Celebrating July’s assessment event | The Open College of the Arts
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Celebrating July’s assessment event

This is a note from the OCA assessment team to mark, and share, what we feel has been a phenomenal and triumphant assessment event under extraordinary circumstances. 

First of all we want to thank all OCA students for hanging in there, in these strange and stressful times, with tolerance and kindness to others. And, we want to shout out to our fantastic tutors, our amazing programme leaders and wonderful colleagues ‘in the office’ for somehow – we know how – through hard work, resilience, tenacity, adaptability and expertise, we have come through an assessment event that involved a new approach to formally evaluating work, and which saw an unprecedented amount of students being assessed. 

‘Assessment for learning’ was a project in the pipeline, which became urgent and real under lockdown conditions. Quite simply put, and as you know, ‘Assessment for Learning’, is an approach to summative assessment, which puts students at the heart of the process, enabling discernment and agency. Whilst it doesn’t mean digital only assessment of work, it did on this occasion, due to the restrictions of the pandemic, when we could no longer meet physically, and see and touch the materiality of the work. We would like to thank you for being professional and understanding about this. 

In July, the OCA assessed 277 units belonging to 258 students. This makes July assessment the single largest assessment event in OCA history, with the previous July events (over the last 3 years) having between 198 – 208 units submitted. Also to note, we were simultaneously managing the additional assessment of BA (Hons) Drawing and BA (Hons) Painting students who were unable to be assessed in March due to the national lockdown – that was a further 39 submissions, in addition to those who had applied for the July 2020 event. These students had endless patience whilst we found a solution to them submitting digitally, and their work was securely held at OCA Head Office, inaccessible to them for some time before we could send it back. 

As you can see the July event was incredibly popular amongst the student body, perhaps this was due to its digital nature, or simply a response to pandemic conditions. Nonetheless, assessing this amount of work did put tutors and staff under extra pressure and we cannot thank you enough for your commitment to students, and excellence in maintaining standards in learning and teaching.

Feedback from students, gathered through a questionnaire about the event, has been very supportive. 123 students completed this form, of which 75% felt the process was a fair reflection of their course work, and the majority found selecting work based on learning outcomes and producing a reflective presentation was useful. Over half of students would like to continue with digital only assessment and most others would like a blend of digital and physical elements, which is something we can look into in future. There were some issues identified. For example, around how we communicate what needs to be submitted, and we have used this feedback to create revised guidance notes. 

It was a real pleasure to be part of the July assessment exam board, which convened on Friday 11 September. The external examiners in attendance were extremely complimentary about ‘Assessment for Learning’, some even asked us to share our ‘Assessment for Learning’ documentation with their own institutions! They praised us on the clarity of the information contained within the documentation, the ‘Assessment for Learning’ approach, and noted the hard work involved in bringing the new process into fruition. 

A huge well done to those 4 students who received first class degrees, those 4 students who received second class degrees, and those 27 students who graduated with thirds, ordinary degrees, DipHE’s and CertHE’s. You have all done incredibly well to achieve your higher education qualifications. We are proud of every single one of you. 

Looking back, we have achieved a great deal, in a short timeframe. Reconfiguring July’s assessment was an important task and we have all played a role in shaping and implementing ‘Assessment for Learning’, successfully. Let’s all take pride in that.

The Open College of the Arts Assessment Team


Image: Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi from Pexels

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Posted by author: Moira Lovell
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