Bridging the Gap: CAVA Assessment Workshops

As a membership organisation, one of CAVA’s strategic aims is to provide a full package of support for our Access to HE providers. As part of our programme of staff development training activities in 2021 and 2022, we ran two sessions on assessment theory and practice to provide practitioners with opportunities to develop and enhance their practice.

For our first session in 2021, we worked with Cambridge Assessment Network (which provides professional development to the assessment community) to offer bespoke training for Access to HE practitioners on the key principles in the design and delivery of valid assessment. Topics included the purposes and principles of good assessment, valid assessment design, approaches to marking and grading, and providing effective feedback to students. Participants were encouraged to debate whether standards would be improved if assessment was more standardised. We also considered the inherent tensions within assessment design, in balancing the manageability, reliability and validity of assessments.

The second session bridged the gap between assessment theory, general practice, and specific Access to HE assessment development and design, through a practical networking event which brought together practitioners to reflect upon their practice and identify areas for development within their own assessments. Participants discussed the multiple purposes of assessment feedback: clarifying achievement; reflection and improvement; confidence-building and motivation; and considered real-life cases which could have been improved by developing their feedback to cover these different purposes. Participants also considered different strategies to encourage students to engage with feedback, ranging from sequencing assessments to creating opportunities for sustained development of skills through feedback, sharing tutors’ own experience of working with feedback to model behaviours, to using audio/video feedback.

Attendees welcomed the opportunities to speak with practitioners from other providers and explore the principles involved in unit construction and assignment brief design. However, there was a general call for even more practical advice; to “know the correct answers” and receive advice or guidance on the development of markschemes to support the application of the QAA grading scheme. In the follow-up assessment workshop in 2022, we gave participants the opportunity to work through the key stages of assessment design (administration, design, marking approaches and assessment planning), and begin to think about marking schemes that might support tutors’ interpretations of the national grade descriptors. CAVA members can access the resources and video recordings from both sessions in the ‘Resources’ section of the CAVA Members’ Area.

At CAVA, we strive to ensure we offer highly relevant and valuable Access to HE Diplomas. We are in the process of creating a library of assessment briefs for units within our Access to HE Diplomas frameworks to offer even more opportunities to share good practice in assessment across our membership.

QAA is currently reviewing the Grading Scheme for the Access to HE Diploma, which includes consideration of realignment of the existing grade descriptors. We are keen to provide further opportunities for practitioners and moderation to develop their assessment practice and expand upon our assessment guidance for our members. We look forward to the outcome of the QAA’s review and will be reviewing our assessment strategy and guidance in line with the future grading model.