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UCD TEACHING AND LEARNING / Projects
Module Enhancement
Exploring Assessment in First Year
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Project: Exploring Assessment in First Year
Project Team: Suzanne Guerin, Jonathan McNulty, Michael Staunton, Bairbre Redmond & Elizabeth Noonan
Collaborator(s):

Funding:

Strategic Innovation Fund II

Timeline:

July 2011 – July 2013
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background:

This multi-disciplinary group project aims to explore the practice of assessment in first year teaching. It builds on the UCD Teaching and Learning project First Year Assessment which sought to review and reform assessment strategies for first year with the intention of aiding transition from second- to third-level studies. A key outcome of that project was the identification of six module design principles and three strategic design principles. The current project is concerned with reviewing existing assessment practices in first year modules across the university against these principles, and investigating steps towards further alignment of principle and practice.

Improving the first-year experience is an important part of the mission of higher education in the National Education Strategy to 2030.

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goals:

Assess the factors which currently contribute to choice of assessment in first year modules; identify supports and obstacles; assess the extent to which assessment practices are currently aligned with the five assessment principles, and ways in which this alignment might be strengthened.

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Methods:

This study uses a complex mixed-method research design to achieve its aims. The first phase involves a content analysis of over 600 first year module descriptors in order to examine the assessment used. Phase two uses an anonymous self-report survey of staff involved in first year modules to examine the factors that influence assessment, particularly the supports for and barriers to effective assessment practice. A series of qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with key informants (n = 7) in order to inform the design of the survey. The final phase involves case studies of sample modules to examine in greater depth the factors influencing the practice of assessment in first year.

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Results:

Preliminary analysis of the module descriptors highlighted a variety of assessment practices, however traditional essay- and exam-based assessments were common and formative assessment rarely explicitly mentioned. An initial thematic analysis of the key informant interviews identified both pedagogical and practical issues.

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Next Steps:

September- November 2012 - Conduct a detailed survey of first year module coordinators on the practice of assessment and analyse results;
September-December 2012 – Dissemination of findings to date at one national and one international conference;
January-March 2013 – explore case studies of sample modules to examine in greater depth the factors influencing the practice of assessment in first year;
March-July 2013 – Publish final report, disseminate overall project findings, feedback to key stakeholders across UCD.