The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

7. Summary

Assessment is complex and plays a crucial role in determining how much students learn. Given its importance, it is worrying that surveys report such low levels of satisfaction with this aspect of higher education. One potential explanation for this finding is a tendency for tutors to concentrate on the content and delivery of a module.

This handbook chapter discusses some implications of assessment design within in a module for the quantity, consistency and quality of learning activities undertaken by students. It considers alternative styles of assessment question and outlines some innovative types of assessment i.e. the use of class debates and videos. It also examines some ways of increasing the likelihood of students engaging with and acting upon feedback. The final section of the handbook discusses some measurement issues, and includes some advice on how to improve both the validity and reliability of assessments.

Given the multidimensional nature of assessment, it is impossible for one handbook chapter to discuss all the key issues in detail. In other handbook chapters, Cortinhas (2017) outlines some different ways of deterring plagiarism, Smith (2016) discusses undergraduate dissertations and Watkins (2005) examines the use of group work.

In the wider literature, Cook (2016) examines some innovative ways of assessing students on statistics and econometrics modules. Grogan (2017) and Green, Bean and Peterson (2013) discuss some different ways of using written coursework in economics modules.

Another issue not considered in this chapter is how to develop a shared understanding between tutors and students of what ‘good’ work looks like before the final submission. Guest and Riegler (2017) examine some evidence on the relative inaccuracy of economics students’ self-evaluation estimates. Their findings suggest that for many students, a shared understanding of standards remains elusive. Wilson (2015) outlines some ways of better preparing students for assessment in economics, while Guest (2019) discusses the use of peer review.

Assessment and feedback remains one of the most difficult aspects of teaching. Perhaps we all need to spend a little more time reflecting on our current practice and consider some of the available alternatives.