A Shift From Exams to Assignments
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A Shift From Exams to Assignments

Across the sector, we are seeing (witnessing) a shift from formal examinations (complete with examination schedule and invigilation of some form) to assignment-based assessment (with a range of variations including quizzes, presentations, and the like). The shift is universal – despite some small pockets of F2F exams.

In recent times (in response to COVID-19 in fact) my own school moved from a complete examination regime (three times each trimester) to a more balanced approach – 40% assignment and 60%. In a recent exploration, it was evidenced that the shift from examinations to a more balanced approach had little if any impact on student satisfaction and/or assessment results.


The intention, moving forward, is to trial a non-examination regime using a diversity of assessment options in place. It is highly anticipated that this will again create very little, if any response, in terms of student satisfaction (which could be marginally improved) and/or assessment outcomes. A recent move to normalisation of results aside. At the heart of the decision is the need to ensure that both integrity and quality are maintained – but the stresses and strains (and one could argue tradition and legacy) of formal examinations are replaced with a somewhat more contemporary approach to assessment. Compliance, of course, is an essential consideration surrounding any change to practice and this must be uppermost in all our minds.


The current literature talks to matters of assessment relevance, consistency with careers, and of course work integrated learning and stresses the importance of being relevant and appropriate to student aspirations and futures.


Assessment in the contemporary organisation is about ‘designing a diverse range of authentic, valid and verifiable assessment tasks that excite and engage learners together with constructive and timely feedback’ (Hack, 2023) is the way to go.


Masters (2022) challenges us with the fact that ‘it is important to assess skills and competencies rather than simply … knowledge. We need to consider how we can assess the growth of personal attributes like resilience, persistence, and growth’ – especially as we emerge from the shadows of COVID and embrace the new reality of hybrid teaching and learning.


In essence, a rethink about assessment in general – particularly at undergraduate and postgraduate levels – is needed. A reliance on a formal examination regime is dated and probably no longer relevant. It needs to be replaced with a more thoughtful, considered approach to assessment that still maintains standards and rigor but is more realistic and appropriate to the 2020s.

Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer at Group Colleges Australia