Exploring Innovations and Inclusion in Assessment Practices

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The Assessment in Higher Education conference leads the development of assessment for learning in higher education and ran for two days last week in Manchester UK. With around 300 delegates from across the globe this is one of the biggest dedicated international conferences for assessment and feedback.

I presented our project on designing quality online assessment in business, on behalf of the project team. We have written about our project here previously and have a recent publication in Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education (Huber et al., 2023).

The conference began with a selection of masterclasses and was really well designed and run. There were the usual options of research presentations, round table discussions, posters and a concept they called ‘mini keynotes’. These were a series of six 7-minute lightning talks each followed by 3 mins Q&A to the plenary. All of the big names in assessment and feedback were there, Boud, Winstone, Carless, Dawson and Sambell, plus two great keynote speakers.


The first, Prof. Sally Everett, Vice Dean (Education) at King’s Business School, King’s College London, spoke to the plenary about navigating the choppy waters of institutional change with her talk titled Radical assessment change, the quiet way: rocking the boat without falling out of it. She encouraged us to be change agents, disruptors, assessment innovators, fire starters and tempered radicals!

To wrap up the conference, Dr. Paul Kleiman (Visiting Professor, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance) offered a provocation titled ‘I am not a number!’: reassessing assessment, in which he synthesised the different discourses and practices around creativity and assessment in order to find ways to change our practices for the better. He finished (of course) with a nod to the chaos and creativity possible with the growing number of generative AI tools and left the audience with plenty of, as yet, unanswered questions to ponder.


Indeed ChatGPT (or ‘ChattieG’, coined by Prof. Mewburn, The Thesis Whisperer) found its way into every part of the nine parallel sessions each day but the other main topics of discussion can be summarised as follows:

Innovative Approaches to Assessment

Many presentations explore novel and creative assessment methods, focusing on how innovative approaches can enhance student engagement, promote critical thinking, and foster deeper learning outcomes. These presentations delved into areas such as project-based assessments, gamification, simulations, and authentic assessments. However, all of those I attended had much in common in terms of the challenges involved in encouraging academic colleagues to take up more innovative and authentic assessment methods (see for example A/Prof Lloyd’s presentation ‘It’s a lovely idea … but’) The Keynote Prof. Everett gave our own online assessment project a shout out when discussing this very fact (Cram et al., 2022).

Assessment for Learning and Feedback

A significant emphasis was placed on assessment as a tool for learning and providing feedback to students. These presentations explored strategies for formative assessment, self-assessment, peer assessment, and the effective use of feedback to support student development and improvement. Dr Ford-Leaves attempted to disentangle assessment and feedback and align them through conceptualising feedback of, for and as learning. There was also much discussion at the conference on assessment literacy for both students and educators.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Assessment

Recognising the importance of fairness and inclusivity in assessment practices, several presentations addressed ways in which we can mitigate bias, ensure cultural responsiveness, and create inclusive assessments that cater to diverse student populations (Ajjawi et al., 2023). These sessions explored topics like accessibility, universal design principles, and addressing unconscious bias in assessment.

Assessment Analytics and Data-Driven Decision Making

With the increasing availability of assessment data, there were a number of presentations focussing on leveraging analytics and data-driven insights to inform decision making at various levels. These discussions delved into topics such as learning analytics, assessment data visualisation, data interpretation, and using assessment data to drive educational improvements.

Assessment Policy and Quality Assurance

This theme explored the broader context of assessment, including policy frameworks, accreditation processes, and quality assurance in higher education. There was much discussion around the need for programmatic assessment in areas other than medicine (where this is prominent) and this presentation by Agricola et al., analysed design choices across 25 programmes to find three main clusters. Others such as Birtill et al., discussed the many challenges of programmatic assessment.

Final Reflections

A key take away for me was the growing need to support and encourage our educator colleagues to move away from traditional forms of assessment such as exams and written pieces and towards more authentic and innovative forms. To work with accrediting bodies or other resistors to come to a shared understanding of needs and possibilities. Our assessment framework provides the steps to help people do this, shares examples of practice and can be used as a conversation starter in disciplines, schools and across institutions. See http//:bizonlineassessment.com

Overall the conference was an opportunity to learn, connect and delve into the richness of research and practice of assessment and feedback and well worth a visit to Manchester next year.

About the author

Associate Professor Elaine Huber has been designing curriculum and teaching adults for over 20 years and is currently the Academic Director of the Business Co-Design team at the University of Sydney.

Published by Elaine Huber

Associate Professor Elaine Huber has been designing curriculum and teaching adults for over 20 years and is currently the Academic Director of the Business Co-Design team at the University of Sydney.

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