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Guidance Notes for Assessment Brief Writing

The aim of this guidance document is to ensure assessment brief documentation/information in unit handbooks is presented clearly, consistently and includes all required fields.

1. Higher level considerations

  • Appropriacy to level and credits
    When deciding on the assessment task, the first considerations should be based on:
    • Level
    • Credits of the unit
    • Existing skills and knowledge level of students
    • The assessment map/diet for the course
    UCA currently does not have a framework document that covers this area, but there are many documents from other universities you can refer to for guidance .
  • Assessment mapping to Learning Outcomes
    If the assessment is a portfolio, each element of the portfolio can map to different LOs. If it is a single assessment item, then it should cover all the LOs, although this does not of course mean it needs to cover all the content of the unit.
    It is important to make the connections between assignment task, learning outcomes and assessment criteria clear to students.
  • Inclusivity considerations
    Ensure that assessment task/information is representative and can be answered/understood through all students’ experience, particularly if they come from groups that could be marginalised or excluded. There should not be bias towards certain groups, contexts, mindsets, cultures, incl. UK, Euro, and US-centric material. Avoid using examples and language that is unnecessarily specific to any one linguistic, cultural, gender or other group.
  • Summary statement
    Start with a clear summary statement of what the assessment is. If the assessment is a portfolio of work, the summary statement should state all the elements.

2. Key elements to include

  • Word count and weighting
    If there is no word count, then make this clear:
    Word count: N/A

    Ensure the word count matches the level, but remember that a lower word count does not necessarily make it ‘easier’.
  • Submission format
    Always state what format (PDF, PPT, InDesign, sketchbooks, blog etc.) the work has to be submitted in, and ensure course content provides support with the chosen format.
  • Deadline time
    Allow sufficient time for students to overcome any submission glitches (e.g. do not set deadlines at 9am, or immediately after a Christmas or Easter break)..
  • Portfolio assessments
    Ensure there is a clear summary statement of the different components of the portfolio and their relative importance/weighting.
  • Task
    Present the task in a clear and logical way using clear instructional language. If there are multiple stages to the tasks, consider numbering them rather than presenting the task in paragraphs.
  • Additional guidance
    Having a section for additional guidance is sometimes useful to separate essential task information from further guidance information.

3. General considerations

  • Be specific:
    • X   Write 500 words on three of the themes from the unit.
    • ✓   Write 500 words on three of the following themes…

    • X   Analyse a film using relevant theory.
    • ✓   Analyse a film (made after 1980) using one of the theoretical frameworks introduced in lectures this term (refer to the unit handbook).
  • Simplify (vocabulary, grammatical structure etc.) wherever possible:
    • X   Your role is to decipher and digest trend industry reports, conduct contextual analysis, and present a bespoke, brand-aligned Trend Briefing.
    • ✓   You have to demonstrate your understanding of trend industry reports, analyse your context, and present your own, brand-aligned Trend Briefing.
  • Be aware of cultural differences which may disadvantage students e.g., avoid references to terms like “Orwellian” or “Fat cats”.
  • Avoid jargon, idioms, and Latin terms (e.g., inter alia)
  • Use bold rather than italics/capitals/highlighting for emphasis.
  • Checking:
    Ask another staff member (such as a Learning Development Tutor) to look over any assignment briefs and newly written unit handbooks for inclusivity and readability before sharing them with the students.

Forsyth, R. (2022) Confident assessment in higher education. London, England: SAGE Publications.