Each year the Students' Union hosts the Student Experience Seminar. This is an event where the Union gets to present to a group of the University's Senior Managers on an issue of concern to QM students. The issue is agreed by the members of the Education Zone and is then becomes the subject of the annual Student Experience Survey, the results of which inform the content of the Student Experience Seminar.
This year the issue chosen was assessment at QM. The survey set out to discover:
the range of assessment methods used at QM
students' opinions on assessments in general
students' opinions on assessments at QM
whether students understand the intended learning outcomes of their course
whether students feel the methods of assessment used and the feedback provided help them meet those learning outcomes
whether the methods of assessment used help with the development of employability skills
The survey was run under the provocative title of 'Should We Scrap Exams' and produced 646 responses (the second best response for a Union survey ever).
We then held three Focus Groups to help us explore some of the findings in greater detail.
The results of our findings were presented to the University at the annual Student Experience Seminar on 12 March 2014.
A report with recommendations was then produced and submitted to the Vice President Teaching and Learning's Advisory Group (VPTLAG) on 14 May 2014.
Not to ‘scrap exams’ but aim to diversify assessment
· Encourage elements of marking to be decided by students (say 5-15%) - ‘students as partners’.
· More scrutiny at Taught Programme Board on the rationale for assessments and their relevance to learning outcomes (constructive alignment) - need to give clear direction that diverse assessment is encouraged.
· CAPD to develop/promote content on the topic of assessment.
Promote the practice of giving students explicit rationales for assessment
· Module handbooks to contain assessment rationales.
· TBP module approval guidelines to add this point to formal procedure.
Encourage a review of exam weightings
· Diverse assessment requires a review of exam and other assessment weightings.
· The weightings also need to be aligned with learning objectives and assessment aims.
· Bring the question: why do we weight exams so heavily? to the forefront of the assessment debate.
Improve upon feedback quality and alignment to marking schemes and learning outcomes
· Use data from both the NSS and this survey to work on improving feedback by aligning it to marking schemes and learning outcomes.
· Work with departments and their feedback sheets to make improvements.
· Continue to work towards providing meaningful examination feedback to all students
5. Better prepare students for learning and assessment
· Raise awareness with International Students as to exactly what is expected of them in terms of examinations early on their course.
· Work on helping students to identify their preferred learning styles and develop appropriate coping strategies.
· Ensure that students are aware of the intended learning outcomes for their course and how each module delivers these (in conjunction with the assessment rationale and weightings).
6. Address issues raised concerning exam room conditions
(The following points were raised in the free text box at the end of the survey)
· Work internally to ensure that standards are set and met when assigning examination rooms.
· Pay particular attention to ensuring that external examination venues are quiet and comfortable.
During the first semester of the 2013-14 academic Year, the Students' Union conducted an audit of the teaching space within the University with the intention of making a case for increasing the amount of space students can use for private study. As well as supporting this case, the data from the audit raised a number of other issues connected with the efficient use of teaching space. The findings from the audit were presented in a report to the University's Student Experience Advisory Board on 20 February 2014.
The recommendations contained in this report were as follows:
1. That the University should introduce a policy whereby students are allowed to access unused space, followed by the introduction of availibility screens in buildings.
2. That the University should create a Space Management Group which would include, or draw from,
the Timetabling Working Group, ARCS, Planning, and current plans to carry out a quality of teaching
space audit; all the work carried out by these groups should be aligned.
3. That this new group should lead on the development of policy that resulting from the following
a) Create and implement a policy, or guidelines by which departments are held to account for
their use and misuse of space.
b) Create stricter guidelines on the proper use of the full timetable – pressure on Tuesdays and
Thursdays, and more recently Wednesdays, should be counterbalanced and alleviated by
using Monday mornings and Fridays more effectively. We believe this will enable a knock-on
reduction in the amount of teaching being carried on a Wednesday afternoons.
c) Since the data shows that there is an endemic misuse of one-off bookings, systems such as
spot checks and fines should be introduced in order to counterbalance bad practice in this
4. The introduction of a planning policy which would increase the ratio of flexible teaching in new
buildings. We feel that the lack of policy in this area has meant that buildings such as Arts 2 are
under-resourced in terms of teaching space.
5. That rooms within the Students’ Union which are currently being used for teaching should be
returned to the full use of the Union. The data shows that if timetabling was done effectively there
would be no need for these rooms to be used as teaching space.