A/Professor Julie Duck & Professor Susan Hamilton, 2008 ALTC Priority Project

The project, Assessment policy and impact on practice: Sharpening the policy review process in Australian universities was a two-year project funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). The project team comprised members of the University of Queensland Assessment Subcommittee. The project’s main aims were to develop (i) improved policies relating to assessment; (ii) improved assessment practices resulting from these policies; and (iii) a set of practical guidelines for reviewing and analysing assessment policies in Australian universities. The approach used in the project was to undertake, as a case study, a comprehensive review of the current assessment policy framework at UQ, including associated procedures, rules and assessment practices. The review considered how the policy framework had evolved over time, and took as its timeframe the period since 1996, when a major change to assessment policy was introduced at UQ, including the introduction of criterion-referenced assessment.

Each stage of the project involved a reflection on elements of both the policy and on the review process itself. The case study incorporated the use of both well-established and novel methods of evaluation and data collection: archival data analysis, pilot studies of some proposed changes to existing policy, analysis by stakeholders of narratives collected from students and staff about assessment experiences, analysis of environmental factors, identification of intended and unintended consequences of policy changes, and identification of and engagement with key academic staff across the university to assist with the development of new policy.

The project culminated in a national symposium, Assessment Policy: A Time to Re-assess?, that was hosted at the University of Queensland in November 2010. The symposium was preceded by a public lecture from Professor David Boud from the University of Technology Sydney on assessment futures. The symposium, attended by senior policy makers at 31 institutions, including representatives from the US and UK, provided an opportunity for sharing insights gained from the UQ experience and for discussing the way forward.

The principal recommendations from the project are that

  • Universities must have an overarching policy position on assessment that articulates a clear aspirational vision for the role of assessment in higher education
  • The aspirational vision must locate assessment as the linchpin of the curriculum, rather than an add-on, and emphasise assessment for learning and for building capacity beyond the university experience
  • Policy statements on assessment should be developed from the ground up and reflect active inclusion of students as well as the voices and experiences of all those responsible for teaching (including sessional staff and casual tutors)
  • Universities should be encouraged to collaborate around the development of assessment policy and the review and renewal of those policies. This would be facilitated by the establishment of additional opportunities for the establishment of a community of practice around assessment policy.

The outcomes of the project are: 

  • A simple guide for universities seeking to review their assessment policy framework
  • A new draft assessment policy framework for the University of Queensland

Project Downloads: Outcomes and Artefacts

  1. Final Project Report: awaiting publication
  2. A Practical Guide for Assessment Policy Development and Review in Universities: Structure of a teaching and learning policy: awaiting publication

Symposium downloads


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