Assessment and Feedback

Published 7/09/2021

Curriculum framework:

Our curriculum will encourage students to learn through teaching and assessment methods which challenge them to be agents in their own learning. (Inspiring and innovative)

Bristol’s research-rich environment will translate into teaching and assessment methods which give students a taste for doing research from day one of their degrees. (Intellectually stimulating)

Our teaching and assessment will pose real world problems for students about global and civic challenges. (Global and civic engagement)

Links to research

Traditionally the core role of assessment is to measure students’ learning for the purposes of quality assurance.

‘What and how students learn depends to a major extent on how they think they will be assessed. Assessment practices must send the right signals to students about what they should be learning and how they should be learning it.’ (Biggs and Tang, 2011, p. 191)

Assessment is also about signalling to students what is important in their learning, and research in recent years has focused on the role of assessment for learning – rethinking assessment in terms of its capacity to direct, improve, support and nurture learning (Sambell, 2013).  Important to this approach is assessment that is authentic (reflects real-world tasks) and inclusive (allowing all students to demonstrate their learning), where students engage with formative assessment to develop their skills and where summative assessment is more sparing (Elkington, 2020). There is also evidence that authentic assessment can help preserve academic integrity (Sotiriadou et al., 2019).

Research into assessment has also encompassed the idea of assessment as learning (Earl, 2012) – recognising the importance of the active involvement of students in their learning and assessment, including directing their own learning, using feedback and self-assessing their work. The role of formative assessment and feedback has also taken on new importance with Hattie and Timperley (2007) arguing feedback is the most powerful influence on achievement and if given well can have a hugely positive impact. 

Current thinking is reflected in Bristol’s Curriculum Framework which provides a touchstone for assessment design, including assessment which: challenges students to be agents in their own learning; gives students a taste for doing research; and poses real world problems for students to solve. 

What this means for curriculum design

Key principles from research include:

  • Prepare students for summative assessment by increasing formative assessment and feedback opportunities, including student peer and self-assessment. This approach not only helps students learn, by developing their skills and knowledge for their summative assessment, but also develops their skills in evaluating their own work.
  • Design authentic and research-rich assessments which reflect real-world tasks and complex problems, including giving students a taste for research. This approach can also help preserve academic integrity.
  • Use summative assessment more sparingly. By designing more challenging and complex summative assessments that directly relate to programme level outcomes, fewer summative assessments are needed.

Useful reading/resources for assessment and feedback design:

What does this look like in practice?

Assessment and feedback case studies

Read next – You might also be interested in reading Feedback Practises


Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University Fourth Edition The Society for Research into Higher Education. Available at: (Accessed: 27 May 2021).

Earl, L. . (2012) Assessment As Learning: Using Classroom Assessment To Maximize Student Learning. Corwin Press. Available at: (Accessed: 2 June 2021).

Elkington, S. (2020) Essential frameworks for enhancing student success: Transforming Assessment in Higher Education.

Hattie, J. and Timperley, H. (2007) ‘The power of feedback’, Review of Educational Research. Sage PublicationsSage CA: Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 81–112. Available at: (Accessed: 2 June 2021).

Sambell, K. (2013) ‘Engaging Students Through Assessment’, in Dunne, E. and Owen, D. (eds) The Student Engagement Handbook: Practice in Higher Education. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Sotiriadou, P. et al. (2019) ‘The role of authentic assessment to preserve academic integrity and promote skill development and employability’, Studies in Higher Education. Routledge.