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Learning and Teaching

2. Setting

These details usually take the form of an assignment brief, which includes information about precise topics, deadlines, learning outcomes to be assessed, marking criteria and arrangements for feedback.

This part of the life-cycle is about achieving clarity about assessment for students and staff.

Assignment Brief Design & Communication

This part of the life-cycle focuses on developing academic communication skills to produce assignment briefs which enhance the student experience of assessment.

Fiona Gilbert and Garry Maguire (Oxford Brookes University) have created an 'Assignment Brief Communication CPD Resource' which will be extremely useful to anyone producing assignment briefs (Gilbert, F., and Maguire, G., (2014) 'Assignment Brief Communication CPD resource'.

In this resource, Gilbert and Maguire explain that the core objective of an assignment brief is to maximize the likelihood that students will do what is required and expected in assessment. They provide guidelines to support staff to produce assignment briefs which effectively communicate the task's requirements and expectations. This will, they argue, enhance students' performance in assessment and, ultimately, their overall learning experience.

Gilbert and Maguire explain that their 'guidelines are intended for staff developers, programme teams, those responsible for quality enhancement, and for individual members of staff. They are not intended to be read through in a linear fashion but rather, used as a tool during the process of developing an assessment task and its written instructions. They can be used by individuals when designing a new task or fine-tuning an existing task, by staff developers when designing assessment-related activities as part of Continuing Professional Development programmes, or by institutions for quality enhancement purposes.'

They continue:

'The guidelines are grouped into three sections, each of which is organized into sub-sections. At the core are those relating to the assignment task itself and those features of the brief that contribute to the effective communication of this task. The five sub-sections A-E are ordered to reflect the likely order of thought processes a staff member or team might go through when designing an assignment task and then writing the instructions for this task.'

Find out more about: Gilbert and Maguire's Assignment Brief Design Project and Access the Resources

Approval of Assessment Titles

This is also an important part of the 'Setting' stage. Points to bear in mind:

1. Module Directors are responsible for the initial setting of the assessment titles/tasks (as detailed in the validated module description document), consulting with other tutors involved in the module delivery as appropriate.

2. A collegial process will be established at local level (programme, subject or school) for tutors to approve assessment titles/tasks and the student-facing assignment briefs. A record of the process of approval will be kept for internal and external scrutiny.

3. All assessment titles/tasks, including timed examination papers, for modules contributing to an award are to be sent to the external examiner(s) for their consideration prior to final approval. It is expected that external examiner(s) will ‘comment on the suitability of the form, content and marking schemes of assessments contributing to overall module marks for all modules contributing to the determination of an award of the University’ (Roles and Responsibilities of External Examiners, page 15).

4. The timing of such meetings and engagement with external examiners will enable the communication to students of information on assessed coursework in a timely manner – that is at the start of the module - through the module handbook/summary on Moodle.

5. At the beginning of each semester a schedule for assessment and moderation (including agreed dates for returning marks and feedback to students) should be agreed at programme level including the identification of double markers for each module or assignment task.


Module Leader

  • Has the EE been consulted regarding the assessment tasks?
  • Is an assignment brief provided for students?
  • Will the assignment brief be discussed in class?
  • Where will students find the assignment brief?
  • Are you confident that students will clearly understand what is expected of them?

Head of Programme

  • Do all assignments have a corresponding assignment brief?
  • Is the location of assignment briefs consistent for all modules?

Assessment Lifecycle by Academic Development Directorate is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work at Manchester Metropolitan University Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, some of which was developed as part of the JISC-supported TRAFFIC project.