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Defining Formative Assessment


In November 2015, a paper was tabled to the University's Learning, Teaching and Assessment Committee. The paper proposed (a) the adoption of evidence-based, University-wide Assessment and Feedback Principles and (b) the introduction of a Project Board to oversee the development and delivery of a project plan designed to enable change to the University’s assessment and feedback systems, processes and practices. The paper was endorsed and a Programme-Focused Approach to Assessment and Feedback Project (PFAAF) established.


In March 2016, a paper was presented to the PFAAF Project Board. Prepared by the lead for Work Stream 2: Regulations and Approvals, the paper reported on a scrutiny of the University’s Academic Regulations and Quality Framework in respect of the first four principles: an emphasis on formative assessment that generates high quality feedback; a reduction in summative assessment; well-defined links between formative and summative assessments, so that feedforward from the former to the latter is clear; mapping, sequencing and streamlining assessment varieties within modules and across the programme.


The Project Board agreed that a definition of formative assessment be devised for use across the University and asked the Project Team to draw from the TESTA definition and part of the QAA Code of Practice on formative assessment. The Project Board decided that there would be no change to Academic Regulations, at this point, choosing instead to influence change through guidance and policy. The Board reserved the right to recommend regulatory change in the future.


Therefore the definition of formative assessment provided below is described as working. As such, it will enable the embedding of the agreed Assessment and Feedback principles through academic year 2016/7 and will inform the planned programme of staff development. The expectation is that formative assessment, as defined, will be adopted through all programmes.


Formative Assessment is defined as: explicit and planned activities that feature throughout a programme, usually within a module, and are designed for all students studying it. Formative Assessment is not credit-bearing. Its purpose is to provide high quality feedback to students on their current knowledge and skills so that these can be developed and demonstrated in subsequent summative assessments.

Definition endorsed by Learning, Teaching and Assessment Committee, 18 May 2016


Defining formative assessment with underpinning pedagogy >>