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Queen Mary Academy

Programme level assessment design

As well as taking into account the factors affecting design of individual assessments, it is important to consider assessment design at a programme level.  This is to avoid over assessing students, bottlenecks in assessment deadlines, and assessing programme level learning outcomes multiple times.

QMUL’s Assessment Strategy also has a central focus on programme level design:

Programme-level assessment approaches (and, where applicable, year-level assessment approaches) should be adopted, so that programme and year level learning outcomes are not multiply assessed. Module learning outcomes are considered in the context of programmes and developmental years, to make it clear to students what is being developed at module level and how this contributes to the overall programme.

Assessment and feedback are thereby designed to align constructively with stated learning outcomes on programmes and developmental years across the university, ensuring clarity, coherence and efficiency.

The Baseline Principles for Assessment and Feedback expands on the rationale for this focus.  While it is relevant to use assessment to maximise student engagement, overassessment should be avoided, especially summative assessment. Focus on Learning Outcomes mapped across a Programme. Repetition might be relevant on a delivery/design basis to reinforce concepts and evolve deeper learning outcomes. However, summative assessment should be streamlined across modules. Consider assessing Learning Outcomes at the “end of a concept-cycle” within a programme (i.e. the module in which the deeper learning outcomes related to specific themes/concepts are taught and explored).

For example, if concept A is introduced in module 1, developed in module 2, and further explored in a professional/research context in module 3, unless students are to achieve substantially different learning outcomes in each module, summative assessment in relation to concept A should be avoided, at least, in module 1.

Programme level assessment patterns

The following chart, drawn from a JISC resource, illustrates a common assessment pattern across one semester of a programme:


The potential consequences of this kind of assessment pattern are:

  • Undistributed student work load
  • Teachers not seeing student misconceptions until too late
  • Assessments are too high stakes
  • Timing of assessment on all modules coincides and gives little opportunity for students to commit properly to any of the assessment tasks
  • Assessment diet is very similar for all modules and nature of assessment is very similar. Does not engage students in variety of assessment types or assess wider range of skills
  • Modules are not explicitly interconnected

What are the alternatives?

This kind of assessment pattern across a programme offers:

  • Good distribution of student work load across the modules
  • Variety of assessment stakes (low, medium and high)
  • Timing of the assessment activity has been organised to reduce bunching of student effort and ensure students can committee properly to all of the tasks
  • All assessments (in module) are linked via the feedback
  • Modules are explicitly interconnected by the feedback – helps students see relationships from one module to another and also see that feedback from one module can be used to support their learning in another module. In the example shown above the feedback from the first assessment (first assessment in module D) feeds into first assessment tasks in other modules – i.e. this could be related to general ideas such as report structure, writing, skills, planning, etc.
  • Feedback from second assessment task (Module D) could be used to feed in to the second assessment in Module C. This assessment/ feedback relationship might be more subject specific. i.e. The second task (Module C) might be an integrating / synoptic type activity. Naturally, other inter-module feedback-assessment relationships are possible. The nature of which and the strength of the relationship may vary.