Improving Assessment in Higher Education

Improving Assessment in Higher Education: A Whole Institution Approach

Richard Henry
Stephen Marshall
Prem Ramburuth
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: UNSW Press
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vkq31
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  • Book Info
    Improving Assessment in Higher Education
    Book Description:

    All teaching institutions recognise the need to make continual improvements in the quality of teaching and learning. But how, in the resource-constrained environments of universities, can quality be improved without increasing resources to fund it? The governing body at the University of New South Wales gave its president and vice-chancellor three years to find a way to do just that in the area of student assessment. Improving Assessment in Higher Education offers a wealth of detail on this innovative project which aimed to improve the efficiency of student assessment while maintaining and improving its quality.

    eISBN: 978-1-74224-662-8
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-x)
    Frederick G Hilmer

    Over the last five years, universities, particularly research-intensive universities such as UNSW, have had to cope with a number of challenges. First, funding per student has remained at best flat, while research funding, both for projects and overheads, is declining. Second, competition for top students, both domestically and internationally, is intensifying. Students are more demanding of quality, producing surveys such as the International Student Barometer that highlight good and poor performance. Third, we face vigorous competition in attracting and retaining top staff. As a result, workload pressure on academic staff seems to increase relentlessly. Academic staff need to teach well,...

  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Richard Henry, Stephen Marshall and Prem Ramburuth
  6. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. PART I
    • 1 INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL CONTEXTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION
      (pp. 2-24)
      Prem Ramburuth, Richard Henry and Stephen Marshall

      The institutional level Assessment Project at UNSW was conducted in a period of changing dynamics in the higher education sector. This chapter seeks to capture key aspects of these changes and consider their implications for universities nationally and internationally, as well as the more direct implications for UNSW.

      The higher education sector across the world is undergoing significant changes. Reports nationally and internationally (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009; Gallagher 2010; Universities UK, 2012) reflect these changes and the implications for the delivery of efficient and effective education agendas. While higher education systems put in place to manage these changes may differ...

    • 2 THE INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT FOR CHANGE
      (pp. 25-38)
      Richard Henry, Stephen Marshall and Prem Ramburuth

      The University of New South Wales was incorporated by an Act of the Parliament of New South Wales in Sydney in 1949 to teach and conduct leading research in scientific, technological and professional disciplines. UNSW is the only Australian research intensive university established with this focus, modelled on universities such as MIT in the USA and European technical universities such as the Berlin University of Technology. UNSW is a member of the Group of Eight, which comprises the top eight Australian research-intensive universities. It is also a member of the international university network Universities 21 and the only Australian university...

    • 3 THE UNSW APPROACH TO IMPROVING ASSESSMENT
      (pp. 39-74)
      Stephen Marshall, Richard Henry and Prem Ramburuth

      A number of factors influenced the university’s approach to improving efficiency and effectiveness of assessment as a means of reducing academic workload. These included a range ofassumptionsabout the nature of the changes required; thetheories of changethat underpinned the planning and decision making of key stakeholders involved in determining the university’s approach, including the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) (DVCA), Director of Learning and Teaching (DLT) and Associate Deans of Education (ADEs); and the nature of thecontextsin which these changes were to be effected.

      Central among the assumptions underpinning UNSW’s approach were beliefs that improving efficiency and...

  8. PART II
    • 4 THE FACULTY OF ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES: A WHOLE-OF-FACULTY ASSESSMENT TOOL
      (pp. 76-98)
      Sean Brawley

      In the last six years the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UNSW has sought to implement change in teaching and learning through whole-of-faculty systems approaches that deliver both quality assurance (QA) and quality improvement (QI) (Peterson, 1991; Hargreaves and Shirley 2009). Where possible, the faculty has found online and/or automated processes, thereby delivering administrative time and resource savings and efficiencies and ensuring data can be warehoused and is easily assessable for compliance or audit purposes. Following this overarching methodology, we embarked on a project to design an online assessment tool that would meet the university’s required efficiency gain...

    • 5 THE AUSTRALIAN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: RE-THINKING ASSESSMENT STRATEGIES
      (pp. 99-126)
      Loretta O’Donnell and Prem Ramburuth

      The Australian School of Business (ASB) is one of the largest faculties at UNSW and one of the largest business faculties in Australia, with eight disciplinary schools, approximately 13,000 students, over 260 academics and researchers, and 177 professional and technical staff. Many view it as being equivalent to the size of a small university. The ‘massification’ of higher education has meant large classes, especially at the undergraduate level. For example, in the ASB, first year core courses in Accounting, Economics and Management have cohorts of approximately 1600 to 2000 students, with a sizable workload for academic staff in relation to...

    • 6 THE FACULTY OF THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: IMPROVING APPROACHES TO ASSESSMENT THROUGH CURRICULUM RENEWAL
      (pp. 127-146)
      Nancy Marshall and Lisa Zamberlan

      The Faculty of the Built Environment (BE) at UNSW has a renowned education and research profile that is driven by a focus on the ‘design, construction and management of the 21st century city’. The faculty has a breadth of disciplines unique to the region, providing an ideal framework to support research and education on complex urban themes. The BE’s 71 full-time academic staff and 10 research centre staff deliver 14 degrees within the disciplines of Architecture, Architectural Computing, Interior Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Industrial Design, Planning, Building/Construction, Property and Development, Urban Development and Design, and Sustainable Development. This suite of undergraduate...

    • 8 THE FACULTY OF ENGINEERING: BEYOND PROFESSIONAL ACCREDITATION
      (pp. 166-188)
      David Clements

      The Faculty of Engineering was one of the three founding UNSW faculties; the other two being the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Technology, later renamed the Faculty of Applied Science. In 1997 the Faculty of Applied Science was disestablished. Each of the schools within that faculty made a choice as to whether they would transfer to Science or to Engineering. Chemical Engineering moved across to Engineering but Materials Science and Engineering went to Science, so that one Engineering school still sits anomalously within the Faculty of Science. Food Science and Technology decided on Science initially but has since...

    • 9 THE LAW SCHOOL AND THE ASSESSMENT PROJECT
      (pp. 189-207)
      Alex Steel

      UNSW Law (which is a single school faculty so the terms Law School and Faculty of Law are interchangeable) was founded in the early 1970s with a deliberate rejection of prevailing teaching norms. Rather than lectures and tutorials all courses are taught purely in seminar format, most commonly of two 120-minute seminars each week with 44 students in each class. Most staff teach two such classes a semester. For a considerable time after the Law School’s founding, individual teachers were permitted to structure the content and assessment of their classes in each course as they saw fit – the idea being...

    • 10 THE FACULTY OF MEDICINE: DIVERSITY, VALIDITY AND EFFICIENCY OF ASSESSMENT
      (pp. 208-233)
      Philip Jones, Lois Meyer, Rachel Thompson and Glenda Lawrence

      A broad range of programs and courses are taught in the Faculty of Medicine, thus assessment needs and practices are diverse, ranging from evaluation of science and clinical graduate capabilities to interpersonal and interactional abilities. The faculty had reviewed and enhanced assessment practices over the previous decade in several programs. The Assessment Project provided the impetus to strategically review, evaluate and further enhance assessment practices where gaps were identified. The targeted approach taken by the faculty led to multiple projects where the common outcome was a focus on scholarly activities to promote a greater understanding of assessment principles and practice....

    • 11 THE FACULTY OF SCIENCE: THE CHALLENGE OF DIVERSE DISCIPLINES
      (pp. 234-262)
      Julian M Cox, Louise Lutze-Mann, Jane Paton and Iona Reid

      The Faculty of Science is a moderately sized faculty within UNSW; nationally, it is similar in size to many of its peers. It is a diverse faculty, with nine schools encompassing fundamental sciences such as mathematics, chemistry and physics, through the life sciences (biology, microbiology and biochemistry), human sciences (psychology) and environmental sciences (geology and geography) to professional areas such as optometry, aviation and material sciences and engineering. Thus, it is almost self-evident that the portfolio of approaches to assessment within the faculty is extremely diverse, from quantitative to highly descriptive, from esoteric to professionally relevant and constrained.

      Science is...

    • 12 UNSW CANBERRA: A UNIVERSITY WITHIN A UNIVERSITY
      (pp. 263-280)
      David Blaazer and Richard Henry

      UNSW Canberra is a campus of UNSW and is located at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). UNSW Canberra provides undergraduate tertiary education for the midshipmen and officer cadets of the Australian Defence Force as well as postgraduate programs in Arts, Business, Information Technology, Engineering, Management and Science.

      In 1967 UNSW entered into an agreement with the Australian Defence Force to establish the Faculty of Military Studies at the Royal Military College (RMC), Duntroon, to deliver degree programs in Arts, Science and Engineering and into an association with the Royal Australian Naval College to present approved courses. In 1974 the...

  9. PART III
    • 13 FACULTY RESPONSES TO THE ASSESSMENT PROJECT
      (pp. 282-313)
      Stephen Marshall, Richard Henry and Prem Ramburuth

      The previous nine chapters have dealt faculty by faculty with the varied responses to the challenge posed by the Assessment Project to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of assessment at UNSW. This chapter synthesises the information in those nine chapters to tell the overall story of the faculties’ responses to the Assessment Project.

      When first approached to participate in the Assessment Project, the faculties generally responded positively. Several immediately saw that the aims of the Assessment Project could be aligned with their own current aims and priorities and that the project’s funding would provide further impetus for their existing efforts...

    • 14 INSTITUTIONAL OUTCOMES OF THE ASSESSMENT PROJECT
      (pp. 314-338)
      Richard Henry, Stephen Marshall and Prem Ramburuth

      Chapters 4 to 12 detailed the processes and the outcomes for faculties and schools during UNSW’s three-year Assessment Project. Chapter 13 provided an overview of individual faculty processes and achievements, indicated some of the many challenges faced by faculty and school level project leaders and managers and described some of the strategies that were deployed to address these challenges. This chapter summarises and reflects on the institutional level outcomes of the Assessment Project – both those outcomes that relate directly to the project’s original goal to ‘reduce academic workload by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of assessment practices’ and others of...

    • 15 LESSONS LEARNT ABOUT WHOLE-OF-INSTITUTION EDUCATIONAL CHANGE
      (pp. 339-359)
      Stephen Marshall, Prem Ramburuth and Richard Henry

      Having summarised the Assessment Project outcomes at both faculty and institutional levels, we now turn to an even broader question: What lessons did the university learn about whole-of-institutional change from undertaking the Assessment Project? This chapter details and reflects on the major lessons we can take from this experience, speaking to each of the issues discussed in Chapter 3 ‘The UNSW approach to improving assessment’. We conclude by summarising the lessons the project delivered about the leadership and management of educational change and offering some advice to others who may be considering a whole-of-institution approach to educational change in their...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 360-368)