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Senior Lecturer in International Fashion Marketing
Department of Clothing Design and Technology
Developing a new assessment strategy
The assessment strategy of the BSc International Fashion Marketing
course was reviewed as a part of the revalidation process. This review
needed to take account of an increase in student numbers
I developed three new continuous assessments that were designed to give
the students detailed feedback as well as contributing to the final grade.
I also decided to finish the year with a multiple choice examination as
the final summative assessment.
Some very unscientific research (asking a few of them!) had informed
me that first year students were often extremely worried about the level
of work expected in higher education, so assessment early into their studies
and highly guided was one of the ways to help them make the transition.
From experience I also knew that first year students need early indications
that they are achieving the right level of work thus formative assessments
seemed to be a good idea.
The final multiple choice examination proved more problematic given that
I had only limited experience of this method of assessment and that within
the Faculty it was hardly used at all as a summative method of assessment.
Some colleagues were sceptical of multiple choice, likening it to a current
popular television quiz show! However, with the right level of questioning
and appropriate distracters this method can test knowledge/understanding
of information and therefore provides a good means of assessing at level
one. Further exploration of multiple choice testing would need to be undertaken
before going beyond this but there is the suggestion that higher levels
can be achieved with careful thought and planning (see the article by
Higgins and Tatham elsewhere in this issue).
In addition to these philosophical issues a number of practical problems
- The questions have to be submitted in October, well before the material
has been delivered.
- There did not appear to be a mechanism for the production of answer
- There was no material readily available which matched my lecture
schedule, which could be adapted.
- The question paper was not to be removed from the examination room
as it is part of a bank of questions.
Writing the questions themselves
I decided to allocate the number of questions to reflect the themes of
the programme, so for example ‘segmentation’ was allocated
15 questions, where a topical / general knowledge issue might be given
one question. Thus I tried to get the design of the paper to fairly reflect
the balance of material delivered during the year.
The distracters proved the most difficult to write though clearly were
as important as the questions. The literature would suggest that the distracters
should be drawn from actual examples or situations where students had
misunderstood the material and should not just be made up wild guesses.
I decided upon 100 questions for no other reason than that it would convert
into percentages more easily and testing on colleagues for time allocation
proved that it could be answered within one hour. Internal moderation
also helped eliminate any typographical or language errors and provided
a useful sharing of ideas surrounding this methodology with colleagues.
The student experience
The students were briefed and given sample questions and answer books
(which had now been handmade) in class. Advice was given regarding the
reading and elimination of distracters and in using pencil; an eraser
and confirming in ink, as any ambiguity in an answer would mean that it
would not be graded.
The examination itself
A number of students arrived without a pencil!
One student answered on the question sheet rather than in the answer booklet,
but managed to correct this towards the end of the exam.
All students appeared to use the full hour allocated and due to examination
regulations could not leave anyway.
There were some failures but these were due to students’ lack of
attendance in lectures and reflected their overall marks profile.
Passes in the formative assignments mitigated some failures.
It was interesting to note against the spreadsheet for the examination
board that in the majority of cases, the multiple choice marks were close
to the students’ overall profile.
The marks came out in the range of 31 to 78 with an arithmetic mean of
60.13, the mode was 61 and the median 60 respectively. The standard deviation
was 12.5. I was satisfied with this distribution, the close proximity
of mean, median and mode indicating no skew in the results.
As the first years come back to join the second year I plan to use the
multiple choice exam as a revision tool after the summer recess as many
students have asked me for ‘the answers’. I also intend to
use this session to open up the debate with students as to the use of
this method of assessment and their comments on the examination. This
may provide useful student feedback for the M & E process.
On balance I think that this was a good exercise and well worth the effort
involved in setting it up. I am pleased that from this base I began to
build up a bank of multiple choice questions and distracters. This bank
can now be easily maintained each year removing dated question and adding
new ones. From the perspective of coping with the assessment of increased
student numbers this was a worthwhile exercise but it was also a good
personal development exercise for me to engage in and learn something
more about the process of assessment. It also had uses beyond the original
goal of summative assessment providing a useful revision tool to use with
For the future I would like to build up my bank of questions in electronic
format, perhaps using the computer to randomly select the 100 questions
from a bank of say 150 available. The student answer sheets can be provided
in such a way as they would only require scanning in order to obtain the
score. Eventually the students might just log on to the computer and enter
their answers and obtain a score at the end of the exam.
Department of Clothing Design and Technology
0161 247 2650
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