Assessing large numbers of students

Students in a lectureFor some of you one of the most challenging aspects of assessment is dealing with assessing large class sizes – hundreds of students in some cases. These large classes are often in the first year where there can be a diverse mix of students most of whom are just starting to get to grips with the academic expectations of university. In these cases it's particularly important to get the assessment (and its associated feedback) 'right' to ensure students are effectively supported and motivated. In other cases class sizes have expanded whilst staffing numbers have remained consistent or even reduced, thus adding to the marking and feedback loads for individual staff. In those cases where staff numbers have increased in line with student numbers the addition of more assessors can itself bring problems of maintaining marker consistency and reliability.

What is a 'large' class anyway?

Different disciplines will also have varying opinions on what a 'large' class is and therefore what may be an appropriate assessment solution for one discipline may not necessarily work in another. That said, when dealing with large classes (whatever your interpretation of large may be!) it's worth asking yourself if the way in which you're currently assessing these large groups is because of the nature of your discipline or because it's always been assessed in that way. The Assessment Audit Tool (PDF 190KB) [links to external site] from the Higher Education Academy's UK Centre for Bioscience can be a useful tool for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your existing assessment method.

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