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Assessment and feedback

Why assessment matters

Assessment matters. It shapes students' learning experience and strongly influences what and how students learn. What is being assessed, therefore, should be closely aligned with the unit and course outcomes. Another important consideration is how we assess. Our assessment choices (for example, getting students to do a quiz, write an essay or a report, or engage in a simulation or a role play) have implications for what students focus on, and, therefore, learn.

The Assessment Policy is a key reference document when considering assessment.

The policy defines relevant terms and sets out the requirements for:

  • Grading
  • Course and unit assessment
  • Higher degree research assessment
  • Final examination
  • Moderation
  • Unit Guide

Macquarie’s approach to assessment

Equal focus on formative and summative assessments

Assessment serves two important purposes.

First, assessment is designed to engage students in the learning process and should encourage and support learning. Formal and informal assessments provide students with feedback that helps students become aware of gaps in their knowledge and skills. It also helps to provide direction in learning by suggesting ways to address these gaps. This type of assessment is often referred to as formative assessment, as it helps to form and 'shape' students' learning.

Second, assessment is used to measure student learning. This type of assessment is referred to as summative assessment. At Macquarie University, we encourage teaching staff to go beyond summative assessment and use a wide variety of formative assessment tasks.

Fit-for-purpose, varied and authentic

Most assessments in Australian universities tend to be written (as opposed to oral), and comprised of essays, reports, and traditional time-constrained exams. While these approaches have their own benefits, other 'fit for purpose' approaches may be more appropriate, engaging, inclusive and efficient for student learning. For example, it may be more appropriate to assess students' practical skills via a practical task rather than a multiple-choice quiz. We encourage teaching staff to actively explore alternative assessment methods that align with the unit and course outcomes.

View a list of Assessment Types and the benefits and considerations of each type.

Aligned with course and unit learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are statements that express expectations of what students will learn in a course and in specific units (for example: On successful completion of this course/unit, you will be able to...). They are a key tool for ensuring good alignment between content, activities and assessments. A good practice is to start from learning outcomes and align teaching and assessments to the desired learning outcomes. Unit convenors need to consider both the unit, and the course outcomes when designing assessments.

More about Unit Learning Outcomes

More about Course Learning Outcomes

Course-level assessment in addition to unit assessments

Assessing students not only on a unit level, but also on a course level, provides students with an opportunity to consolidate their knowledge and skills, and reflect on how their individual units and assessments helped them in their bigger journey. Students develop over the two to three years of their course rather than in 13-week units and including course-level assessments can act as a catalyst for this development.

Read this article on Course /program-based design.

Transparent, standards-based assessment

Standards-based assessment enables transparency in and through the assessment process, as it lets students know which criteria they will be judged against and specifies the standards for each criterion. Macquarie uses a 5-level grading system (High Distinction 85-100; Distinction 75-84; Credit 65-74; Pass 50-64; Fail 0-49) and encourages teaching staff to have explicit and clear criteria descriptions and marking rubrics for each assignment so that students know what they must demonstrate to achieve a high standard of learning and are able to self-assess.

All students who meet the minimum standard receive a pass mark of 50%. Students who perform above the minimum standard should receive higher marks. There is no predetermined distribution of marks.

Fair and equitable assessment

Fair assessment means fairness in three areas:

  • what students are asked to do (e.g. whether they have had sufficient exposure and practice in the assessed area, or whether the task is free from gender, cultural or any other potential bias)
  • how students are assessed (e.g. how group assignments are assessed or whether markers might be impacted by interpersonal factors)
  • the impact of the conclusions we draw from our assessments on our current and future students.

Macquarie encourages its teaching staff to provide students with assessment choices and conduct a rigorous moderation (that is, peer feedback) of assessments. In other words, it is expected that each summative assessment will be reviewed by colleagues at all stages of this assessment (setting assessment criteria and standards, design, marking and grading, review). The Assessment Policy also stipulates that any groupwork needs to be structured in such a way that individual contributions can be assessed.

Promoting academic integrity

Macquarie asks its teaching staff to promote academic integrity in different ways, including embedding cultures of academic honesty; active use of originality reporting software (e.g.Turnitin); careful assessment task design, and regular review and moderation of assessment tasks.

View the Academic Integrity Policy which establishes the University’s academic integrity principles and defines and provides some examples of acceptable and unacceptable academic activities.

Students are required to complete the Academic Integrity Module in iLearn in their first session of study in order to help them understand how to act with academic integrity and avoid plagiarism. The module covers:

  • What is academic integrity?
  • Acting with academic honesty.
  • Acceptable and unacceptable practices in academic writing.

Further information can be found on the Academic Integrity website.

Effective feedback

Macquarie University aims to provide a learning environment in which students receive ongoing feedback throughout their studies. Further information can be found on the Feedback website.

Questions? Please contact the Learning and Teaching staff development team via

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