Coursework Assessment Method

Methods of Assessment and Feedback

Coursework | Exams | Peer Assessment | Assessing Group Work | Posters and Presentations | Portfolios

To promote consistency across the institution, the University provides guidelines on generic assessment criteria. Individual departments can then develop subject-specific criteria for each assessment method used while ensuring that the assessment method chosen is aligned to the type of learning.

In keeping with the aim of fostering the development of cultural agility, you may wish to consider adding international and intercultural perspectives in your methods of assessment, for example, including module assessment criteria that specifically reward international perspectives or international sources of information. For more details on infusing your assessment with an international perspective, see Internationalisation of Assessment.

In addition to meeting the assessment generic descriptors, following are some general comments and sources of information on methods of assessment and feedback.


  • The Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) Generic Centre Assessment Series of the Higher Education Academy provides a series of papers on various aspects of assessment, including key concepts; self-, peer- and group assessment; and computer-assisted assessment. For an overview of the various aspects of assessment and an explanation of alignment of assessment to learning outcomes, see Assessment Series No. 3, Assessment: A Guide for Lecturers, Brown, G. (2001).
  • For more detailed information on individual forms of assessment including exams, portfolios, self-assessment and multiple choice questionnaires, see the Teaching and Learning web site. It offers useful guidance in selecting the most appropriate method and their benefits and challenges. Resource: Atherton, J.S. (2011), Teaching and Learning.
  • Enhancing student learning through effective formative feedback, Juwah, C., Macfarlane-Dick, Matthew, B, Nicol, D., Ross D. and B. Smith, (2004).
  • How to make your feedback work in three easy steps!, ASKe (Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange) Oxford Brookes University, (2007).



Essays are the most common form of coursework to be assessed. Clear assessment criteria and an explanation of the criteria will help students understand what is expected of them. Feedback can include sample of responses and an explanation as to why a mark was given.

Creating a summary sheet of the most common comments and then attributing a number to each specific comment is a popular way of marking more efficiently. You can then provide students with the summary sheet so that they will understand, for example, that the number 2 means “more detailed analysis required.” You can then add more individual comments.
Resource: First Words, Oxford Brookes University


Summative assessment as represented by exams is the most common feedback understood by students. Ensure that students are familiar with the marking criteria and the type of exam it will be, e.g. whether it is an open or closed book exam.

Familiarise yourself with University policy on accessible assessment to ensure students have an equal chance of succeeding.

For more information on examination conventions, see Examinations.

Peer assessment

Peer assessment can encourage students to engage with their learning more directly. It helps students develop a deeper understanding of their discipline and builds their reflective learning abilities as they review, assess and provide feedback on the work of their peers. Guiding students in peer assessment is essential with clear criteria for grading; they may also be involved in establishing criteria. Ensure that students have guidance on feedback to avoid overly harsh marking or negative comments.

Group work

Assessing group work can be challenging in many respects, from the need to establish clear criteria for assessment and the need to grade students fairly, for example, to combat the possible problem of freeloaders in the group.

Several options exist for assessment to address concerns about imbalanced contribution:

  • Include individual tasks in each group project. These will be marked individually plus an overall group mark which will be the same for all group members.
  • Ask students to write a reflective piece on their contribution to the assignment, which can be graded and added to the group mark.
  • Integrate peer assessment and ask students to include evidence. You can increase or reduce a mark based on the assessment.

For an overview of the challenges and implications of group work, see the following paper commissioned by the Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange: The Assessment of Group Work: Lessons from the literature, Gibbs, 2009.

Consideration should also be given to what aspects of the project are being assessed, e.g. the final product such as a presentation or the process involved, e.g. meeting deadlines, minutes of meetings. Again, these should be clearly explained to students.

For suggestions on how to address issue of assessment of product over process, see the following:
How can I assess group work? Carnegie Mellor University.


Technology-enhanced assessment for group work

Janine Owens of the School of Clinical Dentistry has developed an assessed collaborative online activity paired with a reflective log for students studying the health promotion module as part of the Masters in Public Health, EuroPubHealth and Masters in Dental Public Health programmes.

Posters and presentations

Posters and presentations allow students to present to peers and academic staff. These forms of assessment can be done individually or in a group. As in all other examples above, providing student students with clear guidelines on what will be marked and, in this instance, who will be marking, is essential.


Example: Assessment Strategy

The School of Nursing and Midwifery’s Pre-Registration Postgraduate Diploma in Nursing (Adult) Assessment Strategy outlines all aspects of assessment for the programme, including a clear description of the assessment of posters. Assessment of posters can include originality in design, clear understanding of the literature.


As reflective learning is recognised as an important enhancement to learning, the use of portfolios in disciplines other than visual arts is more prevalent. Portfolios can offer students the opportunity to review their learning in the context of individual examples of their work in various formats and provide evidence of their achievements in learning – important for future employers, including evidence needed for clinical practice.

E-portfolios are also used in the Sheffield Graduate Development Programme. By gathering information demonstrating the student’s employability and personal development, students are required to keep an e-portfolio, e.g. conferences attended or training courses, volunteer activities, and reflections on their experience.

Example: Using individual student portfolios to mark a group work project

Dr Rhian Davies, School of Hispanic Studies

Based on seven years of experience running a module called Adaptations and Transformations, the method of assessment for a group project is primarily derived from an individual’s portfolio. Groups of approximately five students collaborate to produce a film based on a section of text from one of three Spanish authors being studied.

In terms of assessment, each student produces an individual portfolio which is based upon the experiences they have gained whilst working in groups. It is intended to encourage the students to explain the ideas behind their film/the style adopted and also draw on more theoretical work from a previous semester. Part of the portfolio consists of a learning journal which encourages reflective learning. In addition, 5% of the marks are allocated to an evaluation of each student’s contribution to the team by their peers, and 5% are allocated based on the staff assessment of each contributor.

For more information:

See Assessment Series No.6, A Briefing on Assessment of Portfolios, Baume, D. (2001).

We have a wide and imaginative range of assessment methods, which have been repeatedly singled out for praise by our external examiners and quality assessors.

Most of your assessed work will be done outside the exam room; the largest single component will be essays of various length, but you'll also be assessed by other methods, including short exercises and critical analyses, course journals, creative writing, seminar presentations, blogs, book searches and annotated bibliographies, group projects, and a dissertation (where you produce an extended piece of research on a topic of your own choice).

We don't use a high proportion of examinations (approximately one sixth of your final mark will be based on examinations), but find them a useful way of developing your ability to think effectively under pressure, and of testing some kinds of skills (e.g. language knowledge). Most of our exams are two-hour closed examinations, but we also use 'open book' examinations (in which you're allowed to take a copy of a specified text into the exam room for reference) or 'take-away papers' (in which you collect an exam paper from the Faculty's Student Office and return your completed script at a specified time).

First year
First-year undergraduate courses are assessed partly by examination and partly by coursework. The descriptions under course details specify the assessment methods used for each module, and the arrangements will be made clear to you well in advance.

Second and final years
After the first year, most English undergraduate course modules are assessed by written work assignments. These usually take the form of essays, but other forms of assessment include shorter commentaries, course journals, presentations, and creative work. To assess your knowledge and understanding of the module as a whole and your ability to make connections between the different texts and approaches studied, 35 per cent of the assessment for 'double modules' is normally by two-hour closed examination at the end of each module. Final-year marks have double the weighting of second-year marks; this weighting is a general policy to allow for your academic development over the course.

The dissertation

Final-year undergraduates do an 8,000-word dissertation, which counts as the equivalent of a double module. A dissertation allows you to do independent research under individual supervision on a topic in literature or culture which particularly interests you, and gives a good foundation for postgraduate study.

Seminar tutors will give you essay titles at the beginning of each semester; you're strongly advised to start planning and reading for your essays well ahead of the deadlines. Tutors will mark and return your written work promptly (normally within three weeks of receipt in term-time; short exercises may be turned round more quickly). Your seminar tutor will be happy to discuss the content, style, and structure of the essay with you, and will in any case provide detailed written feedback on the essay cover sheet. You'll be given a percentage mark for each assessed element within a module, and for the module as a whole at the end of the course.

You should note, however, that all marks are provisional until the final examining board. English follows standard practices to ensure fair and consistent marking of coursework and examination scripts: all second- and final-year modules are moderated by another member of English staff, and all dissertations are double-marked, in order to reach agreement about final marks for a course. A third reader and/or the external examiner may also be used to resolve internal problems or disagreements.

Full details on presentation and essay-writing, our marking criteria, and the regulations on written work, including current deadlines, are provided in the English handbook for students.

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