The Anatomy of an Assessment Task: Common Language and Shared Understanding

The University of Queensland, Australia


This showcase presents a framework which has proved effective in enabling academics to deepen their understanding of the distinctive components of assessment tasks in order to design assessments that produce credible evidence of 21C learning outcomes.

Initiatives of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) (2010 Learning and Teaching Academic Standards project) and similar projects in other parts of the world (QAA subject benchmarking statements, UK; Tuning Europe, Latin America and elsewhere; Lumina, USA) have articulated 21C disciplinary learning outcomes to serve a range of purposes including expanded opportunities for globalization through enhanced student and staff mobility and the comparison of standards across institutions and nations. Investigations funded by the (then) ALTC have questioned the adequacy of traditional approaches to assessment in addressing 'non-traditional' learning outcomes and identified key challenges. Some types of 'underprivileged' learning outcomes are rarely addressed in assessment plans - for example, ethical understanding or metacognitive awareness (Author et al 2013) and tasks used as a basis for cross institutional benchmarking often need revision before they are suitable for the assessment of nominated learning outcomes (Brawley 2013: Freeman et al 2013).

This assessment task framework which draws on systemic functional linguistics (Halliday 1994) is a flexible tool with a range of applications. The two addressed in this presentation include its capacity to succinctly communicate the key findings of a large national assessment investigation and to analyse and explain the practice of academics who have successfully developed their assessment practice to meet the challenges of 21C learning outcomes.

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