Enabling Students to Plan for and Reflect on Programme Level Assessment

By Levi Croom, Meg Hardiman-Smythe

In the fifth sprint of the Assessment and Feedback Sprint Series a small team of students and colleagues, from across the university, worked collaboratively for three weeks to investigate and design resources that would help answer the question:

How do we articulate a meaningful programme experience that ensures a cohesive assessment journey for all our students?

The initial discovery phase of the sprint revealed that students often struggle to see the ‘big picture’ of their programme and how their assessments relate to and are informed by one another within a modularised system. Rather than understanding their assessments as a journey that is an integral part of their learning, students chiefly viewed them as standalone, disconnected instances that are ‘tacked on’ to the end of a module with the sole purpose being to assess. Rarely were assessments recognised by students as a part of their continued learning and development of skills.

With this in mind, we have created an assessment and feedback planner. The aim of which is to provide students with a resource where they can collate all of their assessment information, across a stage of their programme, so that this can be easily visualised and stored in a single place. More importantly, however, the planner’s primary function is to encourage students to consider the skills that their assessments are designed to develop. This allows students to critically reflect on how these skills are transferable across their modules and the stages of their degree, and how to carry their feedback forward, thereby building a clearer picture of their programme as a whole.


The assessment planner is operated through OneNote, a platform available to all students as part of their Microsoft package. The planner can be used to both type and handwrite information, as well as providing space to import or jot down any key notes. We have provided two links, one to a blank template, and one to a mock-up of a completed planner so you can visualise the planner in action. You can use the tabs to navigate through the planner and for more information we will be creating a ‘getting started’ video soon that offers a guide on using the planner. One of the key benefits of the planner is that it is fully editable so that students on any course can customise it to fit their specific programme’s needs and goals.

OneNote menu
Module Overview page

In the version we have created, we have decided to use a Stage One template, as student validation suggested that receiving the planner in stage one would be most useful to reinforce assessment reflection across all stages in a programme.

“This would have greatly helped me in Stage One”- Student, HaSS

Notes for SEL1003

The most important feature of the planner is the reflective output. We have included a “My Feedback” page for every module, a “Semester Reflection” to act as a bridge across semesters, and a “Thinking Back, Looking Forward” section to reflect on the stage as a whole and to feed forward into the next stage or into the post-degree future. All reflective sections offer students the opportunity to think critically on their assessment goals and knowledge, with questions such as “what assessment skills/knowledge have you developed since starting at Newcastle/since your previous years of study?” and “thinking back, how do you feel about the goals you set at the start of the year? (What progress have you made? Have your goals changed at all?)”. By having open-ended questions that require detailed answers, students can reflect on their educational assessment journey and feed this forward. A link is embedded into the last section of the planner to encourage students to create a new planner for the next year of study, if applicable.

Think back looking forward
Time to pause

We see the “My Assessment Planner” potentially being used as an active tool that students could work through with their Peer Mentor and discuss with their Personal Tutors. This is because when validating the planner with students it was suggested that they would find this most useful if they had the opportunity to review the completed planner with peers or staff.

“I would want this to be a resource facilitated in partnership with staff”- Student, HaSS

The overarching aim of the planner is to provide more cohesion across assessments to enable students to better understand the links between stages and their overall programme.

Try out the Assessment Planner

We have two versions of the assessment planner available for download. These are “packaged” versions of the workbook – simply download them and click to open them in OneNote.

If you have any questions about the ‘My Assessment Planner’ please get in contact with Levi Croom (HaSS Faculty Student Experience Administrator) Levi.Croom@newcastle.ac.uk

See our earlier blog post to view the Sprint Showcase Recording and find out more about our second “Minimum Viable Product” – Programme Assessment Journey Map.

Visualising programme level assessment

As part of our Assessment and Feedback Sprint Series. A small team of students and colleagues have been investigating the question: 

How do we articulate a meaningful programme experience that ensures a cohesive assessment journey for all of our students?

Feedback (Stage Surveys, NSS etc.,) tells us that students and colleagues struggle to see assessments from a programme perspective and this disconnection can lead students to feel like assessment isn’t part of a wider programme and that their skills/feedback don’t link across modules and assessments.  

Being able to visualise the assessment journey across a stage or programme is important because, as one colleague said,

“An assessment journey builds confidence in the education (and the education provider) and underscores the importance of each individual assessment towards an overarching goal. Articulation of assessment journeys allows for broader reflection and helps explain the skill development (rather than focussing on siloed, module specific content).”

An overview of some of the visuals we found from within Newcastle University and other HE Institutions are shown below. In summary, we found a range of approaches, often highlighting the ‘journey’ through the stage or programme, making it easier for students to reflect on progress. 

What have we created?

Using these findings, we created some template visuals which were then validated by colleagues and students along with feedback incorporated from our first showcase.

We decided to create a variety of templates to reflect diverse practices/skillsets across programmes and areas. Some are more suitable for Semester-based programmes and others for block-taught programmes. 

You can explore these yourself:

We started by looking at a standard linear stage one programme – V400 BA Archaeology. We initially had a large amount of text on the visual explaining each assessment and how it aligned to the wider programme learning objectives. However, it quickly began to look overwhelming.

We then started to explore using H5P as a way to keep the visual relatively simple but incorporate pop up boxes to make it more interactive and engaging. The version below has dummy text – click on the questionmarks to see how it would work.

We also considered how to visually represent a block-taught postgraduate programme and incorporated feedback from a Degree Programme Director (DPD) to represent larger-weighted modules with bigger circles. The DPD said this would be a useful tool for both staff and students including at recruitment and Induction events. 

The intention is that these editable templates will be useful for both students and programme teams to visualise assessment across a programme or stage. The visual could be produced as part of a workshop reviewing programme level assessment or could be a standalone tool designed to be student-facing. 

Find out more about our Sprint

We presented our Sprint adventures at the Sprint Showcase event on Friday 10 March, and you can watch the recording here:

To find out more about the Assessment and Feedback Sprint Programme contact Conny.Zelic@ncl.ac.uk in the Strategic Projects and Change Team.

New Inspera training offered

Inspera Assessment (the university system for centrally supported digital exams) is supported by the Learning and Teaching Development Service with a range of training options open to all staff. We now have a new training session aimed at Professional Service colleagues due to run on March 9 from 3-4pm. You can sign up via Elements.

This session will introduce the digital exam platform Inspera, and how to support an Inspera digital exam.

  • Introduction to Inspera
  • Creating an account
  • Reviewing crated questions and question sets
  • Basic functionality including randomisation and question choice options
  • Allow listing and adding resources
  • Checking the student view
  • Entering or amending question marks
  • Inspera Scan sheets

Who should attend?

This webinar is suitable for any professional services colleague supporting an Inspera digital exam.

New functionality for Inspera digital exams: question choice and marking rubrics

Inspera assessment is the University’s system for centrally supported digital exams. Inspera can be used for automatically marked exam questions, for manually marked question types including essays, or for exams with a combination of both.

New functionality has recently been launched that enables colleagues to do more with digital written exams.

Question choice for students

Candidate selected questions is used to give students taking your exam a choice of which questions to answer from a list.

For example in an exam where students need to answer 2 essay questions from a list of 6 questions, you can set this up so that a student can choose a maximum of 2 questions to answer.

How does it work for a student?

If candidate selected questions is used in an Inspera exam the student sees information above each question that shows how many questions to select in total, and how many they have already selected. To choose a question to answer they change the ‘Answering this question?’ drop down box to yes.

Screenshot showing student view of Inspera, with the option to choose whether to answer a question. Below the question title is some text which reads 'Answering this question? 0 of 2 questions selected.' There is a drop down box at the right of the text with the options 'Yes', 'No', 'Undecided' available to select.
Screenshot showing student view of Inspera, with the option to choose whether to answer a question.

If a student starts answering a question without changing the ‘Answering this question?’ drop down box, Inspera automatically changes it to ‘Yes’.

When they have selected the maximum number of questions, the student cannot start answering any more questions. However, if they change their mind about which question(s) they want to answer, they can simply change the ‘Answering this question?’ drop down to no, and select a different question instead.

How does it work for a marker?

A marker only sees answers to the questions that a student has chosen to answer.

As students can only submit answers for the maximum number of questions they are allowed to choose, this means you can say goodbye to the dilemma of trying to work out which questions to mark when a student has misread the instructions and answered too many questions!

How can I use it in my exam?

The Candidate selected questions function is available when you are authoring a question set for an Inspera digital exam. Find out more in the Inspera guide for Candidate selected questions.

Rubrics for marking

You can now create a rubric to use for marking any manually marked question type in Inspera. Rubrics allow you to build the assessment criteria for an exam question into Inspera, and use them in your marking.

Choose whether you want to use a quantitative rubric to calculate the mark for a question, or a qualitative rubric as an evaluation and feedback tool, and then manually assign the mark.

How to introduce a rubric for your exam

  1. When you are creating the exam question in Inspera, set up the rubric you want to use for marking that question. The Inspera guide to rubrics for question authors explains how to create a rubric and add it to your exam question.
  2. After the exam has taken place, use the rubric to mark the students’ answers.
  3. If you’ve chosen to use one of the quantitative rubric types, as you complete it the student’s mark for the question will automatically be calculated. If you’ve chosen a qualitative rubric, once you’ve completed the rubric use it to evaluate the student’s answer and help you decide on their mark for the question.
  4. You can choose to add feedback to the candidate in the box below the level of performance you’ve selected for each criterion (you can see an example of this in the image below).
Screenshot of the Grader view of a sample points-range rubric in Inspera.
Screenshot of the Grader view of a sample points-range rubric in Inspera

Want to learn more about using Inspera for digital exams?

Come along to a webinar to learn about creating exam questions or marking in Inspera.

Enroll onto the Inspera Guidance course in Canvas to learn about Inspera functionality at your own pace.

Find out about the process to prepare an Inspera digital exam, and how the Digital Assessment Service can help on the Inspera webpage.

Contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk if you have questions or would like to discuss how you could use Inspera for a digital exam on your module.

Three Rivers Conference 2023: Innovations in Learning Tuesday 27 June 2023

Logo for the Three Rivers Conference, Innovations in Learning

** Deadline Extended to 4 March to Join a Working Group **

This online partnership event is an excellent opportunity for the region’s 5 universities (Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland, Teesside) to come together and share ideas. This year’s event will focus on Innovations in Learning.  The keynote speaker for the conference is Prof Chris Headleand, NTF.

The conference/call for abstracts is open to colleagues and students from the 5 universities.

Get involved

1. Submit an abstract. The call for abstracts is now open, closing on 2 May 2023.
2. If you have a special interest in Student Retention or Doctoral Training join a working group by 4 March. These cross-university working groups will meet online in the lead up to the conference and present and host sessions on the day.  

3. Save the date, and register to attend.

Find out More

For more information visit the Three Rivers website.

The Vice Chancellor’s Education Excellence Awards

The Vice-Chancellor’s Education Excellence Awards aim to raise the status of education at Newcastle University by rewarding individuals and teams who make a marked impact on the student educational experience.

The deadline for submission of applications is 12.00pm Wednesday 19 April 2023.

Categories and eligibility for award

The award is open to all members of staff at Newcastle, NUIS and NUMed, whose work enhances the student educational experience. In addition, applications are welcome from staff of associated employers with direct and substantive involvement in the delivery of the student experience at Newcastle (e.g. staff of INTO Newcastle University). Groups of colleagues who work closely together are invited to apply for the team award. 

Up to five awards will be made across the following two categories:

Category one: Individual award 

  • Individual members of staff (academic or professional) whose contribution to education at Newcastle is exceptional.

Category two: Team award

  • Teams of staff (either academic or professional services staff, or teams consisting of both) whose contribution to education at Newcastle is exceptional.

Documentation to support your application Documentation and guidance notes are available on the Learning and Teaching @ Newcastle website. Please contact ltds@ncl.ac.uk  if you have any questions.

AdvanceHE symposium 2023: Students as Co-creators: the emerging role of students as co-creators of their learning experience

Are you interested in student co-creation but unsure of the benefits, how to get involved or where to start?

Group of people

If so, you might be interested in reading my review of the recent AdvanceHE symposium on Student Co-creation, which includes highlights from the event, variations and benefits of student co-creation, scholarship and the student’s voice.

The day was packed with insightful, exciting and innovative talks from international colleagues and students across the HE Sector. There was such an exciting buzz in the air all day and you couldn’t help but admire the enthusiasm from students passionate about working with educators and developing agency in their own learning experiences.   

Keynote Speaker: Catherine Bovill, University of Edinburgh

The day began with Catherine talking passionately about ‘The transformational potential of co-creation from a classroom perspective both in person and online. She spoke of the many variations of student co-creation, highlighting some of her own research and scholarship along the way. Catherine shared a Co-creation of learning & teaching typology (Bovill 2019) which identifies how you might initiate co-creation, within what context and whether those sorts of activities are staff-led, student-led or both – some included in the table below:

Image of table of learning & teaching typology from Catherine's slides
Paper available from A co-creation of learning and teaching typology: What kind of co-creation are you planning or doing? (Bovill 2019)

Interestingly, this research mainly focused on students co-creating when they are already part of a programme or module – with activities such as co-creating assessments, designing essay questions or working with students to co-design what might be taught in coming weeks.

From the research undertaken by Catherine, and other scholars she mentioned, there are clearly a lot of benefits of student co-creation for students and staff, some of which I’ve noted below:

  • Increased student engagement and motivation for learning
  • Increased meta-cognitive awareness, sense of identity and belonging  
  • Enhancements in teaching and classroom experience
  • Enhanced academic performance
  • Transformation in assessment performance and less focus on grades and more on learning
  • Enhanced feelings of belonging, feeling valued
  • More culturally responsive and inclusive
  • Liberating for teachers
  • Increased confidence through relationship building and trust

For me that last point on relationship building and developing trust are the key ingredients to any form of curriculum co-creation, whether that’s student-staff co-creation or staff-staff co-creation, both require positive relationships but also build positive relationships – which then leads to all those other benefits above!

Bovill, C. (2020) Co-creating learning and teaching: towards relational teaching in higher education. St Albans: Critical Publishing.Bovill, C. (2019)

A co-creation of learning and teaching typology: what kind of co-creation are you planning or doing? International Journal for Students as Partners3 (2) 91-98: https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v3i2.3953

Student Co-creation at Newcastle

As my role focuses on working with specific programme teams to redesign or design new curricula, I was interested in finding out how colleagues across the sector have engaged students in new programme design – a particular challenge when students aren’t already invested in the programme. I managed to catch Catherine during a coffee break to chat about this and was comforted that this isn’t just a challenge for us, it’s a sector-wide challenge. From our chat I’ve identified some approaches that we could use at Newcastle:

  • Extend Staff Student Committees (SSCs) to include curriculum design conversations
  • Involve your Student Union in discussions
  • Organise staff, student and graduate panel discussions as part of the curriculum review process
  • Provide money incentives – involve students from the outset through schemes such as Jobs on Campus
  • Provide other incentives – if the budget doesn’t stretch to Jobs on Campus, would a Digital Badge incentivise students to get involved? There is robust meta-data behind these badges that employers recognise as authentic
  • Gain recognition – Student co-creators often meet the criteria for Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA)

What I realised from this symposium, and from being around all these enthusiastic students, is students are eager to get involved in shaping their own education. Student co-creation in any variation can have positive benefits not just for the students and educators but for the University as a whole.

Excitingly, we also had representation for Newcastle University at the AdvanceHE symposium. Helen Elliott, our Student Experience Manager and Meg Hardiman a second-year student in English Literature with Creative Writing, presented their work on  ‘Why Can’t Module Choice be More like Netflix?’

Image of Helen Elliott and Meg Hardiman presenting at the AdvanceHE symposium

Their work focused on finding out what information students need to make a confident choice during module selection. A student co-creation project that used Agile Methodologies.  

Here at Newcastle, we have some great examples of student co-creation:

Working in partnership: tackling sustainability challenges with a student-led virtual event

Co-design Sprint: An approach to engage students in the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Students as partners in learning

In LTDS we are working on developing support and guidance on student co-creation and would love to include some of your case studies, so if you have examples do get in touch ltds@ncl.ac.uk  

Parallel sessions – what stood out!

There were of course many other motivating and interesting sessions at the Student Co-creation symposium. I was particularly inspired by the student co-creation examples from The University of Manchester, and the University of Dundee.

Dr Nicholas Weise (Senior Lecturer / Teaching & Learning Enhancement Lead –Department of Chemistry) shared their approach to co-creating the curriculum with Commuter students (a student group that has lower rates of progression and success than other student groups) so that they feel less isolated, feel seen and heard and are able to engage in more social and networking opportunities. Through a flipped teaching environment students were given the opportunity to co-design active learning sessions and have a voice in designing aspects of the curriculum, such as learning outcomes, lecture content, and formative and summative assessments. What really caught my attention was how they rewarded and recognised student contributions.  The University of Manchester has set up a programme, the Leadership in Education Awards Programme (LEAP) for all students (UG, PGT and PGR) and is supporting students, involved in co-designing curriculum, to gain recognition as Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA).  

Dr James Brooks (Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering and the Academic Lead for Pedagogy within Science and Engineering) at Manchester University talked about student involvement in co-designing a course from scratch with student partners. The extent of the involvement in the co-design had real positive impacts on the students, their experience and their grades. James’ students gave summaries of past material in the lectures, live constructive criticism of the lecture, and formal and informal peer feedback on assessments. They co-designed the marking criteria in the lectures, specified the grade descriptors in the lectures and created learning materials to evidence their learning – some really great examples of engaging students in their own learning experiences and assessments!

Dr Paul Campbell (Physics Division, University of Dundee) perhaps won the award for the most innovative and fun example of student co-creation (there wasn’t actually an award for that but he’d of won, I’m sure 😊). Inspired some time ago by The Apprentice, students on a Physic module are tasked with working in groups (typically of 5 or 6 students) to:

  • Develop a 4/5 minute YouTube video that ‘informs, educates and entertains’* on one aspect of this module.
  • Exercise represents 10% of the overall module score.
  • Hard deadline set at the last scheduled class slot of that 11 week academic term.
  • Marking scheme provided [including a peer assessment component].
  • Students then take complete creative control.  

Students really got creative with these videos and had lots of fun, and the benefits were clear, including:

  • Improved Subject Attainment.
  • Enhanced Student Experience.
  • Enhanced employability (URL link to CV).
  • Cultivation of true team working and identification of distinct employment roles.

There are also a lot of benefits for educators:

  • Improved attainment.
  • Inexpensive in terms of facilitation of kit and time investment.
  • Fabulous recruitment tool.
  • Facilitates true insight to both academic and character traits that serve towards generating accurate job references with demonstrable excellence.
  • Also serves towards the development of rapport and enhanced confidence in the senior phase

Take look at one of the videos on Youtube and see what you think!

Thanks for taking the time and reading my blog post on student co-creation. Please get in touch if you are interested in chatting about student co-creation or in sharing your practice!

Michelle Barr, Learning Design & Curriculum Development Advisor (LTDS)

Students evaluate using Inspera for 21/22 Digital Exams

Inspera Assessment, the University’s system for centrally supported digital exams, launched for the 21/22 academic year. A key part of understanding how we better use digital exams is to consider ways to improve the student experience of taking a digital exam. Following the launch, the Learning and Teaching Development Service (LTDS) asked for student feedback from those who took a digital exam in 21/22.

142 students submitted their feedback.

Here are our findings:

65% of students were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experience of taking their exam using Inspera.

A pie chart titled ‘How satisfied are you with the experience of taking your exam(s) using Inspera?’ depicts that students reflected their experience(s) as:
1. Very dissatisfied 11%.
2. Somewhat dissatisfied 14%.
3. Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 10%.
4. Somewhat satisfied 30%.  
5. Very satisfied 35%.
Results of the Inspera Student Evaluation

How easy is Inspera to use?

81% of students found starting their Inspera exam somewhat or very easy.

80% of students found handing in/submitting their Inspera exam somewhat or very easy.

When asked to compare a written exam paper and an Inspera paper which included written questions where students could type their answers, 63% of students stated they found it somewhat or much better using Inspera.

Is Inspera better for Take Home or on Campus PC cluster exams?

85% of students were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experience of using Inspera for their take home exam(s).

73% of students were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall experience of using Inspera for their PC Cluster exam(s).

Thoughts for the future

Inspera seems to be a hit with students overall; the experience of using it is largely positive, with Inspera Take Home papers gaining the highest satisfaction scores. PC Cluster Inspera exam satisfaction scores showed the majority of students were satisfied with their overall experience. Feedback clearly indicated many students felt re-editing written answers works well in Inspera (and is better than trying to edit paper based written exams).

The most common concern raised was around plagiarism. LTDS is keen to work with colleagues to alleviate student concerns and ensure that the provision is developed and supported going forward.

LTDS opened its provision for digital exams to all modules, and the number of planned digital exams for 22/23 has increased.

To better support students before their exam, the LTDS recommend students practise with Inspera. Our survey showed 60% of students tried at least one demo before their main exam; we’d like to get that figure up! Practice exams can help with learning to use the tool and they are accessible via Canvas.

Try it out:

Student Inspera Demo Course

University Education Development Fund

Group of students chatting

The University Education Development Fund provides grants of up to £10,000 to support the development of new approaches to learning and teaching across Newcastle University.

Two strands of funding are available: 

  • Up to £2,500 for projects focused within an individual academic unit through the Responsive strand. 
  • Up to £10,000 for projects with collaboration across academic units through the Strategic strand. 

Chaired by the PVC Education, the fund offers a fantastic opportunity to propose and deliver projects with real benefit to student education. Applications should further the aims and key themes of the Education Strategy.

Application deadlines for 2022-23:

  • Friday 5 May 2023

Full information and guidance notes available online.  For queries please contact educationdevfund@newcastle.ac.uk.  

2023 National Teaching Fellowship and Collaborative Awards for Teaching Excellence Scheme: Internal application process now open

We are pleased to announce the launch of the University process to determine our nominees for the 2023 National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) and Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) Scheme.

​The NTF Scheme is a highly prestigious award celebrating excellent practice and outstanding achievement in learning and teaching in higher education. The awards support professional development in learning and teaching and provide a national focus for institutional teaching and learning excellence schemes. The CATE awards celebrate collaborative work that has had a demonstrable impact on teaching and learning.

In previous years, Newcastle University has had 16 NTFs awarded and three CATE award winning teams. Read more from previous year’s National Teaching Fellows and CATE award winners.

Nominations are welcomed from all members of staff who feel their/their team’s work has a major, positive impact on student teaching and learning. Staff and teams who would like to be considered need to submit a maximum of 1000 words which address the following criteria:

  • Your personal practice/Your team’s practice and why this should be recognised as outstanding
  • Your/your team’s impact on colleagues, both internally and externally
  • Your reflection on the above.

Nominations should be sent electronically to ltds@ncl.ac.uk by 12pm on Friday 11 November 2022.

Find out more
Full information is available on the Learning and Teaching @ Newcastle website. You can also sign up to a webinar for more information and the opportunity to ask questions about the scheme. For any questions, please get in touch with ltds@newcastle.ac.uk.