Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2011-2012 (archived)

Module EDUC40130: Assessment

Department: Education

EDUC40130: Assessment

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2011/12 Module Cap
Tied to X9K907
Tied to X5K207
Tied to X5K307
Tied to X9A102
Tied to X9A302
Tied to X9A402
Tied to X9A602
Tied to X9KC14
Tied to N1KC07
Tied to X9KD07


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To have a critical understanding of assessment in relation to teaching and learning.


  • Assessment serves a variety of purposes, and is set within particular social and political contexts.
  • All systems of assessment face both technical and conceptual problems. Many of the conceptual problems relate to politics, social policy, and morality. An important theme which runs throughout this Unit is the interplay between technical issues and conceptual ones.
  • To explore the space of technical and conceptual issues, we will derive 'theories in action' from different assessment systems used around the world, and we will also use discourse analytic techniques to explore popular assumptions about the nature of knowledge, its acquisition, and the way it can be assessed, drawing inferences from popular newspapers.
  • The notion of WHAT to assess will be considered, and we will consider taxonomies of learning objectives both as abstractions and in their application to a variety of academic domains.
  • Test constructors make use of a variety of statistical and psychometric models. We will review (briefly) relevant statistical notions such as correlation and regression, then will consider core ideas of reliability and validity. We will examine the plausibility of some of the simplifying assumptions which are made, such as (unwarranted) strong assumptions made by test constructors about the independence of items, and notions that test takers have some quantity of knowledge which remains unchanged throughout the test. We will consider those situations where conventional psychometrics might be applied safely, and those where it might not (such as in much educational assessment!).
  • We will consider some of the technical, conceptual, and moral issues surrounding 'bias' and fairness in selection for college and employment.
  • The challenges of conducting large scale assessment programmes such as those used for the purposes of international comparison will be explored. Techniques of formative evaluation will be a focus of the Unit; to support student's own learning, and to illustrate the principles of formative assessment, we will engage in formative assessments (such as concept mapping and diagnostic testing) throughout our working sessions.
  • The role of assessment as a bridge between different knowledge communities (testers; cognitive psychologists; domain experts; classroom practitioners) will be explored. On a conceptual level, we will consider the ways that more effective knowledge communities might be built, using existing evidence from different participants in the educational system.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Critical understanding of assessment in relation to teaching and learning.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Critically approach issues of assessment;
  • Identify issues and analyse discourse regarding assessment;
  • Examine and contextualise the functions of assessment;
  • Interrogate current assessment practices;
  • Understand technical and conceptual issues across a range of assessment methods.
Key Skills:
  • Through their essays students will demonstrate the ability to:
  • undertake a search and synthetic review of research literature,
  • summarise and critique research-based literatures;
  • communicate ideas effectively, both orally and in writing, to an advanced level;
  • learn independently.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Through lectures and seminar teaching supported by Study Guide resources. The Study Guide includes preparation for and follow up to teaching activities. This directed independent work is an important part of the module. Lectures enable the ideas of the module to be considered. Student-led seminar work enables students to develop their understanding of the ideas and consider them in a range of professionally relevant contexts. Activities in seminars include a variety of active learning approaches including discussion, group work, presentations, question and answer sessions, individual tasks. A Bulletin Board on DUO enables staff and students to continue their interaction between teaching sessions. Preparation for the assignment involves students in wide reading and critical reflection on ideas of the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 7 1.5 hours 10.5
Seminars 7 2.5 hours 17.5
Preparation & Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Verbal feedback is given to students' contribution during class teaching sessions. Staff can be contacted for individual help. Written formative feedback is provided for the academic outline of the assignment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University