Summative assessment workload management & implications for teaching practice: Dipping our toes into the depths of the murky waters that represent ‘Assessment’ in Higher Education

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


Awash in a sea of adjectives, concepts such as broken, unfit for purpose and a cause of dissatisfaction tend to breach the rolling tide of assessment discourse and emerge a constant. Undertones that Higher Education (HE) assessment practice requires reassessment, revisiting or potentially revolutionising ripple in this sea of discontent. Whilst the authors acknowledges the current macro level challenges faced by Assessment in HE (embodied in the rise of neoliberalism, managerialism, credentialism and consumerism) we do not embark in a lengthy critique of contemporary practice. Rather, this poster considers summative assessment workload management at a leading UK HE institution and focuses on the related implications for assessment scheduling and workload.

This focus is mobilised via an enhanced understanding of issues faced by those primarily subjected to institutional summative assessment regimes; the students – and their perspectives on managing summative assessment workload.

The research aims to understand student approaches to assessment management and associated barriers / enablers regarding impending summative assessment deadlines. It is envisaged the study will contribute to current assessment discourse by accentuating institutional hindrances such as assessment clustering and ‘over assessment’. This study sets out to illuminate strategies employed by students in their struggles to manage the multiplicity of assessment burdens HE places upon them.

The study involved administration of a questionnaire and student focus groups held with 59 students across 3 different Schools within the Russell Group institution. These findings suggest proximity between distribution of coursework and teaching related ‘content’ as a pertinent factor, with typical preferred coursework ‘set’ dates being as early as week 3 in the semester. For low stakes assessment findings suggest students impose staged deadlines involving periods of significant under and over adjustments / deviations as opposed to an equal coterminous spread of work whilst for larger credit bearing assessments students engage in multitasking and buffering to increase the ‘spread’ of work. Commonly reported ‘barriers’ to study were themed as ‘Assessment Clarity’ and ‘Time Management’ whilst ‘Peer Communications’, ‘Effective Scheduling’ and ‘Learning Support’ emerged as reported ‘enablers’. In light of these findings this poster visualises workload management strategies and further problematizes the vast consequential implications for teaching practice.

Ultimately this research stirs the undercurrents of the perpetual Assessment Scheduling dilemma and reviews how students manage summative workload pressures.

Outputs of this study include prototype development of an assessment scheduler tool as a proposed institutional solution to facilitate summative assessment workload management.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019
EventInternational Assessment in Higher Education Conference - Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jun 201927 Jun 2019
Conference number: 7th


ConferenceInternational Assessment in Higher Education Conference
Abbreviated titleAHE Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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