Taking stock of assessment practices across a School

In recent years the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR) has been concerned to review its assessment practices, and Thinking Writing has been able to support them in doing this. In 2010 we enlisted the expertise of the TESTA (Transforming the Experience of Students Through Assessment) project funded by the Higher Education Academy. This brought Professor Graham Gibbs to Queen Mary to meet with SPIR staff, raise questions about formative and summative assessment and highlight possibilities for improved practice. Next, with the help of TESTA's Tansy Jessop, we implemented their method for auditing assessment practices across each year of the School's undergraduate programmes.The audit enabled us to see more clearly how much assessment (mainly writing) students were being given, of what kind and length (e.g. many 3000 word summative essays, far fewer shorter formative exercises), and when. Tansy's report for the School also showed how SPIR's practices compared with those in other institutions, and contained practical, principled suggestions for tackling the issues that emerged. 

Read a summary of the findings.

In 2011-12 the School experimented with more developed assessment criteria and held productive meetings as a staff team to interrogate the value and limitations of  these as they were put into practice. The School also enlisted Thinking Writing's help in consulting students on their experience of the criteria and in seeking their views on alternative and additional ways of supporting them to meet their teachers' expectations.  

Read an excerpt from the School's report on this consultative work

The focus on assessment in SPIR is still ongoing and has fed productively into the design of modules and the curriculum. For example, in redesigning a core first year module.