Assessment practices in higher education settings have undergone significant change from the times when summative essays and exams were used to test students’ knowledge retention. This is largely due to the changing student body, but more particularly due to changing understandings of teaching and learning, and the ways in which technologies might be employed to better meet the needs of a range of different learning styles. The factors which have converged to create this changing environment specifically

are the need for more generic, critical and collaborative learning skills (Cortez et al. 2009; Torenbeek et al. 2011); the importance of formative assessment which establishes a strong feedback loop and expectations (Baleni 2015; Moeed 2015); the need to develop more flexible, independent learning environments which better prepare students for the contemporary workforce (Leon et al. 2015; Monge & Frisicaro-Pawlowski 2014); the development of new technological possibilities for assessment (Edwards & Bone 2012; Johnson-Glenberg 2010; Singh & Hardaker 2014); a need to respond to increased levels of plagiarism arising from access to online sources (Holbeck et al. 2015; Ison 2014); the endeavours of academic staff to build time-and energy-efficient assessment tasks in the context of much greater class sizes (Carless 2015; James 2014; McCarthy 2015); and, importantly, the more diverse learning styles and needs of contemporary students (Béres 2012; Wilkinson et al. 2014). This complex nexus of factors which have contributed to the changing culture

of higher education assessment practices results in five key issues for assessment planning or redesign:

1 Ensuring that all students are clear about the assessment task’s role and expectations – particularly those who come from other pedagogical cultures

2 Designing efficient and effective assessment for large classes 3 Using the potential of flexible, creative, engaging online assessment 4 Using assessment to develop high-level skills in purposeful and effective

teamwork 5 Enabling diverse students to understand and avoid plagiarism and developing

best practice assessment tasks through which to foster academic honesty

For the purposes of this book, which focuses on face-to-face rather than online pedagogies, this chapter is concentrated on the first and fourth of these points. As discussed in chapter 1, the massification of higher education has led to both

a greater diversity in the cohorts of those attending universities and demands on universities to better attend to their learning needs (Amsler 2014; Archer 2007; Bowser & Danaher 2007; Collier & Morgan 2008; Devlin 2011; Gale & Mills 2013; Haggis 2006; Murphy 2009). Universities have commonly attempted to accommodate students who are less prepared than others through a range of student-facing initiatives. Speaking broadly, some of these have included:

Testing incoming students’ literacy and/or numeracy levels and identifying those in need of study support (Read & Von Randow 2013).