Promoting inclusive assessment practice and student wellbeing through effective assignment brief design

Knight, John and Walsh, Elaine (2023) Promoting inclusive assessment practice and student wellbeing through effective assignment brief design. In: Assessment in Higher Education Conference AHENetwork, 20th - 23rd June 2023, Manchester.

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Poorly designed assignment briefs exacerbate students’ anxiety and impede effective engagement with summative assessment. This presentation draws on doctoral research findings from universities in Ireland and the UK on the impact of assignment brief design on students’ experiences of assessment and its implications for inclusive assessment and student wellbeing. It should be of relevance to all professionals involved in designing and delivering assessment in higher education. Boud (1995) stressed that while students can circumvent poor teaching, they cannot (if they wish to graduate) ‘escape the effects of poor assessment’ (p.35). We would extend this statement to include the inescapability of poorly designed assignment briefs. While assignment brief design has been a somewhat neglected stage in the assessment cycle in past decades, there has been an emerging awareness of its importance. Gilbert and Maguire (2014) are notable for publishing a comprehensive set of guidelines for the effective communication of assessment information. Other work, such as that deriving from the Disparities in Student Attainment project in the UK (Cureton, 2017), from Australia (Hughes, 2009; Thomas et al., 2019) and, more recently, from Ireland (Walsh, 2021) also strongly supports the usefulness of an informed and critical approach to this aspect of academic communication. This presentation draws on commonalities in the results of two discrete and independently conducted studies on the impact of assignment brief design on the student experience of assessment. The Irish study involved a thematic analysis of interviews with five academics and seventeen students from a range of subjects. The UK study conducted an interpretative phenomenological analysis of the assessment experiences of four first-year social work students from diverse backgrounds. Findings from both studies highlight the importance of comprehensiveness, clarity, conciseness, and consistency in assignment briefs to facilitate confident engagement with summative assessment and alleviate student anxiety. The UK study also suggests that students from non-traditional backgrounds may be particularly disadvantaged by inadequate task specification and poor communication of assessment information. The presentation will conclude with recommendations for good practice in assignment brief design and the effective communication of assessment requirements and expectations.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Depositing User: RED Unit Admin
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2023 09:12
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2023 09:12

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