The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

2.5 Judging assessment criteria

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One of the major principles of good assessment practice is that the criteria are clearly communicated to the students. This allows the educator to fashion better the learning process and induce desirable learning outcomes. From the point of view of the student, explicit communication of criteria is desirable as it allows them to focus on what they should be doing.

Typically, economics students are provided with a rather stylised description of the characteristics and qualities that constitute the respective grade levels (often at the beginning of their studies in the student handbook). A first-class mark is awarded for outstanding performance containing original thought; a 2.2 grade is characterised by sound understanding and presentation of key concepts but with a number of lapses in argument, and so on. The criteria are rather broad and abstract in nature, and reflect, in part, a preference for developing intellectual and analytical skills.

In this section, the ways in which alternative assessment criteria may be used to promote the development of transferable skills in ‘traditional’ student activities are discussed. An example is provided of how a piece of written coursework may be used to develop core IT skills. Students are required to submit an essay related to a broad issue or question in economics and are told beforehand that 50 per cent of the mark will be allocated on the basis of the use of IT skills.

Top Tips 8 Setting assessment criteria

  • Be absolutely explicit about assessment criteria
  • Use assessment criteria to direct student learning into specific tasks. For example, it may be stated at the outset that:
    • 40% of the mark will go on written presentation;
    • 20% of the mark will be allocated to tutorial contribution;
    • in allocating marks, consideration will be given to the quality of the literature review and range and quality of referencing;
    • to obtain a pass grade you must demonstrate use of econometric software.

The following example is adapted from Brown et al. (1994, p. 17).

Students are required to add an appendix to their submission explaining the uses made of IT. Where it is not obvious (for example, search engines or statistical packages), students must provide comprehensive evidence of their use.

The following sheet (Table 4) can be completed to form a basis for allocating marks in respect of IT use. The assessor ticks the boxes as appropriate.

Table 4 Indicator of IT use

  None, limited or extensive Simple or sophisticated Appropriate or inappropriate
Word processing      
Layout and formatting      
Use of other software, e.g. Equation Editor      
Use of statistical and econometric packages      
Use of software for searching literature