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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

7.3: Assessment & Feedback

Principles for the Design of Assessment & Feedback

1.0 Introduction

(1.1) Assessment is at the heart of the student educational experience. It is not simply, or even primarily, an evaluation tool; it is an integral part of the teaching and learning process.

(1.2) Assessment should be explicitly designed to measure student achievement of clearly defined and well-integrated Programme Learning Outcomes (PLOs) and Module Learning Outcomes (MLOs).

(1.3) Subject benchmark statements and the requirements of Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRB), as appropriate, should inform PLOs and MLOs

(1.4) A well-designed programme of study will use different forms of assessment strategically so that across the programme and at each level there is an optimal mix of formative and summative assessment, as well as a variety of modes of assessment. Modules should not be considered in isolation; what matters is their cumulative effect during any given year, and across a student’s career. The TESTA process is recommended as a set of well-established tools to audit and redesign programme-level assessment and feedback schemes (, but other evidence-based approaches may also be taken.

(1.5) Feedback on understanding and skills development is an essential part of the learning process and should be deliberately and consciously incorporated into every programme.

2.0 Assessment will be equitable, explicit and transparent

(2.1) Clear information on the policies and processes relating to assessment will be available to both staff and students involved in the assessment process.

(2.2) Departments will provide to students, on an annual basis, a single chart including all assessment submission dates and dates by which feedback will be returned by the department, not later than the end of the second week of the Michaelmas Term.

(2.3) Prior to undertaking any assessment task, students will be clearly informed of the purpose and requirements of the task and will be provided with the specific assessment criteria that will be used for marking it. Feedback to students will be related to the stated learning outcomes and specific assessment criteria.

(2.4) Assessment and feedback should be inclusive in design and delivery. By anticipating diverse learners, such as the disabled, international students and those with uneven academic preparation, the need for concessions and individualised assessments will be minimised.

(2.5) For example, students may be given choice and/or flexibility in assessment methods, such as by offering two equivalent assessment methods or by making small changes that do not affect the assessment of learning outcomes, such as presenting to a small group rather than the whole class.

3.0 Feedback will be equitable, explicit and designed to enhance learning

(3.1) At each level of study, students should have the opportunity to carry out and receive feedback on formative work designed to ensure that they have the opportunity to develop the skills needed to succeed in summative assessments.

(3.2) Feedback can be given to individuals or groups of students and can take a number of forms including, but not limited to: written feedback (for example, through annotationson essays and feedback sheets or on electronically submitted work); orally (for instance, via an in-class reflection exercise); or through staff-moderated peer-to-peer feedback.

Further Information on Inclusive Assessment and Marking is available from LTH 7.4 and LTH 7.4.1.