Understanding Feedback and Assessment: A Quick Guide

Why do we assess your work?

Assessing your work helps us to measure your progress within your subject. Assessment and the feedback that accompanies it is a way of encouraging you to think about your own learning, to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and to build a sense of your own confidence and judgement. Assessment should be an active part of your learning. Assessment also gives us a way of measuring your learning to show when you are ready to progress to the next stage and ultimately enables us to calculate your degree classification and (for undergraduates) your Grade Point Average. More information.

What is formative assessment and why do we use it?

Formative assessment is evaluation and feedback that takes place during the development stage of a phase of learning. This is sometimes referred to as ‘feedforward’ (as opposed to ‘feedback’). It can be formal, such as a studio crit or draft essay, or informal, such as a tutorial review of work-in-progress. It provides an opportunity for you, your tutor and fellow students (peers) to reflect on what is going well and what could be improved. Marks are not always given for formative assessment. If they aregiven they are only ever indicative, showing the level at which you are currently working; they are never counted towards a final or summative grade.

What is summative assessment and why do we use it?

Summative assessment is evaluation and feedback that takes place at the end of a phase of learning. It always involves the formal submission or presentation of a specific piece of work, responding to a published assignment brief. In summative assessment, a mark will be awarded which counts towards a final grade. This final grade is approved by the Module Board of Examiners. Summative assessment is always accompanied by feedback which is intended to provide both an overview of achievement and guidance for future work.

Why do we use Assessment Criteria?

Assessment Criteria give you a clear description of what tutors are looking for within a specific piece of work. They also ensure that the assessment carried out by those tutors is fair, accurate and consistent.

Every assignment brief has a list of the Assessment Criteria which are used in marking. These are a point of reference for you and your tutors. In most cases, Assessment Criteria for an assignment are based on the published Learning Outcomes for the particular module and are related closely to the Learning Outcomes for the programme of study, published in the Programme Specification. Beyond these course- and module-specific criteria, assessing staff will also refer to the School’s generic Grading Criteria(Undergraduate and Postgraduate), which ensure consistency across our many programmes.

How do we make sure the marking is fair and objective?

In the School of Creative Arts marking is always objective not subjective. It is never the result of one tutor’s particular ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’. Instead, all marking is carried out with reference to specific and detailed Assessment Criteria, based on Learning Outcomes and aligned with the School’s generic Grading Criteria. This means that all work is marked to the same standards. As a further guarantee, the marking of every assignment is subject to moderation and all assessment processes are checked by an External Examiner.

What is double-marking?

Usually, double-marking takes place where an assignment is worth more than 50% of the overall module grade, is marked by more than one tutor and has been individually negotiated by the student. In some cases, summative assessment requires full ‘blind’ double-marking. This is when two tutors mark the work separately, awarding individual marks, before agreeing a final mark.

What is moderation?

The marking carried out as part of summative assessment is always moderated. This means that a tutor who is not involved in the actual marking will check that marks have been awarded fairly, consistently and accurately, in line with the published Assessment Criteria. The moderator will also check the quality and appropriateness of the feedback provided. Moderation usually involves checking a sample of the work submitted for an assignment but the moderator will also review the full set of marks, so that any required changes are applied to all students, not just individuals.

How does the School’s marking system work?

To keep things clear, consistent and precise, we use a19-point scale for all marking in the School of Creative Arts. This means that tutors marking work will only award marks drawn from a table of 19 options, ranging from 10 to 95. The 19 ‘points’ are arranged in grade bands which match both the divisions between degree classifications (e.g. First Class, Upper Second Class) and the University’s performance descriptors (e.g. ‘Excellent’, ‘Very Good’). A mark of 0 is only given for total non-submission or as a penalty for academic misconduct. At undergraduate level, anything above a 40 is a pass; at postgraduate level, it is anything above a 50. A more detailed view of the 19-point scales can be found here for Undergraduate and here for Postgraduate. More information.

I have a mark of EX. What does that mean?

In exceptional circumstances it may not be possible to mark a student’s work at the same time as the rest of the class. This may be because the student has an extension, has submitted late, or some other reason. In which case, the placeholder EX is used until the marking is complete.

How is your final module grade worked out?

Your final grade for a module is calculated based on the marks awarded for its summative assessments. If a module has a single summative assessment worth 100% of the final grade, the mark for that assessment will be your grade for the module. If, however, there is more than one summative assessment, the final grade will be an aggregate of these. So, marks of 62 and 68 for summative assessments worth 50% each will result in a final module grade of 65. The assignment brief will tell you the weighting of an assignment, as a percentage of the overall module grade.

Why do we use External Examiners and what is their role?

Every programme of study has at least one External Examiner. These are subject experts from outside the University (usually from other universities) who view student work to ensure that marking processes have been full, fair and accurate. They check that moderation has been carried out and talk with both staff and students to get an overview of assessment and the wider student experience on a programme. External Examiners attend exam boards and submit reports, both orally and in writing. More information.

What are exam boards?

There are two types of exam board. The Module Board of Examiners awards grades to students for individual modules; the Programme Board of Examiners makes decisions about progression and ultimate achievement (degree classification, GPA). The decisions of the Programme Board are based on calculations from the grades awarded at the Module Board, so the Module Board always takes place first. More information.

Can you appeal against a grade?

You can appeal against a grade, but only if you think marking processes have not been followed correctly, not because you are questioning an academic judgement. If you’re unhappy with a mark it’s important to discuss this with your tutor(s) as soon as possible to understand why it has been given. Remember that they want you to succeed and are here to help you achieve your best. More information.

How is your degree classification worked out (undergraduates only)?

The Programme Board of Examiners determines your degree classification by calculating a final average grade based on the average of your best 90 credits at Level 6 or higher (weighted at 75%) and the average of your next best 90 credits at Level 5 or higher (weighted at 25%). The classification which matches your final average grade will be awarded, e.g. above 69.5 is a First, above 59.5 is an Upper Second. Level 4 grades are not used to calculate degree classifications but are used in calculations of your Grade Point Average. More information.

What is your Grade Point Average?

Grade Point Average (GPA) is a measure of achievement showing your progress during your studies and resulting in a final ‘score’ at the end of your degree. Alongside the grade awarded for each module, you will also receive a Grade Point on a scale of 0.00 to 4.50. At the end of each year of study, the average of your module Grade Points will be used to give you a Grade Point Average. Your final GPA will be awarded alongside (but will not affect) your degree classification. More information.

And finally…

Good luck with all your assessments! We realise that this is an area of anxiety for students but please do try to enjoy the processes of learning that are involved in different assignments. We hope that the information provided in this guide helps to make assessment clearer – not only what it is but why it is, and how it happens.

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