Margaret Price

  • Assessment standards: a manifesto for change

    Margaret Price, Berry O'Donovan, Chris Rust and Jude Carroll, Oxford Brookes University

    Research seminar

    Themes: assessment methods

    Tuesday 8 September 2009, 16.00 - 17.00 in room 119

    Assessment lies at the heart of the student experience, and is a huge influence on students’ approaches to learning.  Yet due to the expansion and ‘massification’ of UK higher education, the 21st century UK student faces fewer formative assessment opportunities, spends ‘less time on task’ and has far less chance of establishing any kind of relationship with their tutor/assessor.  How then can students be expected to learn from the assessment process, or understand the standards we expect them to meet?

    This session will present a ‘manifesto for change, developed by an international forum of experts, proposing radical change in how assessment standards are established, maintained and effectively communicated to improve student learning in the 21st Century.

    The National Students Satisfaction Survey has once again confirmed how poorly students rate their experience with assessment and feedback.  The conclusions of the Burgess Report pronounced the honours degree classification system ‘no longer fit for purpose’ and identified a range of problems including the reliability and communication of assessment standards (Burgess, 2007, p.5).  Such problems persist despite a good deal of interest and research into assessment and feedback.  Assessment standards are important not only for public accountability but also, and perhaps more importantly, for student learning.  As Sadler (1989, p.119 ) argues an important condition for improvement in student learning is that “the student comes to hold a concept of quality roughly similar to that held by the teacher”.  Consequently, a long term sustainable resolution is urgently needed that addresses issues with establishing and communicating assessment standards.  Unfortunately, the solution proposed by the Burgess Report focuses on the communication of outcomes rather than on how assessment standards are established and shared.

    The deliberations of more than 50 international experts while participating in a two day colloquium (November, 2007) arranged by a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), resulted in the development of a manifesto for change.  Two perspectives underpin the manifesto. Firstly, shared assessment standards reside in academic and professional communities and in the nature and level of tasks in which learners engage rather than just in statements of learning outcomes or marking criteria.  Secondly, learners, who engage in assessment, are entitled to fair and transparent assessment practices and standards. The manifesto identifies six high level and pervasive changes designed to establish, maintain and effectively communicate assessment standards which genuinely engender and support improvements to student learning.

    In the seminar the manifesto will be provided for participants to discuss.  Participants will be encouraged to identify barriers to implementation and ways of influencing policy and practice in their own institutions.  Each group will be invited to present the outcomes of their discussion resulting in a plenary that explores practical feasibility and underpinning concepts.     


    • Burgess, R.  (2007) Beyond the honours degree classification: The Burgess Group final report, London, Universities UK.
    • Sadler, D.R (1989) Formative Assessment and the Design of Instructional Systems,Instructional Science, 18, 119-144