The Single Most Consequential Thing We Do in Universities: A Case Study in Teaching Assessment to New Academics

The Single Most Consequential Thing We Do in Universities: A Case Study in Teaching Assessment to New Academics

Grant Campbell (University of Manchester, UK)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3661-3.ch019
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Assessing students (including giving feedback and making decisions based on assessments) is arguably the single most important thing done in universities in terms of tangible impacts on people’s lives, but assessment is hard to do. Academics are seldom trained in assessment, and for many it is the most worrying aspect of the job. The University of Manchester operates a New Academics Programme for its probationary lecturers, running over three years and encompassing research, teaching, and administrative aspects of academic careers, culminating in a reflective portfolio. This case study describes the introduction of an assessment component into this programme, including its motivation, content, implementation, and evolution, and its reception by the new academics. The assessment component of the New Academics Programme is now delivered in two sessions at different times of the year. The first covers the importance of assessment and gives guidance for designing good assessments and giving feedback. The second session goes more deeply into constructive alignment and learning outcomes, leading on to decision making in exam boards, and ending with a focus on cultivating academic judgement.
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Background, Motivation, And Evolution

The University of Manchester was created in 2004 through a merger of the former Victoria University of Manchester and the former University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). The University of Manchester is the largest single-site university in the UK, with nearly 40,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students and over 2400 academic staff, and is a member of the elite Russell Group of research-intensive universities. It is structured into four Faculties: Engineering and Physical Sciences, Humanities, Medical and Human Sciences, and Life Sciences.

I am a Reader in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, having joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at UMIST in 1995. In the UK the academic structure is traditionally Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor, with promotion to Reader generally on the basis of research activity. However I am also heavily involved in undergraduate and MSc teaching, and was the Undergraduate Examinations Secretary for the Department and later the School from 2001-2007; this tenure spanned the transitional period during the creation of the new university, with the accompanying reconciliation of examination practices and regulations between the two former institutions. I have undertaken a wide scope of undergraduate and MSc teaching, covering lectured courses, laboratory projects, design projects, research projects and the innovative Book Module (see Campbell et al., 2010), and I have received several awards for teaching excellence. I am currently external examiner for an undergraduate programme at another Russell Group university.

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