Early assessment items and hurdle tasks

Early assessment and hurdle tasks are distinct from standard assessment types. They are designed to engage and challenge students.

Early assessment

Early assessment tasks can be set in the first three weeks of the teaching session. They are designed to:

  • engage students with the subject
  • help students transition from previous educational experiences into university study
  • identify students who are not engaged in the subject and at risk of failure or withdrawal
  • help students self-assess their entry knowledge, skills and attitudes against discipline expectations.

Early assessment tasks can provide timely feedback to students on the value of addressing their literacy and/or numeracy skills. Academic Skills Coordinators can provide simple assessment and support strategies.

Tasks may be assessment or non-assessment-based. They can differ between internal and distance cohorts as not all tasks are universally applicable. Don't hesitate to use different identifiers for on-campus and online students.

Communicate the importance of the task

Student feedback indicates that an early task with low value is often not considered worth doing. It's important for academics to communicate how important a task is and how it connects to later learning or assessments.

If the task is assessment-based, outline:

  • how it fits into later tasks
  • how it develops basic skills and knowledge that prepare students for those later tasks.

Identify students at risk

Using multiple identifiers gives you a better chance of identifying unengaged students. Examples of multiple identifiers are outlined below.

Tasks or activities

  • Failure to submit the first assignment.
  • Poor performance in first assignment.
  • Failure to attend the lectures and tutorials (internal).
  • Failure to engage with exercises (online).

Assessment-related identifiers

  • Students value early summative or formative assessment tasks because such tasks:
    • outline subject expectations
    • get them 'on track' with their study
    • motivate them to achieve
    • alleviate some of their concerns about transitioning to university study.
  • Try to design an assessment task that links into a subsequent task and helps build skills. This will help identify where students may have difficulties in understanding basic steps for later tasks. In past subjects, the most consistent identifiers came from subjects that had tasks building on one another, developing mastery in skills and knowledge before moving on to the next task.
  • If your subject has assumed knowledge, your early task may verify the level of knowledge the student possesses
  • Early feedback to students that emphasises improvement should result in higher quality subsequent assessment submissions and reduced marking and moderation load later in the session.
  • Regular self-marking review tasks that identify disengaged students early in session can be revisited regularly by students, providing opportunities for revision throughout the session.
  • Early assessment tasks can provide timely feedback to students on the value of addressing their literacy and/or numeracy skills. Academic Skills Coordinators can provide simple assessment and support strategies.

Behaviour-based identifier

  • Students not accessing their Subject Outline or contributing to online subject forums in the first three weeks of session are both behaviours that can indicate a lack of engagement.
  • Class attendance can be one of the strongest identifiers of at risk students.

Hurdle tasks

A hurdle assessment that requires a level of performance or task to be completed as a condition of passing the subject.

The Assessment Policy states a subject may include a hurdle assessment where:

  • this is necessary to ensure students can do something safely
  • this is necessary to meet external professional accreditation or professional registration requirements
  • the assessment is the last assessment task in a course to assess whether students have achieved a course learning outcome
  • the use of the hurdle assessment is approved by the deputy dean of the teaching faculty for another reason than those above.

The Subject Outline must clearly identify hurdle tasks and explain what mark the student needs in order to pass the subject.