QUB Framework of Assessment

The QUB Framework of Assessment outlined below is based on the ‘QUB Handbook of Assessment Guidance and Support’ which has been updated for AY22/23. The Handbook provides an essential reference point for programme and module leaders, particularly in relation to assessment planning and design. It is based upon the QAA Principles of Assessment and can be seen as a comprehensive interpretation and application of these in the QUB context. The guidance within outlines the preferred practices of the University and draws upon the regulatory framework of the University.

The Handbook and supporting Framework should be read and consulted by all staff who engage with student learning. The guidance will provide clarity around areas of our practice to ensure a transparent and consistent experience for our students.

ℹ The following Framework of Assessment seeks to distil the handbook further into usable, applicable guidance that can form the cornerstone of assessment practice at QUB

QUB Framework of Assessment

The QUB Framework of Assessment is distilled from, and linked to, the QUB Assessment Handbook. It provides a more concise reference tool for those seeking to inform their assessment practice. Each section, and the explanatory information within, is linked to the relevant page of the QUB Assessment Handbook for further elaboration and background.

🔳 Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are set at the programme level and at the module level and there should be clear mapping between the two.

  • Programme learning outcomes are holistic, broad and general. These link at a high level to the UK’s Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) to ensure students can demonstrate the skills required for their level of study.
  • Module learning outcomes describe what the learner will do, the context in which they will demonstrate it and how well this must be demonstrated.

For example: Explain the fundamental mechanisms of planktonic ecosystems (What). Show how they adapt to ocean biogeography as determined by species distribution, physical and chemical environment (Context). Be able to predict likely outcomes to scenarios/problems posed (How well).

There should be between 3 and 6 learning outcomes on a module. They should be in the future tense, identify learning requirements in clear language and be achievable and accessible.

At HE level we are concerned with assessing verbs from ‘Application’ and upwards in complexity based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956). Build learning outcomes with this in mind.

You must assess all learning outcomes, and all must be passed in order to pass the module.

Assessment is therefore inextricably linked to the learning outcomes. And students should be made aware of this.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Learning Outcomes in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Assessment Design

Constructive alignment (Biggs (2002)) begins with the learning outcomes and the learning activities undertaken in an attempt to achieve them. The assessment task(s) are designed to tell whether the intended outcomes have been achieved.

Students are assessed against clear outcomes and not against each other (norm-referenced) unless required for PSRB reasons.

Design your assessment criteria in the language of the university’s Conceptual Equivalents to reflect the achievement of the learner in relation to these. This is required unless answers are clearly right or wrong e.g. numeric/MCQs.

Consider the student voice in designing your assessments either through directly asking for input into assessment design or through module feedback or student committees.

Discuss with students why and how they will be assessed, considering continuous assessment as an alternative to end of year exams.

🔳 Range of Assessment

Be careful not to over assess. Try to enhance the learning process.

Avoid the ‘bunching’ of assessments at a programme level.

Feedback is paramount and a broad range of assessments is encouraged, for example, wikis, blogs, dissertations, posters, papers and video pitches.

Consider the language of assessment as defined by Race (2020).

A well-planned exam contains short sentences, unambiguous language and is linked to learning outcomes.

Assessment tasks should incorporate inclusive design, remove barriers such as biased language, inaccessibility and cultural assumptions as a strategic approach.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Assessment Design in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Inclusive Design

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to planning and developing curricula in ways that promote access, participation, and progress in the general education curriculum for all learners. (CAST, 2006).  The three key components are referred to as the what, how and why of learning (Meyer et al., 2014).

Good practice in relation to assessment involves timely formative assessment with timely specific feedback, assessing only the learning outcomes. Assessment should be progress oriented, accessible and should test ‘real world’ problems where appropriate.

Discuss accessibility with your students, offering choice in how learning outcomes are assessed.

Create sample assessments with guidance on choosing the submission type.

Use accessible documents and consider alternatives to timed online assessment.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Inclusive Design in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Assessment Load

The overall assessment load should be commensurate with the module credit value. One credit is worth ten hours of student work. Typically, coursework would require 2000 words (or equivalent) per 10 credit points, requiring 2 such assessments for a 20 credit module.

Estimated assessment equivalence guidance is provided for different forms of assessment on page 30 of the assessment handbook.

Variation will exist around these numbers, where there is PSRB guidance or national standards that take precedence over the study regulations, for example.

Students should be made aware of the nature of the task, presentation format, assessment criteria, marking schemes and the weighting of each assessment.

Be clear about what learning outcomes are addressed in each assessment. If coursework combines to make up a learning outcome, make this clear to students.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Assessment Design in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Word Limits

State a maximum word count to indicate the level of work required and give 10% leeway (over or under). To penalise, give a 1% deduction per 1% over the limit, but do not decrease the marks below the pass mark of the module.

The word count relates to the main body of the text i.e. not abstracts, contents, references etc.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Word Limits in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Assessment Scheduling

Be conscious of over-assessing. Plan the assessment schedule and provide this to students in advance.

Feedback and grades must be received before any further similar assessments are due.

Do not assess learning outcomes more than once if this can be avoided. Reduce the number of assessments if required.

It is good practice for modules to have up to two items of assessment. One assessment can comprise a number of pieces but it should result in one overall mark.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Assessment Scheduling in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Submission of Work

Submission deadlines should be during working hours on a normal working day i.e. Monday-Friday for online submissions. Distance learning submissions may be due at midnight to allow for different time zones.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Submission of Work in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Information to Students

Each module should have a student handbook or Canvas page that outlines: the form of assessment, which submissions must be passed independently, relation to the learning outcomes, assessment load, weighting, moderation process and feedback dates.

Students should also know when, where and to whom submission is to be made, the format and submission extension regulations.

Students must be informed of the requirements for passing a module by the time of the first lecture and the assessment should not be subsequently changed without permission from the Director of DASA.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Information to Students in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Using Open Book Assessment

Open book is appropriate where the assessment is focusing on higher order thinking skills, critical reflection or application of practical skills and core knowledge.

Open-book exams could be problem based, have real world application of knowledge and skills or allow interpretation of data. They should not focus on repetition of knowledge and ideally should be reviewed as a programme team.

Clear instructions on timing and how the assessment will be marked must be provided along with the opportunity to practise.

Students will be permitted to refer to course notes and revision notes as well as online and off-line resources, but the work must be original to that assessment, indicate the presence of sources quoted (not fully referenced) and students should paraphrase material in their own words.

Students should be made aware that the quality of notes and preparation of reference material is of paramount importance in open-book examinations.

🔳 Providing Support for Open Book Assessment

Technical time for the uploading of online examinations should be provided and will vary depending on the number of documents, other applications involved and complexity of the system.

Support should be made available by the school to deal with any technical issues that arise.

A declaration of integrity before the submission of any assessment should be made by the student. This includes the submission of open book or remote online assessments.

The university does not support the use of online proctoring to support the remote invigilation, either via software or remote human supervision, of exams. Where PSRBs require an invigilated exam, every effort will be made to accommodate this on campus.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Open Book in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Reducing Academic Misconduct

Examples of academic misconduct include: plagiarism, collusion, fabrication, cheating, unauthorised exam items, impersonation and the outsourcing of work.

Well designed, open-book exams can protect against academic misconduct and can result in assessment which is more authentic, contextual and assesses the application of knowledge.

The risk of plagiarism can be lessened by revising assessment titles regularly, restricting the permitted sources on a topic, creating hypothetical scenarios or incorporating self reflection.

Students could also be asked to evidence their process through draft versions.

Education and information should be integrated into any programme to inform and educate students on academic misconduct i.e. what it is, how it is detected and what penalties are incurred.

The University subscribes to the online plagiarism checker TurnitinUK. A score above 20% may point towards plagiarism, but professional judgement must be applied and care must be taken to interpret the results correctly.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Academic Misconduct in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Marks & Submissions

All examiners, including external examiners, should be able to easily determine what and how marks have been allocated to an individual item of assessment.

Late submission should be penalised in line with the university regulations i.e. a 5% deduction for each calendar day late up to 5 calendar days (after which a mark of zero is awarded). 

Exemptions shall be granted only if there are exceptional circumstances applied for in line with the Guidelines for Schools on Exceptional Circumstances.

🔳 Marking Schemes

The marking scheme should reflect how the marks for any given assessment are broken down. It should reflect the elements of the assessment and how they are balanced.

Draft marking schemes should be prepared at the same time as the assessment is designed and reviewed for areas of ambiguity in the question or task. This will also help ensure consistency of marking.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Marking Schemes in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Marking

All assessed elements of modules should be marked to an integer on a scale of 0-100.

For quantitative elements, this will be any integer on the scale.

For qualitative elements of undergraduate modules, this will be one of the discrete points on the conceptual equivalents scale.

Module marks are calculated as the weighted average of the assessment components.

Individual module marks must be rounded up or down in the usual way and returned by the Board of Examiners as integers. The integer is the final mark that is released to the student and that is used in calculating the final overall mark for classification purposes.

Moderation must take place before any marks are released to students, be these provisional or otherwise. In addition, all marks must be released with the associated feedback before the Exam Board.

Under no circumstances should students submit a second assessment without knowing their grade and receiving feedback from a previous assessment.

Student anonymity should be maintained throughout the marking process.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Marking in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Moderation Process

Calibration/standardisation involves the team marking a number of scripts individually before discussing feedback and grades to ensure a common understanding across the team.

All examinations and sets of assignments are subject to internal moderation.

Internal moderation at a school level involves blind marking (having seen the other marker’s grade/feedback) or double-blind marking (both mark independently) for a sample of scripts.

Once all marking is complete, all borderline marks as well as a sample of all broad grade categories can be double-marked through either a buddying process or by the course leader.  Any significant differences in marks will need to be discussed.

External examiners review assessments to ensure they are appropriate, fair and valid, reflect the learning outcomes and present an appropriate level of challenge. External examiners do not mark, change marks on individual assignments, or make pass / fail decisions.

The decision to apply scaling must be supported by suitable statistical analysis of the data by an expert in the field.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Moderation Process in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Providing Feedback

Feedback informs students how the mark was achieved and whether they achieved the learning outcome. Feedback must be timely and useful to the learners.

Feedback should be linked to learning outcomes, identify good points in the work and areas for improvement as well as give realistic advice for future work. The feedback should always explain why work was done well (or not) and why the improvement suggested will help.

Feedback should be provided no later than 20 working days from submission of the assessment by students and before any second assessment is due.

A timescale should be provided to students.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Feedback in the QUB Assessment Handbook

🔳 Feedback Cycle

Feedback should be a dialogue. It can be provided by anyone involved in the learning process, including peers.

Annotation of assessments can help provide feedback, but annotation should be relevant and not excessive. The focus should be on achievement of the learning outcomes.

🔗 Dive into more detail on Feedback Cycle in the QUB Assessment Handbook