Welcome to the "Assessment and Feedback" section of our webpage on decolonising the curriculum at the University of Aberdeen. Here, we aim to provide an overview of our approach to assessment and feedback, which is grounded in our commitment to inclusivity, equity, and diversity.
We recognise that assessment and feedback are not neutral processes and can be shaped by cultural, social, and historical factors. As such, we have adopted an approach that is sensitive to these factors and aims to provide a fair and equitable assessment for all students, regardless of their background or experiences.
We are committed to decolonising our assessment methods to ensure that they are inclusive and reflective of the diverse perspectives and experiences of all students. We recognise that some methods of assessment, such as written exams, may disadvantage students who may have different ways of learning or expressing themselves. Therefore, we aim to incorporate a range of assessment methods across our programmes, including oral presentations, group projects, reflective journals, and practical exercises to ensure that all students have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a variety of ways.
Our feedback process is also grounded in our commitment to inclusivity and diversity. We are committed to providing constructive feedback that is tailored to the individual student and their unique learning needs, taking into account their cultural, social, and historical context. We recognise the value of feedback as a tool for learning and improvement and commit to providing timely and actionable feedback that supports student progress.
We believe that assessment and feedback are essential components of the learning process and are committed to providing a fair and inclusive assessment process that enables all students to achieve their full potential.
The awarding gap in education refers to the disparities in academic achievement and attainment among different student groups, often in relation to race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background. By integrating decolonisation principles into educational practices, we can work towards dismantling systemic biases and stereotypes, fostering a more inclusive and diverse learning environment. Addressing the awarding gap through decolonisation involves recognizing the value of diverse knowledge systems, promoting representation of marginalized voices, and providing equitable opportunities for all students. Through this transformative process, education can become a powerful tool for empowering individuals and building a more just and equitable society.
Some suggestions of how you can begin to decolonise your assessment
- Consider asking students what they expect from assessment
Consider asking students what they expect from assessment at university / within individual courses in terms of mode and frequency of assessment, demonstrable skills required for assessment, and share the approach you have designed. Address any gaps between the student expectations and your assessment design.
- Use Bloom's taxonomy when designing your intended learning outcomes
Using Bloom's taxonomy when designing your intended learning outcomes and the subsequent assessment questions helps to identify the expected level that the assessment is designed for. Remember to provide time and training to help students understand the differences in the levels. For example:
- Recall: Ask students to list the main events from a historical period covered in the course.
- Explain: Have students explain the steps of a scientific process or the characteristics of a literary genre.
- Classify: Present students with various species of plants or animals and have them identify the key features that differentiate each one.
- Discuss: Encourage students to engage in a debate or conversation about a complex social issue, analysing different perspectives.
- Design: Task students with creating a comprehensive business plan, incorporating various elements from their entrepreneurship studies.
Providing guidance and practice with the different levels will help students develop their cognitive abilities and improve their academic performance, especially for those who may not have had this type of educational experience previously.
- Make assessments more authentic
When attempting to make assessments more authentic, providing a context description of a real-world scenario is indeed a common practice. However, there is a risk of unintentionally designing assessments based on a Eurocentric or Western perspective, overlooking the diverse experiences and contexts of students from different backgrounds. To address this concern, educators can take proactive steps to create more inclusive and personalized assessments:
- Diverse Scenarios: Instead of solely relying on Eurocentric or Western scenarios, educators can purposefully incorporate diverse contexts that reflect the experiences of students from different cultural backgrounds. This allows students to connect with the assessment and find relevance in their own lives.
- Student-centred Approach: Allowing students to personalise the assessment context can foster greater engagement and meaning in the task. Providing options for students to choose or adapt scenarios that resonate with their experiences can make the assessment more meaningful to them.
- Consultation and Feedback: Engaging in open conversations with students and colleagues from diverse backgrounds can provide valuable insights into culturally relevant assessment contexts. Seeking feedback and involving stakeholders in the assessment design process can lead to more inclusive and sensitive assessments.
- Authentic Resources: Utilising authentic resources, such as literature, artworks, or case studies from various cultures, can help diversify the assessment context and enrich students' learning experiences.
- Reflective Assessment Design: Regularly reflecting on assessment practices and making conscious efforts to address biases and cultural limitations is essential for continuous improvement and inclusivity.
By embracing a more inclusive and student-centred approach to assessment design, we can create assessments that are not only authentic but also meaningful and relevant to the diverse experiences and backgrounds of our students. This fosters a more equitable and inclusive learning environment, promoting deeper engagement and learning outcomes for all learners.