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Students pass judgement on assessment: the National Student Survey

The National Student Survey (NSS) asks final year students to comment on all aspects of their courses. As well as helping to inform future students on their choice of course or institution, the survey is used as the basis of numerous league tables and receives widespread publicity. Although the survey is funded primarily by HEFCE, an increasing number of Scottish universities are taking part (9 in 2007), including Strathclyde. More information about results and how they are collected can be found here.

In 2007 81% of students taking part in the survey agreed that they were satisfied with their course, but in the area of assessment and feedback satisfaction figures were much lower across the UK and particularly in Scotland:

Assessment and feedback UK Scotland
The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance. 69% 69%
Assessment arrangements and marking have been fair. 72% 74%
Feedback on my work has been prompt. 54% 48%
I have received detailed comments on my work. 59% 49%
Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand. 54% 48%

A weakness of the survey is the implied assumption that assessment is solely the responsibility of the teacher and that students are passive recipients of assessment activities and feedback. Educational research shows that feedback provided by teachers is often ignored, poorly-utilised and consequently under-valued by students in higher education.

Many tutors also assume that providing high quality feedback to students, particularly in large classes, can be immensely challenging and any attempt to improve students’ experience of assessment will inevitably lead to increased workload. However, creating an environment rich with useful, high-quality feedback that supports effective student learning is possible without a negative impact on staff time.

In practice: simple ways of improving assessment

Before the task

During the task

After the task



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