(1) For the purpose of this Policy refer to the Academic Board's Definitions.
(2) The assessment of student learning is a central activity of the University. It has an important role in driving and shaping student learning. It is the vehicle by which students gain feedback on their learning and by which their academic achievements are judged and certified. The academic standards and the rigour of our courses are embodied within our assessment schemes and processes.
(3) Student assessment is a complex endeavour with a variety of purposes. Stakeholders include students, academic staff, the University, the professions and industries, governments and the community. Assessment results communicate to stakeholders about the nature and depth of student learning, as well as the skills and attributes of our graduating students.
(4) It is therefore essential that assessment and feedback practices are:
(5) The University acknowledges the critical role of academics' professional judgement and expertise in all aspects of the assessment process, and particularly in making judgements about students' work. The University is committed to supporting and fostering this expertise through processes of moderation, peer review and benchmarking, so that academic staff can be confident that their decisions and judgements are compatible with disciplinary and professional standards and comparable to those of other universities nationally and internationally.
(6) The University encourages the adoption of assessment practice that is grounded wherever possible in research-based evidence of pedagogical effectiveness and contemporary best practice.
(7) The objectives of this Policy are to:
(8) This Policy articulates the University's approach to assessments in undergraduate and graduate coursework award courses offered in Australia and internationally. The Policy complements and should be read in conjunction with other key plans and policies (see Associated Information).
(9) This part sets out the standards with which all assessment tasks should comply so far as possible.
(10) Unit assessors are responsible for the design of the assessment scheme in units. The design is completed in consultation with Course Coordinator(s), in accordance with Academic Policy and to meet requirements of external accreditation bodies if necessary. Once approved, the assessment scheme, including the requirements to pass the unit, cannot be changed without approvals as per the Unit Statement Changes Approval and Notification Table. Whilst the unit assessor should be afforded considerable latitude in exercising judgement about what should be assessed, assessment design should be collaborative to take into account other units in the course(s) in which the unit is offered as a unit.
(11) Assessment tasks should be designed with reference to a whole-of-course assessment approach. A whole-of-course approach will ensure that a diverse range of assessment methods are employed which foster the development of expressed graduate attributes in an appropriate developmental sequence from first to final year in the course(s) in which the unit is offered as a unit.
(12) Assessment tasks in a unit should be aligned with the unit learning objectives, and must strive to effectively and efficiently measure student performance. Teaching and learning activities in a unit should also be aligned to actively support assessment tasks. Not all learning objectives need to be individually assessed; single assessment tasks should be designed to enable the sampling of multiple objectives.
(13) Wherever possible, assessment tasks should create authentic challenges for students, based upon real world tasks, problems, skills and performances. Students should also be offered the opportunity, at appropriate points in their course, to exercise some choice in assessment tasks, to relate concepts to their worlds of work, and to be supported with significant self-directed assessment tasks that develop their self-management and lifelong learning abilities.
(14) Assessment tasks will normally be accompanied by marking criteria and explicit standards of performance that provide detailed guidance to students about the factors under consideration when a judgement is made about the quality of the work or performance. Students should be provided with criteria and standards for assessment tasks, along with details of the assessment task, at the commencement of a unit of study.
(15) Marking criteria should be sufficiently comprehensive and detailed to provide guidance to students on expectations of the unit assessor and how to best approach and direct their efforts.
(16) Standards of performance (or 'grade descriptors') should delineate the various levels of student performance and the corresponding grade that will be awarded (e.g. HD, D, C etc.).
(17) Standards should be sufficiently detailed so that students can see how they might improve the quality of their performance.
(18) Detailed, high quality criteria and standards are essential to the transparency of the assessment process and provide students with insight into the way in which judgements are made about the quality of their work. The University has a published list of generic grade descriptors that apply to all assessment tasks (see Rule 3, Section 8 - 12, and the Grade Descriptors Guidelines.
(19) More specific standards or grade descriptors may be developed for individual assessment items.
(20) Unit assessment design should ensure that students are provided with sufficient opportunities for formative feedback on progress towards desired learning outcomes during the teaching period. The University adopts a model of continuous assessment, that is, formative and summative assessments are woven together in tasks completed over the study period.
(21) Continuous assessment provides both formative feedback on progress and summative achievement (e.g. marks) that contribute to an overall grade.
(22) Unit Assessors, therefore, will normally ensure that:
(23) Certain assessment modes or designs may unfairly privilege some students and disadvantage others. All reasonable efforts should be made by Unit Assessors to ensure that assessment tasks are designed to be contextually relevant and culturally inclusive, and to avoid bias or other unintended negative outcomes resulting from assessment design. Particular account should be taken for student diversity, including international student cohorts, students from non-English speaking backgrounds, students with disabilities, and Indigenous students.
(24) Assessment tasks may need to be modified due to the logistics or special requirements of specific cohorts (e.g. international students, external enrolments, etc.). In such cases, substituted tasks should remain demonstrably equivalent in nature and degree of difficulty, and still satisfy the same unit objectives and graduate attributes.
(25) Reasonable adjustment in assessment methods should be made to accommodate students with a documented disability or impairment. Such adjustments should be in accordance with the University's Academic Adjustments for Students with Disabilities Policy, Rule 3, Section 3) and in liaison with the Disability Liaison Officer.
(26) The University recognises that students enrolled in designated first year units should be carefully supported, and that assessment in the first year of study should be as formative and developmental in flavour as possible, to build students' academic skills and confidence (refer to the Student Retention Policy). The University therefore requires that:
(27) Consultation with the Centre for Teaching and Learning should be offered to any student on any key assessment task that has been given an initial grade of fail and selected by the Unit assessor or Course Coordinator as a resubmit; and
(28) Course Coordinators should ensure that an online assessment task will be included in the curriculum of one designated first year core unit in each course across the University, due prior to the census date for that teaching period. The aim of this task is to build confidence and provide early feedback for students and to assist in the identification of students at risk of attrition (Refer to Student Retention Policy, clause (15)d).
(29) Unit Assessors and School Boards should be mindful of students' assessment workload, and seek to distribute the load over the teaching period as evenly as practicable. Each discipline will have particular benchmarks for an 'average' workload per unit. These benchmarks may vary to a minor degree according to the year of study, the unit aims, the nature of tasks, and other variables.
(30) Setting an appropriate assessment workload is a matter of professional judgement of the unit assessor often in consultation with a nominated academic colleague within the School/College or course and the Course Coordinator and with reference to clauses (31)-(32), which should be informed by contemporary best practice and active benchmarking within programs at SCU and with the higher education sector in Australia.
(31) For the purpose of quality assurance, all assessment tasks, including examinations, should be reviewed by an academic colleague within the School/College or course before they are made available to students. Assessment tasks should also be periodically reviewed and externally benchmarked, as detailed in the Course Review Policy.
(32) Review should ensure that all aspects of this Policy have been complied with, and give particular attention to issues of:
(33) The assessment requirements for a Unit are documented in the Unit Statement. Changes to assessment may be undertaken prior to the commencement of the study period in accordance with the Unit Statement Policy. Details of all assessment tasks including marking criteria and performance standards should be made available to students by the first week of the study period. These details should be consistent with information contained in the approved Unit Statement. If through unforeseen events the necessity arises for a change in assessment after the commencement of the study period, the Unit Assessor should be guided by the University's Rule 3, Section 2.
(34) In cases where assessment tasks necessarily utilise learning technologies (e.g. online quizzes, blogs, participation in computer-mediated sessions, e-portfolios, etc.), Unit Assessors, unless otherwise specified in unit documentation, should ensure that:
(35) Unit Assessors should be alert to the problems of assessment tasks that are mediated by technology and should make a thorough risk assessment of potential issues or problems.
(36) Unit Assessors should also be alert to the use of online quizzes for summative assessment purposes, where such quizzes are not invigilated. It is recommended that a weighting of no greater than 20 percent be given to such assessments.
(37) Further guidelines for online tests are available in the University's Online Tests Guidelines.
(38) When learning is being assessed in the workplace or the clinical setting, Unit Assessors are responsible for assessment, moderation and reporting of grades. Although workplace supervisors may have an active role in the assessment process, their assessment of a student's performance has the status of advice to the Unit Assessor.
(39) It is recommended that Unit Assessors avoid making graded judgements in relation to workplace or clinical performance if it is not actually overseen by an appropriate member of the academic staff of the University. In such instances, an ungraded result of 'satisfies requirements/does not satisfy requirements' should apply. Workplace supervisors who are involved in providing advice on performance should be provided with clear and explicit criteria and standards in relation to satisfactory performance.
(40) Protocols for the conduct and supervision of invigilated examinations during the University's designated examination periods are detailed in Rule 3, Sections 6 and 7. In preparation for examinations, it is normally expected that Unit Assessors will:
(41) All reasonable effort should be made by staff of the University to ensure that the principles of privacy, confidentiality and security are maintained throughout the administration of student assessment. Particular care should be employed in relation to:
(42) In matters of privacy and confidentiality in assessment, staff should be guided by the University's Privacy Management Plan.
(43) Further detailed information and guidance on assessment design and implementation is provided in the University on the Teaching and Learning Centre website.
(44) Robust marking and grading practices are essential to the maintenance of academic standards at the University. This Part sets out the standards adopted by the University in regard to marking and grading.
(45) The University adopts a standards-based assessment scheme. This requires that assessment of student achievement be measured against externally verified criteria and standards. Such criteria and standards should be referenced, wherever possible, to industry or professional standards, as well as accepted academic standards evident in other courses of study nationally and internationally. Criteria and standards of performance must be explicitly articulated and made available to all students at the commencement of the study period for each assessment task.
(46) Criteria and standards should also be discussed with students, and integrated into unit teaching and learning activities, so that students can understand the standards of academic performance expected and work out how they can improve their performance against those standards. Such discussion may occur in the classroom, in online or other computer-mediated forums or it may be explained within a study guide.
(47) Standards-based assessment is incompatible with norm-referenced assessment schemes.
(48) Therefore, no pre-determined or ideal distribution of grades can be applied across a student cohort. It is not expected that individual Unit Assessors will adjust students' grades to comply with pre-determined distributions. Marks and grades awarded to students are to be based solely on merit in relation to prescribed academic standards.
(49) It is accepted that academics' professional expertise is central to the process of making judgements about the quality of student work. Because knowledge constantly evolves and proliferates, this expertise needs to be periodically reinforced by personal and expert peer review, benchmarking and continuing professional development.
(50) All staff, including casual and sessional staff, engaged in the marking of assessment tasks, should be properly oriented to student assessment at the University, and undertake ongoing professional development on the topics of marking, grading and providing feedback on assessed performance to students. Inexperienced markers should be closely monitored and mentored by the Unit Assessor in relation to their interpretation of criteria, and their developing expertise as reliable and consistent markers of assessment tasks. The Unit Assessor has responsibility for the derivation and reporting of all student grades at the end of a study period, and should be guided by Rule 3, Section 8 - 12.
(51) A common example is provided in the Distribution of Grades Example.
(52) Marked assessment tasks, other than examination scripts, should normally be returned to students who have submitted on time, within two weeks of receipt. This enables students to have the benefit of individualised feedback before undertaking a further assessment task in a unit. Where a unit contains a final examination, all other assessment tasks should be returned with sufficient time to enable students to gain the benefit of feedback before undertaking the examination. Unit Assessors are responsible for ensuring that all marking and moderation activities are organised to accommodate these principles. Students should be notified and appropriate allowance made for any unavoidable delays in returning their assessed tasks.
(53) Where a Unit Assessor chooses digital submission and return of assessment tasks, students should receive clear direction on submission processes including: submission site, time frame, acknowledgement of receipt and feedback on academic progress arrangements.
(54) Academic misconduct in all its forms, including plagiarism, is not tolerated by the University. The Academic Integrity Policy - Students provides definitions, roles, procedures and responsibilities associated with instances of academic dishonesty. It is important that Unit Assessors are familiar with this policy and ensure that markers in the unit are also appropriately briefed about the University's Academic Integrity Policy - Students and understand the steps to take when plagiarism is suspected.
(55) It is also vital that students be alerted to their responsibilities under the Academic Integrity Policy - Students, and in particular as a focus of their first year of study. Teaching staff should ensure that students are well inducted in academic conventions and the University's values regarding academic integrity. Unit Assessors should be alert to opportunities in the design of assessment tasks that discourage or make plagiarism in particular more difficult to achieve.
(56) It is the responsibility of the Unit Assessor to ensure that there is a consistent and reliable approach to the design, marking and grading of assessment tasks. This is particularly important when tasks are qualitative in nature (e.g. essays, journals, creative works) and therefore require a higher level of judgement by the marker in awarding grades. Moderation of assessment is managed by the Unit Assessor in consultation with an academic colleague within the School/College or course. It involves:
(57) Unit Assessors should ensure that there are robust moderation processes in place, which may include, amongst others, any of the following:
(58) Particular care should be taken with moderation of assessment in units that are delivered to multiple campuses, or offshore, or via educational collaborations. Moderation processes can take place electronically if markers are unable to meet in person. The moderation processes in such instances are outlined in the Educational Collaborations Moderation Procedures. Heads of Schools are responsible for ensuring that these processes are enforced and that Course Coordinators report on compliance as per the Course Review Policy.
(59) Where the Unit Assessor is the only marker in a unit, moderation processes should be undertaken with an academic colleague. Where the Unit Assessor is not the marker and there is only one marker, moderation should be undertaken with the Unit Assessor.
(60) In order to satisfy that assessment tasks and grading standards are comparable to those of other institutions in Australia and internationally, it is necessary to be explicit about standards and to benchmark standards with other Universities through external moderation processes.
(61) It is expected that external assessment moderation processes will occur in tandem with other benchmarking and peer review activities within a course or School/College, and may include any or all of the following as appropriate:
(62) External moderation processes, along with any resulting actions, should be recorded and reported as part of unit and course reviews.
(63) The Committees of Examiners will ensure quality in assessment practices as per its functions and membership prescribed in the Rules for the Academic Board and its Committees and processes defined in the Committees of Examiners Procedures.
(64) Constructive, timely and relevant feedback on assessment tasks is vital for meaningful student learning and is considered to be an important part of any academic's teaching role. Feedback on assessment tasks enables students to monitor their progress, diagnose and rectify problems, make decisions about where to focus their efforts, and generally to be active participants in their learning.
(65) Insufficient, unhelpful or untimely feedback is the most commonly reported cause of dissatisfaction by students.
(66) Unit Assessors should ensure that:
(67) Students may request the Unit Assessor to provide additional feedback on their performance.
(68) The University is committed to the planning, monitoring and continuous improvement of all its courses and assessment procedures. This section should be read in conjunction with the Course Review Policy.
(69) Monitoring and review activities associated with assessment quality include:
(70) Unit Assessor's Report, completed at the end of a teaching period (refer to Course Review Policy);
(71) Heads of School/College, in conjunction with Course Coordinators and individual Unit Assessors, are responsible for the implementation of monitoring and review processes within their courses to ensure that the University's assessment activities are efficient, fair, transparent, rigorous and appropriate. This responsibility includes addressing identified problems and opportunities for improvement, and the provision of professional development for new staff or staff requiring additional support with their assessment practice.
(72) Heads of School/College should, where appropriate, draw upon the support of the Centre of Teaching and Learning, Learning Assistance and the Library.
(73) The following guidance is provided to staff and students in relation to roles and responsibilities associated with implementation of this policy.
(74) Students have a responsibility to:
(75) Unit Assessors should ensure that:
(76) Nominated peer reviewer or moderator should:
(77) Course Coordinators should:
(78) Heads of School/College should ensure that:
(79) The Centre for Teaching and Learning will:
(80) School/College Directors of Teaching and Learning will: