Transforming Assessment Practices at BU through assessment design policy change: the principles

In May 2019 Senate approved the new  evidence-based student-centred assessment policy change. This blog post sets out the principles underpinning the change. There are separate blogs on the specific requirements  of the policy and on the resources to support the changes.

The drivers for change in assessment practices were both local and national. These included feedback from students through Student Union processes, a review of the types and numbers of assessments in units of study at BU, evidence from the sector of over-assessment in some subjects and disciplines, and the need to review the teaching and learning landscape at BU ahead of the next Teaching Excellence Framework,.

The initiative had the full support of the Student Union at BU, was widely debated in committees and was implemented for the 2019-20 intake for Levels 4 and 7, with levels 5 and 6 following in subsequent intakes.


 Key principles informing the policy change process


  • Reduction of the assessment workload on both students and staffwith the aim of increasing student achievement, improving retention and progression, and raising student satisfaction. (Ball et al 2012, Jessop 2017).


  • An increased focus from assessment oflearning to assessment for learning, through formative assessment tasks in which students develop assessment literacy and become more active learners by taking responsibility for self-evaluation and development of their learning through increased feedforward. The BU Generic Assessment Criteria are a useful tool to support this. (Sambell et al 2013).


  • Development of authentic, discipline-relevant and profession-relevant assessmentsbased on sound pedagogic principles that enable students to demonstrate their achievement of level and programme outcomes, through a broader ‘menu’ of more innovative assessment tasks including alternatives to traditional formal examinations. This requires the rationalisation of the volume and number of assessment tasks at each level. (HEA 2016).


  • Recognise the role that technology enhanced learningand assessment tools can play, for example in developing and reinforcing learning and in different forms of exams. (Crisp 2011).


Inclusive assessment practicesand options for integrated programme level assessmentare embedded in the changes. The changes to assessment practice will have an impact on every unit of study at every level, undergraduate and postgraduate, levels  4 to 7.



Ball S et al 2012. A marked improvement; transforming assessment in higher education. York: HEA

Higher Education Academy 2016. Framework for transforming assessment in higher education. York: HEA

Sambell K, McDowell L and Montgomery C. 2013. Assessment for learning in higher education.Abingdon: Routledge

Jessop T. 2017 Inspiring transformation through TESTA’s programme approach. In Carless C, Bridges SM, Chan CKY and Glofcheski R (eds) Scaling up assessment for learning in higher education. Singapore: Springer

Crisp G. 2011 Teacher’s handbook on e-assessment.


Anne Quinney, Principal Lecturer, Centre for Fusion learning, innovation and excellence.  Bournemouth University

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