The Exchange Blog

News and updates from the Teaching, Learning and Employability Exchange at University of the Arts London


Spotlight on: Enhancing Assessment for Equity

Nicola Tagoe, Project and Resources Lead, Academic Enhancement

Welcome to the third in our series of Spotlight On… articles, giving you an insight into each of the three strands lead by the AEM & Attainment team.      

Today we speak to colleagues leading the Enhancing Assessment for Equity strand, including Siobhan Clay, Interim Associate Dean: Academic Enhancement, Cath Caldwell, Educational Developer: Academic Enhancement (AEM Co-ordinator and College Lead CSM) and Dr Emily Salines, Educational Developer: Academic Enhancement (AEM College Lead LCC). 

Could you tell us about what you’ve been doing on the strand? 

This strand supports course teams to devise an assessment environment that addresses attainment by focusing on equitable assessment for learning, with the ultimate aim of eliminating awarding differentials.

By exploring ways in which assessment can become part of a decolonising pedagogy that empowers students, this strand supports course teams as they 1) reflect on their assessment and feedback approaches and 2) ensure they support attainment and equity within a social justice framework.

A key part of the work is reviewing and mapping assessment plans for the year and looking at students’ assessment journey through the course. Formative assessment and feedback – which have a well-documented impact on attainment – are foregrounded in this work.

Course teams are also supported as they explore ways in which their assessment approaches can be more inclusive (ranging from the design of briefs, to timings and conduct of assessment). Support is also available for summative assessment. The dialogic approach of the strand requires close participation with Course Leaders and teams, with much of the learning, reflection and actions taking place beyond and in between the workshops. 

Since September 2020 we have been working closely with 12 course teams from 4 of the UAL colleges. We have facilitated over 20 workshops around ‘Assessment Mapping’ and ‘Inclusive Assessment.’ 

During the summer term, course teams have been given access to a series of bespoke video resources around summative assessment in response to their specific needs. Mentoring support has been offered to course leaders on the strand, addressing specific topics such as approaches to writing feedback and pass/fail grading, or reviewing individual units. 

A cross-university workshop was held by the strand in March 2021 around the topic of assessment for equity, as part of the Bending the Rules series facilitated by Dr Gurnam Singh. This was attended by 28 members of staff and enabled valuable discussion across course teams.  

What have been the key themes emerging from the discussions?  

Within the workshops course teams have:  

  • discussed approaches to inclusive and equitable assessment practices, establishing what this could look like within assignment briefs, marking and feedback.  
  • acknowledged the significant impact of the pandemic and explored ways to maintain accessible practices in the context of blended learning.    
  • identified successes and challenges within assessment practices, such as anonymous marking and video feedback.   
  • reflected on each course team’s experience of assessment mapping. 
  • considered the ‘purpose’ of assessment, and how to reach the balance between quantity and quality of feedback.    
  • explored approaches to assessment that place value on the learning process, such as learning journals and blogs.       

What approaches are course teams taking in their learning contexts?  

Here are some of the changes that course teams have introduced to assessment practice in their courses: 

 Amendments to assessment submission requirements

  • Introduction of peer feedback as part of the formative assessment process. 
  • Giving students the option to hand in video essays as opposed to written assignments. 
  • Reduction of lengthy assessment procedures.  
  • Decision to change a submission date to avoid coinciding with Eid.   
  • Revisions of assignment briefs to explicitly encourage pluralities of knowledge and approaches.  

Assessment mapping as a team 

  • Several courses have introduced ‘Make the Grade’ for the first time as a direct consequence of engaging with the assessment mapping process.  
  • Enhanced support for students where required, including collaborations with Academic Support colleagues.
  • Increased/refined moderation processes to include inclusive practice and opportunities for collaboration.  
  • Creation of new checklists, formative assessment points and criteria to give meaning to the assessment process.   

Collaboration amongst course teams  

  • Closer working relationship with technicians, who are often in direct contact with students.  
  • Developing a stronger sense of teamwork. 
  • Enhanced support for course leaders and unit leaders in facilitating assessment processes, such as team marking, feedback, parity and moderation in their teams.  

How do you see the work of the strand developing in future?   

We are keen to reflect and build on the support that we offer to course teams. This will include the creation of further bespoke resources covering specific aspects of equitable practice, allowing course teams to engage asynchronously. 

We are working to develop a wider offer that will be open to all courses across the university to further establish a culture of shared practice. Attention will be given to supporting course teams to navigate assessment guidance and relevant documents provided by the university, particularly new starters.       

As the Academic Enhancement Model develops, we envisage that points of connection between the three strands will be explored further, interrogating assessment through the lenses of belonging and decolonial practice. We are keen for innovative assessment practices to be embedded across the university, enabling students to have a greater sense of agency within the assessment process. We will be supporting and collaborating with the Blueprint initiative, led by Dr Duna Sabri.         

In Summer 2021 we piloted some short videos on inclusive summative assessment for colleagues. We hope to share more widely in 2021/2022, once we have incorporated feedback and added more examples. 

Find out more  


Photographs of UAL staff and guests sitting in a virtual, on-screen auditorium of plush white seats
 Discussing assessment in the Bending the rules session 

Watch a recording of the Bending the Rules with Dr Gurnam Singh: Assessing for Equity online discussion session.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *