TESTA Tools are designed to help Departments/Schools and programme teams to enhance assessment and feedback. The audit, questionnaire and focus groups provide three different (and complementary) ways of understanding students’ experiences of assessment and feedback across a programme. This can provide important evidence that can help teaching staff to collectively reflect and discuss a programme, and ensure that assessment and feedback work in a coherent and effective way.
TESTA stands for ‘Transforming the Experience of Students Through Assessment’. It is a project that has been run at Strathclyde since 2016, see below for more information. TESTA is based on the idea that many of the challenges around assessment and feedback cannot be addressed by individual members of staff, or in individual classes. The key challenges – ensuring that students engage appropriately with assessments; that they use feedback; that there is enough time to provide prompt, good quality feedback; that students understand what is expected of them – can only really be addressed by understanding how students experience entire programmes, and by colleagues who teach on a programme working together.
These TESTA Tools are designed to be used by Departments/Schools and programme teams themselves to understand and improve assessment and feedback at the programme-level. However, staff in the Quality Enhancement and Assurance team are able to provide advice and guidance: please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The audit draws on module descriptors and other paperwork to provide a picture of how assessment and feedback works across a whole programme. By giving a programme-level perspective it helps teaching staff to look beyond their own individual modules; they are likely to be very familiar with the amount and type of assessments in their modules, but they may not have a good understanding of how assessment works in the other modules that make up their students’ programme. The audit provides information about the assessment and feedback experienced by the average student over the course of the programme.
The data provides a birds-eye picture of how assessment is intended to work. This can then be contrasted with staff and student views of the reality of assessment. The Audit also yields objective data that help to contextualise students’ views (whether gathered through questionnaires, focus groups or other methods).
The document below contains information about why the Audit can be useful, where it came from, how to do it and some suggestions about how to explore the results.
The Assessment Experience Questionnaire (AEQ) is a short survey that asks students about assessment and feedback on their programme.
The AEQ provides high-level data about students’ perceptions that can prompt and inform discussion and reflection by teaching staff. By providing detail specifically about students’ perceptions of assessment and feedback, it can help to illuminate results from the National Student Survey. While the survey does not cover every aspect of assessment and feedback, it covers issues that are highlighted by research, and central to academics’ teaching practices. Quantitative survey data are fairly broad-brush and can only provide part of the picture, but they can be very useful, particularly when used alongside other sources of data. In particular, the AEQ works well when used in conjunction with the other TESTA Tools – the Assessment and Feedback Audit, and focus groups.
This document contains information about why the AEQ can be useful, where it came from, how to administer it and some suggestions about how to explore the results.
These are links to Word versions of the student- and staff-facing versions of the AEQ.
Focus groups are a great way of getting a detailed sense of students’ experiences of assessment and feedback. They allow you to explore issues raised by other data (e.g. from audits or questionnaires) in much greater depth, as well as to raise topics not otherwise covered.
Quantitative evidence about assessment and feedback – such as from the Assessment and Feedback Audit, or the Assessment Experience Questionnaire – has many benefits but it also has drawbacks. It can give an excellent overview, the ability to benchmark, and can be relatively easy to collect and analyse. However, often it does not provide the rich and detailed information we need, and is limited to the particular questions on the questionnaire (for example). By discussing assessment and feedback in detail with students, we can get a much richer picture of their experiences, and respond to their views rather than being limited to pre-determined topics.
This document contains information about why Assessment and Feedback Focus Groups can be helpful, how to run focus groups around assessment and feedback, and how to explore the data.
TESTA has revealed a number of common challenges that Departments/Schools face when trying to make assessment and feedback work at the programme level. Whether it is exams being seen as memory tests, or students' lack of engagement with feedback, teaching staff often encounter the same kinds of problems. Staff may need to work together to create coherent programmes out of groups of individual classes. This guide describes a number of those common challenges, along with suggestions about how to respond.
Each of the TESTA Tools is designed to be used on its own, but they also work very well together. They involve varying amounts of time on the part of staff, but they can contribute a great deal to efforts to redesign assessments and rethink feedback. The Tools are intended to provide evidence that teaching staff discuss collectively. The findings should be presented to programme teaching teams, in a way that encourages collegiate reflection and collection action. Individual members of staff may take a lead on using the Tools (e.g. Directors of Teaching or Programme Leads) and present the findings to wider colleagues at teaching-focused away days, at teaching-focused committees, or at dedicated sessions to discuss the findings.
The experience of TESTA so far at Strathclyde is that the evidence provided by these tools – the amount of type of assessments that students’ experience, how students and staff differ in their perceptions of assessment and feedback, the detail of students’ experiences of assessment and feedback – is very good at bringing teaching colleagues together in new ways, to discuss common challenges and agree programme-level changes. Teaching staff are often focused, understandably, on their own classes. These TESTA Tools can help them to understand the bigger picture of the programme and the place of their class within it.
TESTA at Strathclyde
The TESTA method has been used at Strathclyde since 2016. It is now part of the Internal Review cycle, and the Quality Enhancement and Assurance team provide a centrally-resourced version of TESTA for all Departments/Schools in the year prior to the year of their review. The TESTA Tools are intended to be used by Departments/Schools who wish to run some form of TESTA outside that schedule, and so aren’t eligible for central resource at that point.
Information about how TESTA fits into the Internal Review process is included in this document, which also gives some detail about the background to TESTA and the research that underpins it.
A number of themes have emerged from the use of TESTA at Strathclyde over the past few years. The document below gives an overview of the key themes in students’ programme-level experiences of assessment and feedback.