Assessment and Feedback

Design Principles

These pages outline assessment design based on principles of constructive alignment and the 'indicators of good practice' as set out in the UK Quality Code for Higher Education.

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UK Quality Code for Higher Education, Chapter B6: 'Assessment of students and the recognition of prior learning'

This QAA document sets out 'Indicators of sound practice' to assist HE providers in meeting the requirement of the 'Expectation' set out in the code which states that:

  • Higher education providers operate equitable, valid and reliable processes of assessment, including for the recognition of prior learning, which enable every student to demonstrate the extent to which they have achieved the intended learning outcomes for the credit or qualification being sought.

Chapter B6 explicitly states that assessments are cyclical, dialogic events between students and staff and should not be viewed as linear or uni-directional.

Constructive Alignment?

Constructive alignment refers to the alignment of teaching and learning activities with learning outcomes and assessment tasks. It is based on Biggs' (1999) notion that students construct their learning through activities, and that teaching can facilitate or inhibit this process. By linking teaching activities, assessments and curriculum, students can experience an environment designed to maximise opportunities to achieve the learning outcomes and to demonstrate their achievement in an appropriate way. This is not equivalent to simplifying the curriculum, but instead allows transparency and clarity for students and staff. It is also more than using criterion referenced assessments and marking criteria: it is about designing learning outcomes and then designing suitable activities and assessment methods to determined whether and to what extent, students have achieved the stated learning outcomes. For this reason, assessment design should be an integral part of the module design, and each assessment should be clearly mapped to relevant learning outcomes as set out in module specification and guide documentation. See also Biggs 'You cannot design learning activities until you are clear about your outcomes' (SEDA, Nov 2015).

Sustainable assessment?

'Sustainable assessment' on these pages is used to refer to the concept developed by David Boud that students require an education for future learning, i.e. lifelong learning. Boud argues that traditional assessment design may foster a dependency on 'being assessed,' and tends to encourage a view of past achievement (i.e. through summative assessment). While there is obviously a place for the certification aspect of assessment, sustainable assessment equips students for lifelong learning by building a student's ability 'to meet their own future learning needs' (Boud 2000). Note: this is separate to the understanding of 'sustainability' in relation to the QAA publication 'Education for Sustainable Development' (June 2014) which provides guidance on providing 'education for sustainable development in curricula'.

Sustainable assessment design encourages students to look beyond the immediate task, to become independent, reflective learners and to develop the skills to manage their own learning needs through and beyond their higher education studies.

Compulsory assessed attendance?

Attendance at any part of a programme can be made compulsory. General Regulations for Students says:

  • Part III Regulations Governing Registration, Programmes of Study and Examinations
    Section 2. Attendance at Seminars, Supervisions, Examples Classes, Laboratory and Other Practical Classes and Lectures
    All students must attend such seminars, supervisions, examples classes, laboratory and other practical classes and lectures as may be individually required of them. Any student who wants to miss a compulsory class should obtain the prior permission of the person responsible for taking the class in question or, if that was not possible, report to the same person, or to the Head of his/her School, the cause of his/her absence without delay.

Attendance may form part of the assessed mark in a module, although this is generally appropriate in Level 4 or 5 modules only.


For further information about assessment, curriculum design, programme assessment mapping, academic integrity or the Learning and Teaching Network, contact the curriculum development team.


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Last Updated: 23/06/2017