Promise? What promise?
There are thousands of words written about assessment and feedback each year – from the need for ‘authentic’ assessment to ensuring assessment fits the skills agenda and moves to decolonising the curriculum. We have also seen significant work done on adapting to the post-pandemic era as seen here. There are many experts who could talk about each of these in more depth than I could (especially in just 800 words!).
Therefore, I would like to pose to you a slightly different question to consider – how does assessment and feedback fit with your overall promise to students?
At Salford Business School we have thought carefully about what our mission is and how that is outlined to our students. Our Dean, Dr Janice Allan, led a very detailed and lengthy cultural debate about what we do and why and how this translates into a clear articulation of values to our students.
We promise students that they will have a ‘deep learning’ experience where at each level of study there will be opportunities to work with industry to expand their knowledge and experience. This will be underpinned by extensive use of data-driven simulations and immersive experiences such as virtual and real internships. At the end of their degree, students will have developed graduate skills and attributes that are in demand by employers. Across all of this we also promise an element of personalisation.
Avoiding the disconnect
If there is a disconnect between the promise articulated above and assessment on the ground – that will create both student dissatisfaction and progression/retention issues but should raise questions about the reality of what has been promised and overall cultural coherence of the school as a collective endeavour. I would argue that if you cannot see a strong link between the two – either your values are just on paper or you have not done the work around learning, teaching and assessment.
As a practical example of this, above I’ve outlined how we promised that students will have the chance to work with industry on a project. To do this, we have had to audit all our assessments and consider which ones can provide an entry point for employers to work with students. That in turn has led to other projects and a process to manage engagement with employers. We need to ensure that the right employer is matched up with the right assessments at the right time and at the right level. It is time-consuming and difficult, but it is vital.
It also needs to carefully align with our pedagogical practices because it is a type of constructive alignment where the student constructs their own personalised learning through the enterprise activities. In turn, we have had to think carefully how this influences feedback and the role of the employer partner in generating and providing that feedback and how students act upon it for development purposes.
Therefore, when considering assessment and feedback, I would argue that you need to consider not only if it is fit for purpose as an assessment, but does it represent the promise and values of the school as outlined to prospective students? If it does not – you do not simply have an assessment problem, you have a cultural and strategic problem.
Questions for you to consider
I will conclude by posing the same question I ask myself and staff to ensure our assessment is aligned with our promises:
if you look at your public facing documents and the experience you promise – are your current assessment practices a reflection of this?
if you claim to work closely with industry – are there regular and real opportunities for students to work with external partners on problem solving and value creation?
at every level of study, can your students engage in assessments that solve real problems and demonstrate application of skills?
does your assessment represent the diversity of student experience we see in Business Schools and are there opportunities for students to bring their lived experiences into the classroom and the assessment?
in terms of feedback, how are you ensuring that it fits with the overall promise made by the school to the students about how they will develop and the type of graduate they will be?
Charles Knight is the Associate Dean (Student Experience) at Salford Business School. Prior to his appointment, Charles was a director of Edge Hill University’s Productivity and Innovative Centre.
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