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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning

 
A person writing in a book at a table with coffee and papers

Research question

What are the differences in assessment methods, conditions and instructions provided for students in different courses, and what are examples of good practice with regard to student mental health?

 

Project team

  • Katrina Rose, undergraduate student reading Psychological and Behavioural Sciences
  • Becky Foster, undergraduate student reading Geography
  • Katey Parker, undergraduate student reading English

 

Project report

Report: Assessment Guidance Project (PDF)

 

Abstract

Assessments are always a source of stress for students, particularly at Cambridge where there is an emphasis on high-stakes exams at the end of every year. For this project we wanted to focus on the key stressors and related key mitigators of assessment practices that might affect the wellbeing and outcomes of Cambridge students.

The recent changes to assessment practices in response to the Covid-19 pandemic also informed our interest in exploring what worked / didn't work for students with mental health conditions.

We drew on and extended previous student-led research on assessment, including the diversifying assessment project from Cycle 1, and a more recent survey on diversifying assessment (March 2021) disseminated by Cambridge Students' Union and CCTL, which included elements focusing on mental health. Rather than revisit similar questions focused on diversifying assessment, the project team developed questions focused on the practices around supervision: instructions, advice, marking criteria, etc. We also interviewed students from our own disciplines to explore discipline-specific approaches.

Our findings underscore the importance of communication and consistency of advice about assessment, so that both students and staff (both Departmental and College) have shared understandings of the expectations. We also recommend that support is coordinated by Departments so that there are clear and consistent guides explaining how assessment is marked and linked to the course learning outcomes, and finally that students are given paper- and assessment-specific advice.