Photo Credit: Louise Flanagan

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Plans have recently been announced that significantly reduce the amount of graded assessment that count towards a student’s degree. The strategy could see the amount of assessment cut by up to 50% with changes introduced as early as 2018. The move is part of a curriculum review and enhancement process, which is taking place as part of the University’s five-year strategic plan.

However, statistics prepared by UCD Institutional Research say that many students do not feel that the number of assessments is too high. The majority of students surveyed said that the number of assessments they receive per semester were just right.

Only 26% of undergraduates feel they receive too much assessment, with a slightly smaller number — 20% — feeling they receive too little assessment.

Instead, over a third of undergraduate students feel that the weighting of their continuous assessment is too low. Over half of students felt that end of semester assessments count for too much of final grades.

Discussions on how to implement this programme were held at an assessment workshop on October 17th. According to Lexi Kilmartin, UCDSU’s Education Officer, who was part of the meeting, a plan to cut summative assessment by “up to 50%” was discussed. She says that the meeting explored ways of doing this without losing educational value.

Much of the meeting focused on the over-assessment of students and how to reduce this stress. Present at the meeting were representative of the UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU), members of the student body, heads of schools, and members of the UCD Registry.

They discussed options for optimising student assessment, including reducing summative assessment, which is continuous assessment that would count towards students’ final module grade. Instead of the old system, students would receive more assessment that is formative, which would not count towards their final grade.

This would allow the student to receive feedback on things like contribution in tutorials, without this feedback counting towards their grade point average.

Kilmartin said that this plan was a way of “reducing the burden on students, so that way you don’t have ten essays due in week six”. Kilmartin, who is part of the Curriculum Review Steering Committee, says that this is a positive step which “is one of the most positive things the university is doing at the moment.”

At the meeting, participants also discussed how to change a culture where assessment drives learning, rather than a student’s own interest in their subject driving learning.

Kilmartin says the curriculum review group are aware of this problem. “You want to cut the burden for students but you also don’t want to move away from continuous assessment too much because that reduces the burden” she says.

Future meetings on changes to assessment are planned by the UCD Registry. Regardless of the outcome of these meetings, Kilmartin says that changes will not be put in place immediately, saying that the registrar has stated that these changes to the curriculum might be initiated in 2018, with pilot programmes perhaps taking place in September 2017.