The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

2.4 Concluding remarks and some advice

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The above discussion has highlighted the objectives, alternative forms and effectiveness of assessment. From consideration of this, and the case studies presented, a number of issues worthy of consideration for use in improving assessment provision are apparent. The most prominent of these concern ‘student-control’, the frequency of assessment and its relevance. These are discussed in turn below.

Introduction of an element of student control in assessment

The purpose of assessment is to increase knowledge, achieve learning objectives, and generally improve the student experience. However, whatever way this is expressed, the student is obviously at the centre of this and to offer the student some control over their learning outcomes and experiences is clearly to be welcomed. Using ‘the best of’ option in assessment, for example, is one means of allowing students to exercise some control over their assessment by omitting a lower scoring module.

Frequency of assessment and increased engagement

Assessment can clearly be employed as a method of drawing students into a module by assessing understanding and considering independent work to prompt consideration of what is covered and why. To increase engagement, frequent assessment has a clear role to play as evidenced in a more simplistic manner by the level 1 mini-tutorial exercises considered in one case study, and at a higher level 3 with the repeated points of assessment contained in the final-year dissertation case study. By increasing the frequency of assessment students can more fully appreciate the relevance of the material considered and become more involved in their studies.

Making it relevant

This operates at two levels. First there is the ‘content level’. If assessment has a role in ensuring learning objectives are achieved, assessment must therefore have clear relevance. In short, assessment should be able to readily fill the blanks in the following: ‘This assessment considers the use/properties/application of ______, as it is important to understand this because ______.’ Assessment that is dry, overly theoretical or archaic will clearly have a negative impact upon student engagement and performance. Attempts to reinforce relevance of assessment by highlighting real world application or policy relevance clearly provides a means of demonstrating the worth of the material considered thereby motivating students. This is reflected in the case studies above with Applied Econometrics, for example, linking consideration of econometric tools and techniques to analysis and understanding of, inter alia, the housing markets, international inflation dynamics and labour market outcomes.

At another level, relevance of assessment can be considered in terms of the manner in which is undertaken. Again, the case studies above can be considered. If modules are topical, their assessment must be also. For quantitative disciplines, this is most apparent as advances in technology and data availability should be reflected. In short, discussion of methods is not appropriate as a sole means of assessment, when everything required to employ the methods is at hand.