This report outlines a research project which was completed in 2023 by researchers from 7 higher education institutions, to understand how (and if) inclusive assessment policies and practices across these institutions which were implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic could be successfully implemented in a post-pandemic world. The project, which has been undertaken with the help of funding from the University Alliance, is a continuation of the work carried out in a previous QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project in 2021-22 in which all the partners in the current project participated.
This research seeks to extend the work done by the previous QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project (April 2021-July 2022) by members of the University Alliance. The goal of the project was to analyse assessment practices for cohorts of students during and post the Covid-19 pandemic, considering the impacts of large-scale assessment change triggered by the pandemic and the resulting educational pivot. Despite the challenging times, it was recognised that many of the changes made to assessment policy and practice had positively affected awarding and/or continuation gaps. The project team were keen to understand how these changes were implemented, why they were successful and if they had continued post-Covid, in order to form guidance – and examples of best practice – for inclusive assessments.
Most of the project partners from the QAA Collaborative Enhancement project chose to remain involved with this continuation phase, and the team was therefore able to draw upon its established ways of working together, led once again by Teesside University, with regular meetings taking place online between the partners.
A collaborative agreement was established and entered into by all partners to ensure that all were clear as to project aims and expectations, and to set out agreed parameters for confidentiality and publication.
Teesside University’s Health and Life Sciences Ethics Committee approved an overarching ethics application for the project, which most partners were able to have ratified through their own ethics approval procedures. Where partners had to make a separate application for approval, they were able to draw upon the wording of the Teesside application.
Each of the seven partners was given a share of the University Alliance funding to help to recruit one or more students to work as research projects on the project, helping with data collection and analysis and the creation of the project outputs.
The first phase of this project focused on assessment practices during the pandemic. Each institution used qualitative research with staff and students to produce practical, evidence-based insights into the impact of alternative assessment arrangements on student outcomes. The findings highlighted areas of good practice and creative implementation, which developed a shared understanding of inclusive practices and practical changes that have enhanced assessments, as well as student experiences. A set of inclusive assessment attributes was collectively developed to reflect the insights generated through the research work undertaken. In addition, a selection of case studies was produced to illustrate effective approaches and their impact.
Phase 2 aimed to build on the outputs from Phase 1, extending the focus to years 2 and 3 of the pandemic to identify and examine evidence of “sustainable inclusive assessment practices” and their impact on the ability of higher education (HE) providers to improve student retention and success. With a sharper focus on practice-level innovations in inclusive assessment, Phase 2 again used qualitative interviews and focus groups with staff and students in order to better understand “What Works?” in the context of inclusive assessment for student “success” and “retention”, distilling actionable insights and models for practice across disciplines.
A list of all partner institutions and staff working within each institution can be found in the appendices.
- To analyse assessment outcomes for specific cohorts of students during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years (pandemic years 2 and 3) to understand the specific retention and success challenges and opportunities in each discipline.
- To examine the extent to which the inclusive assessments attributes are sustained across assessment arrangements during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years.
- To identify evidence-informed interventions and principles of practice that address key issues of concern in relation to student retention and success.
- To devise a series of evidence-informed practice exemplars of sustainable inclusive assessment practice in each discipline.
Find the full report here.