Do essay assessment criteria refer to transferable skills, deep approaches to learning, or complex learning?

Harrington, Kathy, Elander, James, Norton, Lin, Robinson, Hannah and Reddy, Pete (2003) Do essay assessment criteria refer to transferable skills, deep approaches to learning, or complex learning? Investigations in university teaching and learning, 1 (2). pp. 57-61. ISSN 1740-5106


Assessment criteria traditionally have a two-fold purpose: firstly to guide markers and ensure that marking is as fair and accurate as possible, and secondly to inform students about the standards against which their work will be judged. The second purpose is important, but there is evidence that providing explicit descriptions of the assessment criteria, though valuable, is not sufficient to improve students’ understanding of the criteria and enable them to perform better in assessments; active, structured engagement with the criteria is also needed (Price et al., 2001; McDowell & Sambell, 1999; Orsmond et al., 1996). That engagement is increasingly being facilitated in teaching situations, often in the form of workshops where students discuss the assessment criteria and apply them themselves to their own or other students’ assignments (Rust et al., 2003; Pain & Mowl, 1996; Harrington & Elander, 2003; Elander, 2003). The rationale is that if students are enabled within structured teaching sessions to reflect on the qualities specified in the assessment criteria, their learning and performance in assessments will improve. Focussing on assessment criteria as the subject-matter of teaching warrants reflection on the type of learning embodied in the criteria themselves, for an understanding of this learning should inform the structure and content of the teaching sessions. This need provides the rationale for the present analysis, which focuses on four criteria that appear very
frequntly in essay assessment criteria: structuring, critical thinking, using language, and arguing.

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