Different ways to assess your students

A School of Systems Engineering soldering a circuit boardThe nature of assessment is known to affect students' approaches to learning1 and research has shown that students are more likely to adopt 'surface' rather than 'deep' approaches to learning if regurgitation of knowledge is the main criterion actually being assessed2. But assessment satisfies a number of different purposes in addition to student learning, such as classifying achievement, quality assurance and supporting lifelong learning. In an ideal world the assessments that you use across a degree programme should be sufficiently diverse and balanced to support these different (and diverse) purposes.

There has to be a better way...

The nature of assessment can also have a significant impact on your working life. Do you find yourself bored to tears when it comes to setting and marking that pile of 50 essays on your desk? Do you get wrapped up in cases of academic misconduct when your time would be better spent writing grant proposals? Do you yearn for students to read beyond the standard texts and to draw together their learning from across a wide range of modules? And do you hear yourself asking "there has to be a better way of assessing these students"? If you answer yes to any of these, then the time may well have come for you to take some time to consider whether or not an alternative method of assessment is right for your students (and you).


  1. Brown, S. Rust, C. & Gibbs, G. (1994). Strategies for Diversifying Assessment. Oxford: OCSD.
  2. Biggs, J. (1999). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and the Open University Press.

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