Assessment affects people's lives. (Boud and Falchikov, 2007)

the effects of bad [assessment] practice are far more potent than they are for any aspect of teaching. Students can, with difficulty, escape from the effects of poor teaching, they cannot (by definition if they want to graduate) escape the effects of poor assessment. (Boud, 1995 cited in Boud, 1998, 1)

Assessment is a central element in curriculum design: it is the critical link between learning outcomes, content and learning and teaching activities. Students cannot avoid assessment activities and their impact if they want to pass a topic or course. Assessment not only gauges what students have learned, it shapes how many students approach learning. Often assessment is the first thing to be considered by many students in planning their engagement with a topic.


Assessment can serve both summative and formative purposes, that is, making judgements about student learning for certification/communication purposes and helping to prompt and promote further learning.


Purposes of evaluation
Purposes of evaluation

Flinders University Assessment Policy and Procedures provide useful guiding principles to help shape thinking and decisions about assessment:

  • Assessment should be used for educative purposes; there should be communication about assessed work between staff and students.
  • Assessment should be interpreted in the widest possible context, embracing such areas as determining initial competencies, providing feedback to students on their progress, improving instructions and awarding of grades.
  • Assessment should be part of a process which encourages the development of critical and creative abilities.
  • Assessment methods should be selected which are appropriate to the [learning outcomes] of the topic, and the reliability of each method should be considered.
  • The full range of assessment methods should be considered and, where appropriate, these may include a component based on pieces of work of a substantial nature, such as a thesis, research project, report, research essay, film, tape, etc.
  • Consideration should be given to permitting students to choose from optional forms of assessment, provided the alternative forms are consistent with the topic aims and are practically and administratively reasonable.
  • The total effort required of students in assessable activities should be commensurate with the unit weighting of the topic. The amount of effort required for each activity should be commensurate with the proportion of marks allocated to that activity (this is not intended, however, to preclude competency testing for which, in some instances, there may be no marks awarded).