Understanding assessment

Site: OCA Learn
Course: Assessment Guidance
Book: Understanding assessment
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Date: Monday, February 26, 2024, 2:15 AM

1. Assessment for learning

OCA approaches assessment through the idea of ‘assessment for learning’. This means that assessment is seen as an integrated and meaningful part of students’ overall learning experience. We apply this idea by making assessment more relevant and student-focused through the use of student presentations and an emphasis on selection and evaluation of your work.

2. Digital assessment

OCA assessment is digital only. We introduced digital assessment in response to the extraordinary circumstances of Covid-19. Digital assessment has offered educational and environmental advantages, as well as cost benefits for students. OCA will continue to run digital only assessments for the foreseeable future.

3. What is the purpose of assessment?

Assessment is a required element of any Higher Education course. It is there to check your level of knowledge, understanding and skills at the appropriate level of study. Assessment allows you to summarise and present your learning, and to take stock of your progress.

“Assessment is a fundamental aspect of the student learning experience... It is a vehicle for obtaining feedback. Ultimately, it determines whether each student has achieved their course’s learning outcomes and allows the awarding body to ensure that appropriate standards are being applied rigorously. Deliberate, systematic quality assurance ensures that assessment processes, standards and any other criteria are applied consistently and equitably, with reliability, validity and fairness.” – UK Quality Code for Higher Education QAA (2018) [Available from: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/quality-code/advice-and-guidance/assessment. Accessed: 27.03.20].

4. Formative feedback

During your course, you will have received written and/or verbal feedback from your tutor. These are sometimes called formative feedback or tutor reports. Feedback provides timely, well-grounded and constructive comments that aim to stretch and challenge you at staged points. Feedback can be used to help you improve your work prior to assessment.

5. Assessment requirements

The elements you need to submit are known as assessment requirements. All OCA courses ask for broadly the same requirements. These are:

  1. A selection of learning log entries - evidencing the connections between your coursework and learning outcomes. 
  2. A selection of creative work - such as a portfolio, or other presentation of your final or strongest pieces. 
  3. Any critical reviews, essays, or other written reports - these can be submitted as written or presentation formats. Not all courses require these elements.
  4. A reflective presentation or evaluation - reflecting on your work and learning journey as a whole. For most students this will either take the form of a 6 minute presentation or a 750 word written evaluation. 
  5. Your tutor reports - you should have received five or six reports from your tutor, depending upon your course. Please submit these as they help assessors understand your learning journey.
There are some variations in the assessment requirements by discipline, for example Music use listening logs in addition to learning logs, and creative writing use a reflective commentary instead of learning logs or a reflective presentation. You can check your course unit assessment requirements here.

6. Learning outcomes

Every HE course unit has a set of learning outcomes. These identify the things that all students should have learned at the end of a course unit and are possible to assess through your assessment requirements.

You can check your course unit learning outcomes here.

7. Assessment Criteria

Assessment criteria provide a consistent and shared language to help students and assessors measure learning. Assessment criteria help to align the learning outcomes of your course unit, the activities you complete, and the way your work is then assessed.

OCA has developed a set of assessment criteria common to all disciplines and courses. These are organised around the terms knowledge, understanding, and application. There are notes on how to understand them within the Assessment Criteria document. 

8. How does assessment take place?

Assessment takes place at one of three annual Assessment Events, where tutors act as assessors and moderators, overseen by a Programme Leader, and supported by other academic staff at OCA. At the end of the event, External Examiners are invited to check and comment on the process. External Examiners are senior academics and subject specialists from other HE institutions.

At Stage One (HE4) and Stage Two (HE5), assessment is initially undertaken by a first assessor, who will spend upto 2 hours looking at your submission. Once a provisional mark is in place, it will be moderated by another member of the team. They will look at your work and provisional mark to see if it aligns with other submissions, and make adjustments if necessary.

At Stage Three (HE6) and Undergraduate (HE7), where marks count towards final degree classifications, assessment is undertaken by a first and second assessor. Both of whom will spend upto 2 hours looking at, and discussing, your submission and mark.

9. Ensuring fair and rigorous assessment

The assessment team meet regularly during an assessment, to discuss marks, moderation, and to ensure the consistency and rigour of the process. A sample of submissions are checked by External Examiners to confirm standards are set and maintained at an appropriate level, and are comparable with similar standards elsewhere, and assessment is sound and fairly conducted. Finally, an Exam Board officially agrees the marks, attended by the External Examiners.

10. Summative marks and feedforward

Once assessment has taken place, you will receive an overall mark and accompanying range statements based on the assessment criteria. You will also receive summative feedback that reflects on the level of the work you have produced, alongside ‘feed forward’, that aims to help support your future developments. Summative feedback will be written, but can be delivered through video or audio, if required.

11. Assessment Regulations

The Student Regulations sets out the policies and academic frameworks that govern assessment, in particular the:

  • Academic Regulatory Framework (undergraduate degrees)
  • Common Credit Framework (postgraduate degrees)
  • Assessment Policy
  • Extensions and Deferrals Policy
  • Student Code of Conduct
  • Plagiarism and Malpractice in Coursework and Assessments Policy
  • Student Complaints Policy

These can be accessed via: https://www.oca.ac.uk/about-us/our-policies/