to students when assignments are set.  The feedback should enable students to understand the reasons for the mark/grade given and should include constructive comments on the strengths and weaknesses of their work.

12.2.11.4 In the case of modules assessed entirely by examination, Schools are required to provide some form of generic feedback to students on the examination, and are encouraged to provide the same sort of feedback in the case of modules where 50% or more of the module mark is accounted for by examination.

12.2.11.5 In all cases, Schools are required to publish deadlines for the return of assessed work and feedback to students. This will normally be three weeks from the submission deadline. In cases where the three week deadline cannot be met, a reasonable deadline will be set and communicated to all students. Schools will have mechanisms for monitoring and managing this process.

 

12.3. Scheduling of assessment

12.3.1 The scheduling of assessments should be carefully considered and assessments staggered as far as possible so that they do not place students under undue pressure and in order to permit timely feedback on performance.

12.3.2 Each module shall be assessed by the end of the Semester in which it is studied, unless otherwise specified in the Module Specification.

12.3.3 All year-long modules, with the exception of final year projects and dissertations, must have at least 20% of their formal assessment in Semester 1.  In the case of final year projects and dissertations extending over both semesters, schools should ensure that students receive interim feedback on how their work is progressing.

12.3.4 It is a requirement that School rules for the assessment of Group Work be made explicit to students and sufficiently flexible to take into account contributions of individuals where this is appropriate. Where the assessment of group or team work counts towards the degree classification and comprises 50% or more of the overall module mark, it must include an element of either individual or peer assessment or both. See:

12.3.5 Schools should provide students with information about the timing of coursework assignments (a) in writing within the first two weeks of one- and two-semester modules and on the first day of block taught modules and (b) when an assignment is handed out. This should identify whichever of the following dates are relevant to the assignment in question: when it will be set; when it will be undertaken; when and how it will be submitted; when marks will be released; when feedback will be provided; when it will be returned. 

12.3.6 Examinations are usually scheduled in weeks 13, 14 and 15 of each semester. There may also be a limited number of postgraduate examinations earlier in May.

12.3.7 As a general rule, reassessment shall be available for all candidates in the University's Special Assessment Period prior to the beginning of the next Academic Year.  Where reassessment in the Special Assessment Period cannot adequately assess the student's attainment of the learning objectives of the module, for example the acquisition of practical skills in the laboratory or in the field, a Module Specification may indicate that reassessment of the module is not possible in the Special Assessment Period and that such reassessment will take place when the module is next routinely assessed during the next Academic Year.

12.3.8 Wherever possible the Module Leader for a module shall arrange matters so that reassessment candidates who have registered to repeat an assessment during the special assessment period other than by written examination will not be obliged to be present in the University for this purpose. In order to achieve this, a Module Leader, in consultation with the External Examiner(s) involved in the module, is permitted to set requirements for the assessed work which differ from those set out in the Module Specification. The University will ensure that any reassessment candidate who cannot be excused from attending the University for such an assessment, for example, where lab or field work or group work is required, will be aware of this decision.

12.3.9 Notwithstanding the above, the relative weightings of the component assessments of the module (e.g. written examination, laboratory reports, coursework assignments, etc.) may not be changed at reassessment.

12.3.10 Where coursework takes the form of in-class tests, Schools shall ensure that the test takes place in an appropriate environment, that students sign a class list to signify their attendance and that a member of staff records the receipt of answers. It shall be Schools responsibility to ensure the provision of appropriate stationery for such tests.

12.3.11 Schools undertaking Computer Assisted Assessment (CAA) shall use the Optical Mark Reader CAA Service in conjunction with the CAA Officer and observe the Code of Practice for this service. See:

12.4. Student Rights

12.4.1 Extensions to deadlines and the late submission of work

This section will be included but the content is TBC following work being carried out as part of the IP process review. This work is subject to approval at the June 2017 meeting of LTC and the approved text will be inserted upon approval of this. 

12.4.2 Mitigating Circumstances

Under the University's Mitigating Circumstances Policy and Procedures, students may submit claims of mitigating circumstances when they have experienced serious or acute problems or events beyond their control which they feel have adversely affected their performance in an assessment, or have prevented them from completing an assessment. See:

12.4.3 Adjustments to Assessment

Adjustments may be made to assessment arrangements for elite athletes and for purposes of religious observance. See:

12.5. Good practice in assessment

Good practice in assessment can be found on the CAP staff hub page on Learn which can be accessed via the CAP Guidance and Support page with further materials available on Learn via the Programme Design, Delivery and Assessment Framework course .