Innovative Assessment Case Studies

One aspect of the Assimilate project is to drill down to look at individual assessment types. This page contains a selection of case studies that give details of innovative and non-traditional assessment at taught Masters level, specifically assessments that include elements other than essays, dissertations and traditional examinations. 

The case studies cover a wide range of Masters subjects, and although each case study is individual, we looked at what issues were encountered in changing to innovative and non-traditional assessment, of validation, what it took to innovate, and perhaps why it is comparatively rare. 

We also consider feedback, support of students, who may not have encountered the assessment format before, and what are the differences between undergraduate assessment and Masters level assessment.

      The case studies below are in a pdf format.

A case study from a post 92 university which is running a course professionally accredited by the CIPD. A variety of assessment formats are used, including unseen exams.

Lone Krogh at Aalborg University provides an interesting insight into the types of assessment used in this Denmark university, which is renowned for its Problem Based Learning approach. 

Annie Banbury at Bedfordshire University teaches on an MSc in Marketing Communication with a strong focus on employability and a number of international students. Assignments include group tasks, but each student must also produce an individual development portfolio including industry standard diagnostic tests as used in the advertising industry, promotional podcasts and personal reflections: peer assessment is widely used.

Andrew Johnstone at Cranfield University teaches on a number of Manufacturing Masters programmes. Part of the assessment diet includes a group assignment where students work in groups of 4-8, working with live clients on authentic tasks. Outputs include project reports, posters, presentations, and other features e.g.  Lego models of new factory layouts, and employer clients are involved in the assessment. Support on working effectively in groups and individual coaching sessions are included to foster interpersonal skills.

Gill Marshall at the University of Cumbria taught on a Masters in Medical Imaging where she replaced conventional exams with authentic assignments that mirror the skills they are likely to need in their careers and which demonstrate their mastery of a range of techniques. Outputs include poster displays, risk assessments, information leaflets, costed research protocols and an evaluation of a communication incident.
Sarah Chesney teaches on Masters level programmes at the University of Cumbria in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. A digitally-enhanced patchwork  text approach is used using Pebblepad to enable groups of four or five students to collectively throughout the module work on and peer review ‘patches’, which together with an individual reflection comprise the major assignment for the module, within an ePortfolio replacing  cumbersome paper portfolios.

Marion Palmer is Head of Department of Learning Sciences at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, where the Masters in Cyber Psychology uses a wiki-based assignment.
Donna McAuliffe teaches on a variety of social sciences Masters programmes at Griffith University in Queensland Australia. One module on her Masters programme comprises an intensive week where students come together to work on interpersonal skills using videoed role plays of Counsellors and clients, under the supervision of trained tutors. They are also required to submit 500 word commentaries and personal reflections on the task.

Madelyn Patterson at Griffith University Queensland teaches on a Masters programme in Genetic Counselling. The course uses a range of authentic assessments including coursework, multiple choice tests and practical assignments.  Students are assesses individually on their ability to unravel complex genetic problems building genetics family histories and working on authentic case studies. Role plays, skills tests, short written responses to ethics issues and reflective journals are also used. 

Helene Marsh at James Cook University, Queensland, Australia provides a useful  introduction to how Masters level assessment is supported in Australian Universities. Research Masters and Course work Masters are funded, taught and assessed very differently.

Jeff Sayer at James Cook University, Queensland, Australia runs a Masters in Development Practice, principally for international students, preparing them to work in sustainable development contexts. Assignments are highly authentic and designed to be useful to the communities with whom they are working, for example, the presentation to the communities concerned of systems models, risk assessments and development plans, based on their own on-site research . 
See also Assessment Criteria, Brochure and Subject Outlines (1) and (2). 

Lindsay Simpson at James Cook University, Queensland, Australia details the case where students studying on a Masters programme in Writing are given intensive support and feedback, particularly through contributions to a class discussion group and where drafts of writing assignments are shared in some of the subjects receiving peer as well as tutor comment.
Wendy Earles at James Cook University, Queensland, Australia runs programmes on Social Work and Community Welfare for practitioners wishing to upgrade their skills. Assessment is by a negotiated individual task related to their won contexts and professional development needs and can include journal articles, research syntheses and practice guides.

see also Subject Agreement and Subject Agreement Proforma 

Pat Black at Keele University has produced a self reported case study where she describes a number of innovations in her Masters programmes in Pharmacy, where three items, including a reflective portfolio, replace a traditional dissertation. Feedback is provided through PebblePad for the items that are submitted in this way.

Debbie Anderson at Kingston University discusses  a module on Integrated Marketing Communication  within an MA in Marketing at Kingston University, students undertake authentic tasks to enhance their employability.
Cheryl Whiting is Course Director of a masters in Clinical Practice at Kingston University for working health practitioners, so their assignments are designed to relate to their working contexts. Assignments include critically reviewing two papers one from a qualitative and another from a quantitative perspective, and linking the contents to their own practice. They also undertake applied research projects and produce a reflective portfolio.

Jo Drugan at Leeds University works on a Computer Assisted Translation module on a taught Masters degree and assignments are geared towards enabling students to demonstrate authentic skills. Students work in teams on real-life scenarios and engage inn peer assessment, which is important in developing interpersonal skills.

Chris Garbett at Leeds Metropolitan University leads an MSc in Building Surveying and runs modules on Property Asset management, including distance learning options. Assignments include scenarios which involve students in learning teams working on in simulations where they are property managers for accountants in various cities. They can gain pre-submission feedback via wikis on their outputs and personal reflection is also assessed.

Rachel Forsyth at Manchester Metropolitan University describes assessment on a Masters in Academic Practice, studied part-time by around 20 academic staff with a variety of prior experiences. The four elements comprise a presentation in debate format , an annotated reading list , a poster presentation involving peer assessment and a Project proposal plus reflective commentary. Participants may negotiate an alternative presentation format for the annotated reading list and the project proposal, including the use of video or audio). 

Sheila French at Manchester Metropolitan University leads a module on Designing Online Learning, part of a Post-Graduate Qualification in Librarianship and Information Management. Assessment for the module is in two parts: a group reflective learning log and an individual assignment producing technology-based teaching materials. Students are supported through formative feedback on how to undertake reflection.
See related assignment documents assignment 1 and assignment 2

Sue Palmer at Manchester University describes a Masters programme enabling students to get Graduate Basis for Recognition (GBR) in Educational Psychology alongside a Masters Degree that ran from 2001 for a number of years. 

marg gilling at Massey University in New Zealand runs a really innovative masters level programme on Tertiary Teaching using flexible negotiated assignments, with students free to submit material in a wide variety of forms to demonstrate the achievement of learning outcomes. Below you can see the work of one of her students Adie Haultain, and her thoughts about the programme.

Adie Haultain at Massey University described a paper on Cultural Diversity undertaken as part of a Masters programme at Massey University, with three components of assessment. At the outset, students are provided with around 15 learning outcomes for the programme and then required to negotiate assignments which together demonstrated achievement of all outcomes.

Adie presented a painting as part of her assessment. See Adie's assignment.
Colin Damm at Northumbria University leads an MSc in Computing and Information Technology by Distance Learning where a portfolio of multiple tasks are used to ensure that graduates are competent and well informed. Tasks may include undertaking a live consultancy project where students are assessed on their ability to learn from their experiences through reflection

Mark Foss at The University of Nottingham leads an MSc in Advanced Clinical practice in which assessment of skills is highly important for students who are  (or aiming to be) advanced practitioners working in roles traditionally undertaken by doctors. There is a strong focus on authentic assessment, with students required to demonstrate practically theoretical material they have leaned within the course through objective structured clinical examinations and observed practice, as well as more conventional means.

Judith Stephens from Queen's University Belfast discusses the MSc Leadership for Sustainable Development programme at QUB, which has a strong focus on learning on the job and applying knowledge derived from the course to the real world.
Phil Burge at Robert Gordon University outlines the assessment approach used on a full-time MBA course which he leads. A wide variety of assessment methods are used including portfolios and projects and a consultancy report using a client company replaces a tradional dissertation.

Charles Juwah of the Robert Gordon University provides an institutional overview of assessment at masters programmes at the university, focussing particularly on the importance of authentic and employment related assignments. 
Anthony Rosie at Sheffield Hallam University leads an M Res module on the Philosophy of Research using task based on disaster recovery on high profile international events, where the focus is on  research design and analysis. Outputs include reports and refection, and formative feedback is given to students incrementally.

 Link to page At the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia in August 2010, the project Director Sally Brown held an open discussion on Masters level assessment at which generic issues around level and differentiation were discussed. Participating in the conversation with Sally were Dr Elizabeth Eddy, Dr Lesley Brooker, Associate Professor Margaret Barnes, Associate Professor Shireen Fahey, Dr Jane Craig and Ms Kylie Readman.

Ken Simpson at UNITEC Institute of Technology in New Zealand  teaches on a Masters of Business that uses an incremental assessment approach. Some students have the opportunity to work on live assignments with local companies in which they immerse themselves in a consultancy experience, producing overview reports of real use to the companies concerned.

Hetty Grunfeld at Utrecht University discusses Masters Level Study in the Netherlands.
Úna Kealy at Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland outlines innovations on an MA in Arts and Heritage Management, where students were actively involved in assessed discussions, which involved an element of peer assessment using Moodle. This resulted in very high levels of commitment and engagement.
pdf file
Loykie Lominé at University of Winchester uses individual authentic assignments to give students an opportunity to produce assessed work which is relevant to their environment and directly useable by them.
Colin Price at Worcester University ran an MSc module in the History of Computing where the assessment comprised the production of four position papers throughout the module replacing final summative assessment.

Philip Warwick at York University runs Masters programmes in Management for UK and international students which use a variety of assignments with plenty of formative assessment opportunities, which help students gauge the level of work required. Assessed presentations (including group ones), open book exams and reflective writing  tasks from part of a diverse range of assignment  types on these masters programmes, which also include traditional essays,  exams and  dissertations.