Assessment literacy can apply to both academic staff* and students and relates to the ability to understand assessment purpose and requirements, and make effective judgements on work produced.

For students, assessment literacy is vital as it has a direct impact on their performance (Smith et al. 2013), acknowledging that the more a student knows about what is expected of them, the better they are able to meet the assessment requirements.

* For staff, see section 1.5 Standardisation and Calibration

Key Principles

  • Developmental - Students should be able to develop their understanding of required assessment standards throughout their programme.
  • Transferrable - Assessment literacy knowledge and skills should be transferrable from one assessment to the next, with students already familiar with assessment standards and expectations when starting a new assessment.
  • Supported - Opportunities should be provided for students to question, clarify and reflect on assessment requirements. 
  • Facilitated by good assessment briefs and rubrics - Assessment briefs should be written and explained in clear and consistent terms. They should make explicit the threshold requirements and what is needed for good and excellent outcomes - See sections 1.3 Effective Internal Moderation Practicies and 1.6 Using Rubrics in Assessment.

Good Practice to Support Student Assessment Literacy

  • Feedback Opportunities - Allow anonymous and/or individual opportunities for questions and answers on the assessment requirements.
  • Formative assessment - Use formative assessments to indicate expectations and provide opportunities for students’ own critical reflections.
  • Record assessment briefings on Zoom - so that students can go back and check their understanding.
  • Cut through the jargon - Don’t assume that students will understand the terminology used in assessment briefs - Explain key terms or ask students to explain what they think are meant by key terms.
  • Exemplars - Allow students to discuss and assess a range of anonymised exemplars of work drawing on the assessment brief and the University’s General Assessment Guidelines or a marking scheme.

In Class Activity: Developing Assessment Literacy

Encouraging students to actively engage with assessment rubrics (marking criteria) has been shown to significantly improve achievement and increase learning gains, especially when this is done from an early stage in students’ University careers (e.g., Jones et al 2017).

A simple activity to promote engagement involves organising students into small groups. Each group is provided with exemplars and marking criteria, and invited to mark the exemplars using the criteria. Each group agrees a mark for each exemplar and then feeds this back to the class with justification. As the same set of exemplars is used for all groups, once students have fed back, a class discussion is facilitated. The session is brought to a close with the lecturer/session facilitator explaining the mark that was actually awarded to each exemplar, highlighting areas of good practice and areas for improvement, as appropriate.

The exemplars can comprise anonymised examples of past students’ work (permission would be needed for this, of course) or examples specifically constructed by the module team for the activity, or indeed both. The marking criteria used can be specific to the task (or previous assessment) or may draw on the University’s General Assessment Guidelines for the specific level.

Further Reading

JISC (2015) Assessment literacy. [online] available from:  https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/transforming-assessment-and-feedback/assessment-literacies .

Price, M. et al. (2012). Assessment Literacy: The Foundation for Improving Student Learning. Wheatley: Oxford Brooke University

Jones, L., Allen, B., Dunn, P. and Brooker, L. (2017). Demystifying the rubric: a five-step pedagogy to improve student understanding and utilisation of marking criteria. Higher Education Research & Development, 36(1), 129-142. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/07294360.2016.1177000?needAccess=true