Section 7 Assessment

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Section 7 Assessment

    Section Seven: Assessment

    Section 7: Assessment


    This section highlights the issues to consider when setting assessments. Areas

    covered include:

    ? Purpose and forms of assessment (p. 63)

    ? Principles of assessment (pp. 64-67)

    o Validity, including research trails and other methods (pp. 64-65)

    o Reliability (pp. 66-67)

    o Explicitness (p. 67).

    Purpose and forms of assessment

    Assessment can serve different purposes and the method you choose will depend on 1its purpose. The University‟s Assessment strategy notes three functions of assessment and defines them as follows, noting that any one assessment task may

    fulfil more than one function:

    ? Diagnostic assessment is used to show a learner's preparedness for a unit or

    programme of study and identifies any potential gaps in knowledge, skills and

    understanding expected at the start of study, or any other problems.

    ? Formative assessment is designed to help learners learn more effectively

    through giving them feedback on their performance indicating how it can be


    ? Summative assessment is used to indicate the extent of a learner‟s success

    in meeting the intended learning outcomes of a unit of study or programme.

    A formative assessment might, for example, take the form of an in-class test or an

    essay which is marked but does not count towards the final marks given for a course.

    A summative assessment determines the final mark the student receives, e.g. an

    essay, dissertation or traditional examination.

    You must obtain express permission from the School before setting students any

    work to be completed outside your class, even a non-assessed exercise.

    1 Cardiff University. No date. Assessment Strategy [Online]. Available at: [Accessed:

    6 August 2009].

    Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009 63

    Section Seven: Assessment Principles of assessment

    Effective assessment depends on three principles: validity, reliability and explicitness.

    ? Validity refers to whether the assessment measures what it is supposed to, is

    aligned with learning outcomes and proportionate in volume.

    ? Reliability refers to the accuracy, consistency and repeatability of the

    assessment, and whether it discourages opportunity for plagiarism.

    ? Explicitness refers to the clarity of assessment to all involved in the process.

    It is associated with the quality, quantity and timeliness of information given to

    staff and students regarding the assessment.


    The form of assessment used by a module will be indicated in the module description

    along with the learning outcomes of the course. The learning outcomes and

    assessment methods are formulated at the same time. Students must only be

    assessed on the stated outcomes, so it is essential that, if you are asked to

    contribute to summative assessment, IL outcomes are first clearly stated in the

    course description.

    INSRV staff have used successfully a number of methods for formative or summative


    ? The research trail. This is a useful tool in assessing the level of skill a

    student has in identifying, finding and evaluating the information needed for a

    task. The research trail will be just one element of a larger assessment task,

    such as an essay which will, in addition to other learning outcomes, assess

    the student‟s ability to use the information effectively and ethically. The

    research trail supplements, rather than replaces, the list of references or

    bibliography at the end of the written work.

    A typical research trail might require the student to:

    o set out the research plan or strategy they adopted

    o list the keywords selected to find information

    o list the full bibliographic details of all the items identified as being

    relevant to the research (the list might include material not eventually

    cited in the written work)

    o outline the steps taken to uncover the relevant information

    o reflect on how useful they found each item listed, according to various

    qualities such as relevance, reliability, authority and objectivity

    o consider what changes they would make if asked to undertake the

    research process again.

    An example of a research trail assessment issued to students appears as

    Example 18, p. 150-151. 64 Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009

    Section Seven: Assessment

    I-maps, similar to research trails, are used in conjunction with a conventional 2essay and document a student‟s information gathering and handling process.

    In addition to recording how information was found, the i-map will record

    thought-processes and how the student‟s ideas developed. It takes the form

    of a “map” or diagram and may be particularly suitable for visual learners.

    ? Other Methods:

    o a multiple choice or short answer test (see Example 19, pp. 152-153)

    o preparation of a review of recent literature on a topic

    o critical appraisal of a journal article

    o an essay or report, for which a percentage of the marks (say, 25%) is

    allocated to evidence of research (e.g. the presentation of background

    information or wider reading and a bibliography).

     Assessing your information literacy sessions Case study 12

    Stephen Thornton, a Politics lecturer, and I have recently experimented with adding

    an assessed element to the Politics Year 1 Information Literacy sessions.

    In 2007/08, we used a research trail to encourage students to reflect on their use of

    information in essays. Student feedback was generally positive, but some suggested

    that completing the trail meant having to “sacrifice” time and effort that could be spent on the “more relevant” activity of writing an academic essay. Some students also felt that they were artificially justifying or changing their sources to “fit” the criteria. For 2008/09, we radically changed the assessment for this module. Students didn‟t write a “traditional” essay, instead they were asked to complete the integrated

    assignment (see Example 20, p. 154). Overall, students have seemed to take to this

    approach more positively. One said “The assignment was a challenge, very different

    from the other essays and the skills addressed within it such as reputability of

    sources made me more aware of the sources I used in other essays.” Another said The assignment was more useful as it gave me some ideas about why I should use

    sources, something which I didn‟t question before.

    Sonja Haerkoenen, Arts and Social Studies Library

2 Walden, K. and Peacock, A. 2006. The i-map - a process-centered response to plagiarism.

    Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 31(2) pp. 201-214.

    Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009 65

    Section Seven: Assessment Reliability

    A key component of assessment is consistency of marking. Discuss and agree your

    approach with the other markers before you commence. Set down the criteria for

    marking and use a standard marking sheet. There are several different designs for


    ? An unstructured marking scheme (Example 21, p. 155) provides the

    marker with opportunity for free comment. On the other hand, the criteria for

    marking are not clearly stated and it can lead to „impressionistic‟ marking.

    This scheme is often used when marking reflective or essay type work. If free

    comment by the assessor is important, you may wish to consider a semi-

    structured scheme which uses general headings as in the unstructured

    scheme but lists the criteria which the assessor should consider in making his


    ? A fully structured marking scheme (Example 22, p. 156) allocates a portion

    of marks to each of the criteria to be considered by the marker. (The criteria

    outlined for students in Example 18, p. 151 provided the structured marking

    scheme for that assessment).

    Where an exercise requires one word or short answers it is good practice to prepare

    marker‟s notes which set out the correct answers and provide information on how the correct answer has been obtained. Such notes will ensure consistency in the

    marking and annotation of student exercises both for a single marker and, more

    especially, where several staff working independently are marking the same exercise.

    The marker should annotate incorrect answers with the correct response and include

    a note on the best method of achieving the correct answer. Alternatively you may

    wish to prepare a model answer with the correct answers and methodology, to

    distribute to students when their submissions are returned.

    3The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives a general right of access to information

    held by public authorities. Students can ask Schools to provide them with copies of

    assessments, feedback sheets and marking sheets used in conjunction with the

    assessment process. The request is usually prompted by a student considering the

    preparation of an appeal. Take care when commenting about the quality of the

    answer on any assessment papers to ensure that it is fair, relates to the criteria only

    and is defendable.

    3Freedom of Information Act 2000 [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 6 August 2009].

    66 Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009

    Section Seven: Assessment

    Marking research trails Case study 13 I work closely with a colleague in the Law School to set and mark assessments for the Practical Legal Research element of the Legal Practice Course. My teaching colleague marks the answers/legal interpretation while I mark the research trails. We use a marking grid (Example 23, p. 157) where I am responsible for sections 9 and 10 of the grid. My part of the marking is a major task which takes me about 75 hours. I mark 150-200 papers and find that with no word limit for the research trails and most questions permitting the use of a wide range of resources, consistency can be a challenge.

    When marking I first draft my own research trail as a template for that particular question. If I find a student has successfully used a different way to find information, I add that to my template. I also create a document where, against each student number, I highlight any poor use of the resources and whether they were competent or not competent. This becomes a guide that I can quickly refer back to in order to keep the consistency throughout the marking.

    After marking is complete, I re-check those papers that were not competent and borderline. Then my teaching colleague double checks the research trails before we have a meeting to discuss any papers over which we have concerns. Finally, a cross-section of papers are sent to the external examiner to validate our marking. Students who are eventually found not to be competent will receive feedback in preparation for a re-sit and for this reason I am always mindful that I need to be able to justify and articulate my reasons for marking a paper down.

    Matthew Davies, Law Library


    For modular courses, Senate assessment regulations state that assessment criteria (a description of what the learner is expected to achieve in order to demonstrate that the module learning outcomes have been met) should be provided in written form to students in the Module Catalogue and notified to each student at the start of the session.

    Provide students with the marking sheet and discuss its contents with them before the assessment is set to help them understand the criteria for the assessment and provide transparency to the assessment process (see Example 18, p. 151). If there may be confusion over what is expected by the student in terms of content or presentation, you may wish to design model answers which can be handed out prior to or at the same time as the assessment. Obviously these should be on a topic unrelated to the actual exercise. Some Schools, with permission from those involved, have made available examples of student work from a previous year along with the comments and marks from the assessor.

    Handbook for Information Literacy Teaching: July 2009 67

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