Assessment at UCA

When we assess students we should be assessing what they have learned, but in Art & Design it is often easy to fall in to the trap of assessing the work that students have produced. To avoid falling into this trap we need a clear grasp of how assessment criteria work alongside aims and learning outcomes in a unit:

  • Unit aims describe the knowledge, skills and behaviours that we would like the students to acquire during a unit. Aims are not measurable, nor are they assessed.
  • Learning Outcomes describe what a student will learn and be able to do by the end of a unit.
  • Assessment criteria are statements that enable tutors (and students) to determine how students will provide evidence of their learning.

Assessment criteria only determine whether a student has passed. In order to determine the level at which they have performed against each criterion, the assessor must refer to the UCA Grading Descriptors. These consist of a series of statements, and the adjective in each statement (adequate, significant, extensive etc.) aligns with a particular grade band (A**, C, D etc.).

There are two sets of grading descriptors, one for undergraduate courses and a second for postgraduate courses:

UCA Undergraduate Grading Descriptors

UCA Undergraduate Grading Descriptors

UCA Postgraduate Grading Descriptors

UCA Postgraduate Grading Descriptors

Assessing using criteria and grading descriptors

At UCA, all assessment criteria are grouped into three categories: Knowledge Of, Understanding Through, and Technical & Applied Skills Through. When assessing a piece of work, a tutor must assess a student’s performance against each criterion in the unit handbook using the UCA Grading Descriptors. Here are some examples:

Knowledge Of:

Criteria in this category focus on what a student should know by the end of the unit, and enable a tutor to assess the level at which a student has demonstrated their knowledge as stated in the unit aims. Some examples might be:

Assessment criterion Examples of feedback using relevant adjective in the Grading Descriptors
Knowledge of a range of theories about sustainable fashion You demonstrate significant knowledge of theories of sustainable fashion in the university sector and of the ways in which these affect consumer behaviour.
Knowledge of design practice in contemporary architecture Your account of design practice shows that you have a sound knowledge of how practices have evolved in recent years to shape the current landscape of contemporary architecture.
Knowledge of the principles and techniques of typesetting Your analysis of a range of magazines demonstrates that you have an adequate knowledge of how principles and techniques of typesetting are used in modern print publications.

Understanding through:

Criteria in this category indicate focus on what a student should be able to do by applying their knowledge. This enable a tutor to determine the level at which the student has acquired the desired abilities as set out in the unit aims. Here are some examples:

Assessment criterion Examples of feedback using relevant adjective in the Grading Descriptors
Understanding through critical reflection on own strengths and weaknesses Your analysis of your abilities as a fashion designer indicates that you have a strong awareness of your strengths and of what you need to do to address your weaknesses.
Understanding through application of established research methods to investigate photographic practices The portfolio of work you have produced shows that you have a competent ability to analyse and apply research methods to your own creative process.
Understanding through critical engagement with current fashion trends and fashion’s historical context Your essay demonstrates an outstanding ability to critically apply your knowledge of fashion’s historical context to the development of recent fashion trends

Technical and applied skills through:

Criteria in the final category focus on how the student has undertaken their work, and enable a tutor to determine the level at which the student has demonstrated the relevant skills as set out in the unit aims. Here are some examples:

Assessment criterion Examples of feedback using relevant adjective in the Grading Descriptors
Technical and applied skills through correct use of academic conventions for presentation of work Your research project and analysis indicate that you have a confident ability to present your ideas using proper academic conventions.
Technical and applied skills through production of genre-specific writing while demonstrating stylistically original English Language skills The blog posts you have submitted provide accomplished and original evidence of your ability to express your ideas appropriately.
Technical and applied skills through evidence of proficiency in technical design detailing to a professional standard Your final project shows that you have acquired a basic ability to apply relevant technical design skills to your ideas and concepts

In writing feedback, you should ensure that it is never formulaic – it needs to be individualised and personal to them. Students often object to receiving the same feedback as someone else, so even if you find yourself writing similar advice in your feedback make sure you tweak your sentences so that are slightly different for each student.

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