In higher education, 'assessment' refers to any processes that appraise an individual’s knowledge, understanding, abilities or skills. Quality assessment practices are an important element of the student experience, with the outcomes of assessment influencing students' future lives.
The University of Malta is committed to promoting good practice, consistency and rigour in assessment by ensuring that the following principles are adhered to:
Assessment is reliable, with clear and consistent processes for the setting, marking, grading and moderation of assessment exercises. A reliable assessment will produce the same results on re-assessment, and will produce similar results with a similar cohort of students, so it is consistent in its methods and criteria.
Assessment is valid, effectively measuring student attainment of the intended learning outcomes.
Assessment is inclusive and equitable, ensuring that tasks and procedures do not create disadvantages for any group or individual.
Assessment procedures are transparent, and the criteria and methods by which students’ work is judged are made clear to students, staff and external auditors.
The amount of assessed work is manageable.
Each programme is to include a variety of assessment types, in order to promote effective learning and allow a range of learning outcomes to be appropriately addressed.
Assessment is at the heart of the learning experience for students and serves many purposes:
Promoting student learning by providing appropriate feedback on performance
Evaluating the extent to which students have achieved the desired learning outcomes of their programme or study-unit, in terms of knowledge, skills, understanding or abilities
Providing a mark or grade that enables a student’s performance to be established and which may be used to make progress decisions
Providing important information for employers and higher education providers, indicating whether an individual has attained an appropriate level of achievement
Providing opportunities for staff to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching
At its most basic, the assessment process can be broken down into three parts:
Establishing student learning goals and objectives for the study-unit or programme element
Measuring whether these goals have been met
Using the results to improve teaching and learning in the programme
Assessment can be administered at various times throughout a programme and a comprehensive assessment plan will include formative and summative assessment. The point at which the assessment occurs in a programme distinguishes these two categories of assessment:
Formative assessment is often conducted during or at the beginning of a programme, thus providing the opportunity to gather immediate evidence for student learning in a particular study-unit or at a particular point in a programme. Classroom assessment is one of the most common formative assessment techniques. The purpose of this technique is to improve quality of student learning and should not be evaluative or involve grading students. This can also lead to curricular modifications when specific study-units have not met the student learning outcomes.
Summative Assessment is administered on completion of a study-unit or other component of a programme, and determines whether or not the student has 'passed'. It is or should be undertaken with reference to all the objectives or outcomes of the programme, and is usually fairly formal and comprehensive in nature. Summative assessment can also be formative, if the feedback offered is appropriate.
Download the list of methods of assessment for UM undergraduate and postgraduate study-units. In view of the wide range of methods available, it is necessary to determine which type of assessment is the best for the purpose of evaluating student performance in a chosen study-unit or programme. Different forms of assessment can, and where appropriate should, be used to test different types of skills. The following issues should be taken into consideration when deciding on the most appropriate method of assessment:
The principle of constructive alignment:
1. Intended learning outcomes, learning and teaching activities and assessment methods should be aligned
2. From the students’ point of view, assessment determines what needs to be learnt, and drives the learning outcomes
3. From the teachers’ point of view, the learning outcomes should drive the assessment
The role of the subject in the overall subject sequence of the programme e.g. the role of compulsory subjects within a programme or programmes. In particular:
1. Specific knowledge – basic to the field and/or serving as a prerequisite for later learning
2. Specific professional or academic skills
3. Specific graduate attributes
What is the intended purpose of the current assessment exercise, for example:
1. To provide early feedback to students
2. To measure how well students have attained stated learning outcomes
3. To identify which students are experiencing difficulties
4. To develop specific graduate attributes
5. To determine whether students can proceed to the next level of instruction
Practical considerations, for example:
1. Size of the class
2. Mix of students – international, working, mature age etc
3. Resources available – equipment, facilities, staff with required expertise
4. Ease of setting
5. Ease of marking
6. Potential for plagiarism and other forms of cheating
7. Stress on students and staff
8. Need for disabilities support
Has alignment of the learning outcomes, teaching and assessment methods been considered and ensured as far as possible?
Has the validity of the assessment task been taken into account, i.e. the extent to which it evaluates what it is supposed to evaluate (the learning outcomes)?
Has the reliability of the assessment task been considered i.e. is it accurate and repeatable and have clear and consistent processes for the setting, marking, grading and moderation of assignments been established?
Is the assessment efficient i.e. does the assessment achieve its various purposes (of giving feedback to students; of returning reliable marks and grades; and of generating and encouraging appropriate student activity) in a way which makes the best use of staff and student time and other resources?
Does the assessment scheme cover all the learning outcomes and test them only once?
Have issues of plagiarism been addressed?
Are the assessment tasks appropriately productive and stimulating i.e. are they likely to stimulate students to undertake work of the appropriate nature, quantity and quality?
Has the issue of over-assessment been addressed, both in relation to other study-units and within the current study-unit?
Have issues of equity and diversity been taken into account in devising the scheme of assessment?
Have the assessment requirements and criteria been communicated and made clear to the students, so that they are fully aware of what they need to do to be assessed and awarded a grade?
Has feedback been considered so that sufficient time is available for students to respond to assessments?
Have students been made aware of grade descriptors?
Have practical considerations been taken into consideration e.g. size of class, resources available etc. to ensure that the method of assessment is appropriate and manageable?