Spotlight on Alternative Assessment Methods: Sharing good practice

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This Spotlight on Alternative Assessment blog post, by Jenny Scoles, Teaching Matters Editor,  provides a summary of previously published Teaching Matters posts that share alternative assessment practice and support the recent move to remote teaching…

In this editorial post, I have delved into past Teaching Matters posts to highlight a few pertinent and useful posts, which may be helpful to colleagues moving to online forms of assessment. I focus on three particular pedagogic topics: blogging, Open Educational Resources and marking criteria.


Blogging is a great way to encourage reflection in both formative and summative assessment. One beautiful Teaching Matters post, Developing reflection in the curriculum, by Dr Elaine Haycock-Stuart, uses an electronic ongoing achievement record and a blogging platform to support student nurses to reflect on their learning and clinical experience throughout the four years of their education. They are encouraged to use poetry, pictures, stories and critical incident techniques to record their reflections. The poem that Elaine shares in her post by Ellie Jolley, written in year 2 of the nursing programme when she cared for patients receiving palliative care, still gets me every time I read it – its a very powerful demonstration of a students’ personal and professional learning. 

In her blog post, Blogging and innovative assessment practice at Edinburgh, Dr Nina Morris shares some research about blogging and assessment and found that course organisers who used blogging liked it for a number of reasons:

a desire to get students writing in dynamic, concise ways, an ambition to connect academic theory with the ‘real world’, an aspiration to encourage the students to take ownership of their ideas, and a wish for the students to develop a transferable (non-academic) skill.

Nina also raised the Course Organisers’ concerns surrounding blogging as a form of assessment, the most prominent problem being “software that is not fit for purpose (or with limited features), often (but not always) with limited support from locally-based ICT staff.” This has been addressed within the University with the creation of the Academic Blogging Service. However, concerns still remain about developing standardised marking criteria for this form of assessment.

Dr Nina Morris and Dr Hazel Christie’s Teaching Matters podcast episode on Can blogging be used as an effective form of assessment? provides helpful tips on using blogs as a form of assessment with regards to marking criteria, course design, staff investment, technological limitations, writing style, and digital footprint. They also share some strategies and tips for teaching staff who may want to use blogging as an assessment tool, and for students working with blogs as part of their courses.

Open Educational Resources

In Dr Varia Christie’s post, Editing live Wikipedia pages: Assessing students through OER creation, Varia explains how she and colleagues leading the online PG Cert Global Health Challenges were inspired by the move to Open Education Resource (OER) creation in the curriculum. Using an OER such as Wikipedia, they found they could achieve a double purpose: showcase student progression towards the learning objectives of the course AND contribute to the development of open knowledge. Tasking students to edit a live Wikipedia page “develops student ability to disseminate information to a variety of stakeholders outside academia and gives them a sense of real-world impact through their contribution to the development of knowledge.”

Reading and editing Teaching Matters blog posts by the University’s resident Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, has completely revolutionised my view of how Wikipedia can be used as a pedagogical approach in HE learning and teaching

Marking criteria for alternative ASSESSMENT

I often reference this blog post, Being creative with student assessment, by Dr Rosie Stenhouse, when colleagues ask me how they can adapt the more ‘traditional’ marking criteria to suit a novel or innovative assessment. Rosie designed a creative assessment for students taking the honours option Contemporary issues in mental health: engaging through arts, humanities and social science. Aware that many students may be wary of taking the course and getting a poor grade as they did not consider themselves ‘creative’, Rosie developed marking criteria to ensure that it was not students’ creative skills that were being assessed, but “their critical engagement, understanding of how to engage audiences using image and metaphor and ability to develop and present a coherent argument”, which were being examined.

You can also find more Teaching Matters’ posts on alternative assessment at the following link:

Useful resourceS

Jenny Scoles

Dr Jenny Scoles is the editor of Teaching Matters. She is an Academic Developer (Learning and Teaching Enhancement) in the Institute for Academic Development, and provides pedagogical support for University course and programme design. Her interests include student engagement, professional learning and sociomaterial methodologies.

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