Assessment and feedback essentials 3: Fair assessment

1. Types of

2. Marking

3. Fair

4. Giving

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This page provides essential guidance on how to make sure your assessments are fair. It outlines relevant policies and procedures, and also gives guidance on inclusive assessment.

Policies and procedures

There are a number of policies and procedures in place within the University to ensure that the marking process is fair and reliable. These include:

Policy/Procedure How it works
Standardisation Used particularly in team approaches to marking, and/or when staff members are new to marking in a particular context. Example scripts/submissions are used from previous years/cohorts, and staff members compare their marks with these.
Moderation Moderation is the process used to ensure that assessment outcomes are accurate and fair, that assessment criteria have been applied consistently, and that there is a shared understanding of the academic standards that students are expected to meet. It ensures that the quality and integrity of the University’s certification of student achievement is clear and robust for staff and students within the institutions, as well as other stakeholders and external organisations such as employers and accrediting bodies. The University has a policy about moderation and sampling. Moderation methods can include double marking and sampling (below). Departments should have a documented approach to moderation that is provided to all staff involved in the assessment process and included in the information provided to students.
Double marking A piece of work is assessed by two members of staff, either openly or blindly, and the two members of staff agree a mark.
Sampling All work is assessed by at least one member of staff, but some scripts (at least 10% or a minimum of 10) are ‘sampled’ by a second marker to ensure standardisation. If there are significant inconsistencies in marking within the sample, then the whole set must be re-marked. The University has a policy about moderation and sampling.
Scaling Scaling is the adjustment of a set of marks for a module/assessment in order to ensure that they properly reflect the achievements of students. The primary purpose of scaling is to rectify anomalies in mark distributions that arise from unanticipated circumstances and should be used in exceptional circumstances only. The University has a policy about scaling.
Exam boards Meetings that happen after exams are completed each year. Final marks are agreed upon. The team reflect on marking processes and assessment methods.
External examiners Their role is to impartially oversee assessment within a programme. They will look to see if assessment methods are fair and appropriate.


Image for case study: Students in The School of Dentistry

Case study: A consistent approach to assessment

The School of Dentistry have produced an Examination Manual for staff use. The manual provides a point of reference for each course lead so that a consistent approach can be applied between courses and years.

Aspects include blueprinting, standard setting for different types of assessment and what post-assessment analyses should be undertaken. This helps to ensure that assessment is undertaken fairly and consistently, allowing best practice to be shared between courses in a predictable manner. For more information, visit this case study page.


What you can do

  • Each department is likely to have established procedures in place. You should seek to understand these procedures and replicate them within the units of study that you are responsible for.
  • If you are marking on a module for the first time, ask to see examples of previous marked assignments to see how the marking criteria are used in practice.


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Inclusive and equitable assessment

Fair assessment means a lot more than whether the marking process is fair. You should make sure that your assessments are inclusive, accessible and equitable.

It is important to note that inclusive assessment does not compromise academic standards.

Ways to make assessment inclusive

  • Engage students - ask them what would make assessment more accessible and inclusive for them
  • Provide clear information on assessment in a unit of study from the outset, including assessment methods, deadlines/dates of assessment, choices available, marking criteria and weightings, and exemplars if possible
  • Students should understand from the outset what is expected of them.
  • Include more opportunities for formative assessment
  • Offer choice in assessment
  • Use a variety of assessment methods
  • Support students to develop their assessment literacy

Inclusively designed assessments should reduce the need for modified assessment provision (e.g. extra time in exams, extensions). However, there will still be times when it is important to provide these.


What you can do

  • Familiarise yourself with the assessment procedures that are used in your department, well in advance of a marking period
  • Review your assessments - could you make them more inclusive, perhaps by including some choice in assessment?
  • Make sure that you are providing clear information to students from the outset of the module on the assessment and feedback methods, marking criteria, and timings.


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Visit the ‘In the Know’ resources produced by the SpLD Specialist Tutorial Service which will introduce you to specific ways to make assessment more inclusive for students with specific learning difficulties.

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