Ten Guiding Principles/Exercises

Modular programmes can promote open, active and flexible learning by allowing (within an appropriate framework of support) students to take increasing responsibility for their learning (Blackwell and Williamson 1999, McMahon & O’Riordan 2006). Guiding principles of assessment within the modular system are:

1. Assessment should align with the learning outcomes and the teaching/learning methods used (Biggs, 2003a; Biggs, 2003b).


2. Use the principle of “backwash” (the tendency for students to let what they perceive to be what the assessment regime will reward) to prompt higher order learning and the development of autonomous learning skills. (Biggs 2003a)

3. Give students clear and easy to understand details of the assessment criteria used (McMahon & O’Riordan 2006)


4. Be aware of assessment and learning outcomes of other modules (Blackwell and Williamson, 1999)

5. Allow students choices and preferences in their learning (Elton 1988)


6. Use a number of shorter assessments, with a mixture of formative (feedback) and summative assessments, particularly in the first semester to ease students into the higher education learning experience.

7. Avoid overemphasis on the unseen written examination (Brown, Bull, and Pendlebury, 1997)

8. Use a variety of assessment types to support the principles of inclusive learning (See Aishe Readings, 2007-1 [1]


9. Don’t over-assess (Blackwell and Williamson, 1999; Association of Law Teachers, 1996)

10. Don’t cluster student assessments too close together (Blackwell and Williamson, 1999)


You will see that we have grouped the ten principles into six thematic areas.
In the following section you will find a series of exercises designed to enable you to conduct a thorough review of your assessment practices. We recommend that you address one module at a time when going through the cycle of exercises. All the time bringing the 10 Guiding Principles to bear upon each exercise and within your own practice.

Further reading:
The Enhancement Themes Project site, for Scottish Higher Education. Two particular resources on assessment are particularly worthy [2] [3], the Centre for the Study of Higher Education, Melbourne University [4] UCD T&L Resources on Assessment [5]


Assessing and Teaching for LearningContinue to Exercise 1

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