Assessment Lifecycle

1. Specifying

Choosing assignment tasks

Individual assignment tasks are described in unit specifications. Unit leaders are free to choose whatever type and size of assignment task they think will best allow students to demonstrate achievement of the unit learning outcomes. Assessment tasks should be selected to enable students to demonstrate their achievement of the unit learning outcomes. The University does not prescribe what kinds of tasks should be used and you have a very wide choice of possibilities.
In choosing assignment tasks, you are likely to consider:

  • Will it let students demonstrate achievement of the learning outcomes?
  • Will you look forward to marking it?
  • Will students understand what to do?
  • Does it link clearly to what I’m going to teach?
  • Will it be straightforward to mark, give feedback and moderate?

This short (4'25") screencast summarises key issues in specifying assessment:

Types of assessment task

The ten most popular types of assignment task for undergraduates at MMU are shown in figure 1. These assignments represent about 80% of the total number of submissions at each level.

The ten most common types of assessment set at MMU 2013-14 were (from most to least popular)  Exam, essay, report, portfolio, presentation, project, case study, dissertation, critical analysis, group assessment.

Most people will have experience of most of these tasks, either as a student or as a tutor/marker, and that can be a key factor in making a decision about the task. However, there are also around one hundred other types of assignment task in use at these levels, so you aren’t restricted to the popular ones. (click here for a full list of assignment tasks used in undergraduate courses during 2013/14).

Have a look at our guidance on a selection of these tasks to see if that helps you to make a choice. If you aren’t very confident about introducing a new type of task, then you could consider using it formatively to begin with, and then make it a summative assessment in a future year (remember, you will need to use the minor modifications process to change summative assessment tasks in a unit specification).

The institutional code of practice (ICP) on assessment sets out expectations for individual assignment task design and for programme assessment strategies.

What Unit leaders need to do

Specify Individual Assignment Tasks

The specification of assignments is done in unit documentation, which is usually written during Programme Approval or Review. These details may only be amended outside these processes as part of a programme modification.

  • Number of assignment tasks: At undergraduate level (Levels 3-6) you may have one or two assignment tasks for a 30 credit unit, and two or three for a 60 credit unit. At postgraduate level (Level 7), units of less than 20 credits must have no more than one assignment task, with up to two tasks for 30 credit units, and up to three tasks for units of 30 credits or more. For the Flexible Curriculum Framework, there are currently no restrictions, but we would recommend one assignment for a unit of 15 credits or less, and a maximum of 3 assignment tasks for units worth over 15 credits.
  • Type of assignment: coursework or examination. Examinations have specific regulations of their own.
    The specification should say which of the Unit learning outcomes are covered by each assessment task, as well as which of the University graduate outcomes are addressed.
  • Weighting of the task, as a percentage of the total for the unit. Any combination is acceptable. The decision is tied up with that about the size of the assignment task. There is much more detail about this under the guidance for the specific types of assignment tasks.
  • Method of Assessment: a one or two word description of the task. There is a long list of existing descriptions in the drop-down menu for the unit outline proforma, but you can also choose ‘over-ride’ and then add in your own. However, consider using something from the existing list if possible, just to reduce proliferation of terms which actually cover the same topics. It makes it easier to provide guidance for colleagues and for students.
  • Description: This section should have a short explanation of what students are expected to do, including the expected size of the assignment task and any particular requirements, eg groupwork, special submission techniques or specialist resources needed. A peer reviewer or a student should have a clear sense of what is expected from reading this description. There is much more detail about this under the guidance for the specific types of assignment tasks.
What Programme Leaders need to do

The programme specification requires an appendix which gives an overview of all of the assignments at each level of the programme, providing an at-a-glance summary of the types and sizes of all of the tasks. The programme leader needs to check that these are in line with the programme assessment strategy, that the level learning outcomes are all covered by the assignment tasks, and that tasks are sensibly scheduled once the programme is running.