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Assessment is a central element in the overall quality of teaching and learning in higher education. This has a significant impact on student learning of knowledge and skills, and their application.
A well-designed assessment sets clear expectations, establishes a reasonable workload for students and provides opportunities to:
This helps students to gain deep understanding of their subject and developing their capacities to make judgements about their own and others' work.
Inclusiveness for students does not imply simplifying the context within which they learn. Rather, it is about creating opportunities for all students to demonstrate their competence through effective and accessible assessment practices.
With opportunities and challenges equally associated with teaching diverse learners, well-designed assessment as a part of day-to-day learning and teaching activities provides opportunities for steady progress. Students develop skills in analysis and synthesis of new information, enabling them to be empowered to control their own learning, be active learners and push the boundaries of their knowledge.
When designing assessments for first year learners in our subjects, we can also be mindful of the unique experiences of the first year in an Australian — and regional — university.
First year students are a diverse group of people: age, cultural background, and educational background. Yet many share a common need to decipher or decode the complex mysteries of the university and of being a student. We can assist them to achieve this by designing assessments which are readily understood by them and yet also challenge them to do the hard labour required to learn and to demonstrate that learning. We can also design assessment exercises to encourage them to aspire to succeed at the assessments.
The driving principles of the Assessment Policies, and the adoption of the First Year Curriculum Principles can provide support when developing assessments for First Year students.
Diverse learners can be defined as learners who are from a variety of backgrounds. Examples of background categories that describe diverse learners are:
Sourced from CIRTL MOOC. (2016, May 5). Introduction to Diversity [Video file].
Some of the assessment challenges for students unfamiliar with assessment practices can be:
View further details of these individual challenges, or you may like to watch the Assessment for Diverse Learners Part 1 video 6.28 minute.
Effective teaching and support of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds: Practical advice for teaching staff is also an effective guide with practical advice about the teaching characteristics and strategies that contribute to the success of students from low socioeconomic status (LSES): Practical advice for teaching staff PDF
Biggs, J & Tang C, 2007, Teaching for Quality Learning at University, third edition, McGraw-Hill Education, Maidenhead.
Cole, J. S., Bergin, D. A., & Whittaker, T. A, 2008, Predicting student achievement for low stakes tests with effort and task value, Contemporary Educational Psychology, vol. 33, pp. 609-624.
Fetherston, Tony, 2007, Becoming an Effective Teacher. Cengage Learning Australia, South Melbourne.
Fetherston Tony, date unknown, "A practical guide to creating authentic assessment tasks", downloaded April 28th 2014, <http://intranet.ecu.edu.au/learning/support-and-resources/assessment-and-benchmarking/authentic-assessment>.
Goldingay, S, Hitch, D, Ryan, J, Farrugia, D, Hosken, N, Lamaro G, Nihill, C & Macfarlane S, 2014, ""The university didn't actually tell us this is what you have to do': Social inclusion through embedding of academic skills in first year professional courses. International Journal of the First year in Higher Education, vol. 5. no. 1, pp. 43-53.
Hughes, C, 2009, Assessment as text production: drawing on systemic functional linguistics to frame the design and analysis of assessment tasks, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, vol. 34, no.5, pp. 553-563.
Kift, SM and Moody, KE, 2009, Harnessing assessment and feedback in the first year to support learning success, engagement and retention. In: ATN Assessment Conference 2009 Proceedings, 19 – 20 November, 2009, RMIT University, Melbourne.
Murdoch, D, Baines, W, Attree, K, Small, F, Hodges, J, Hood, J, McIntyre E, 2013, Final report on the Star Program for the Faculty of Business 2011-2013. Courses Unit of the Faculty of Business, Albury.