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Submitted by to the category English Composition on 06/16/2012 06:46 PM

Enhancing Assessment in the Biological Sciences

Ideas and resources for university educators

I

Key Issues

Issues influencing assessment practice in Australian universities

In discussions with university staff across Australia, several issues emerged as contemporary 'triggers' for creative approaches to enhancing assessment in the biological sciences. In the life sciences as elsewhere, the development and assessment of university students' generic skills is receiving considerable attention (Assessing generic skills). The central role of feedback in student learning is well recognised (Providing feedback), and several trends emerged including the increasing involvement of students in providing feedback to their peers, and opportunities to receive progressive feedback on assessment tasks. Large classes are a feature of many undergraduate programs in the biological sciences and while this leads to innovative approaches to assessment (Engaging large classes through assessment), it also presents challenges around the involvement of sessional staff (Involving sessional staff) and the coordination of teaching teams. University cohorts tend to be not only larger, but also more diverse (Enhancing assessment for diverse student groups) - diverse in terms of students' knowledge and interest in a subject area (Differing knowledge and interests), motivation for study (Student motivation), and in terms of language and learning background (International and NESB students). Determining and monitoring standards in higher education is a topic generating considerable discussion and debate (Setting and monitoring standards). Plagiarism has also become an issue of growing concern across universities in Australia and internationally (Addressing plagiarism issues). None of these issues is unique to the life sciences and therefore the assessment strategies described have application in many other disciplines. The strategies and approaches described here are cross-linked to related...

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