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Project overview

Funded by the Higher Education Academy's National Teaching Fellowship Scheme project strand, this project ran between 1 October 2009 and 31 October 2012. It aimed to confront a fundamental issue for every HE course/programme leader: how to design an effective, efficient, inclusive and sustainable assessment strategy which delivers the key course/programme outcomes.

From 1 November 2012 to 31 July 2013, ASKe, Oxford Brookes conducted an independent evaluation of the impact of PASS workshops.

Since then, the project leads at the University of Bradford have continued to offer PASS workshops and take forward programme focused assessment.

Final report

Final report to the Higher Education Academy October 2012.

If you require this information in an alternative format, please contact our team. You can also read our Website Accessibility Statement.

Evaluation report

Independent evaluation report from ASKe CETL July 2013

If you require this information in an alternative format, please contact our team. You can also read our Website Accessibility Statement.

What we set out to do

Focusing on programme level assessment, the project sought to redress the current imbalance where assessment issues are primarily investigated and discussed at module/unit level by providing evidence-based guidance and exemplars/examples to help programme leaders develop and implement effective programme focused assessment strategies.

Our original plan was to have one year of development and investigation and two years of implementation. However, our first round of work packages found so little evidence of programme focused assessment that we had two years of development and investigation and one year plus of implementation. We were pleased that the Higher Education Academy granted a short extension to the project.


What we achieved

  • Guidance and case studies on programme assessment across a range of subject disciplines:
    Despite a slow start we gathered case studies reflecting most of our defined types and variants. Our original intention was to provide a series of "Choice & Consequence" guides; however, with so little evidence emerging, we combined this into one short guide. Further resources provided institutional perspectives relating to programme focused assessment. The project focused on case studies from the UK; however, a number of potentially interesting examples from overseas also emerged.
  • A tried and tested workshop format which programme teams can use to review/revise their assessment strategies:
    Chris Rust developed and piloted a workshop at the University of Bradford in March 2012. The workshop has since been delivered by members of the programme team to a further 12 HE institutions.
  • A tested methodology to evaluate the impact of programme assessment strategies:
    Drawing on Chris Rust's research, the Assessment Issues document produced in the first round of work packages provided a checklist for all of our other work, ie which issues did it address and how?

Project team

University of Bradford:

  • Prof Peter Hartley, (PASS Project Director) NTF, Professor of Education Development.
  • Ruth Whitfield, (PASS Project Manager), Learning Architect, Centre for Educational Development
  • Sean Walton, Lecturer in Higher Education practice, Centre for Educational Development

Northumbria University:

  • Prof Liz McDowell, NTF, Director of Assessment for Learning CETL.

Oxford Brookes University:

  • Prof Margaret Price, NTF, Director of ASKE CETL.
  • Chris Rust, Head of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development .

Leeds Metropolitan University:

  • Janice Priestley, Projects Manager, Centre for Learning & Teaching.

University of Exeter:

  • Sue Burkill, NTF, Head of Educational Enhancement;
  • Samantha Smith, Honorary Fellow, Leadership, Business School.

University of Plymouth:

  • Pauline Kneale, Director of Teaching & Learning/Pro Vice-Chancellor, Teaching and Learning.

Critical Friends

  • David Boud, University of Technology, Sydney
  • Marcia Mentkowski, Alverno College, USA
  • David Nicol, Strathclyde University.

Retired Members:

The following original members of the team have "retired" from the project. We thank them for their valuable input and wish them well for the future.

  • Haydn Blackey, (Critical Friend) University of Glamorgan;
  • Sally Brown, NTF, Vice-Chancellor, Leeds Metropolitan University;
  • Richard Canham, Project Administrato, PVC (ALT) Office, Leeds Metropolitan University;
  • Brian Chalkley, NTF and Senior Fellow of HEA, Director of Teaching & Learning, University of Plymouth;
  • Lynne Conniss, LT Adviser (Assessment), Learning & Teaching Support, Northumbria University;
  • John Dermo, Assessment Adviser, Centre for Educational Development, University of Bradford;
  • Steve Jones, Principal Lecturer, Tourism & Enternament Management, Leeds Met;
  • Mel Joyner, Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning), Faculty of Health;
  • Fiona Meddings, Project Manager for Bradford Assessment Project;
  • Prof Ruth Pickford, NTF, Reader in Assessment, Learning and Teaching, Leeds Metropolitan University;
  • Judith Waterfield, NTF, Head of Disability Services.

Marcia Mentkowski

It was with saddness that we heard of the death of Marcia Mentkowski on 27 January 2019. As a critical friend of the project, Marcia was always supportive of our work and offered constructive feedback for how we might enhance what we were doing. She contributed to our International Perspectives resource, and although it wasn't until after the project that we met face to face, it was a privilege to have Marcia join us remotely to give a presentation at our final conference.

Liz McDowell 

We were deeply saddened to hear of the death of our dear colleague Liz McDowell on 15 September 2018.

Renowned for her work with the Assessment for Learning CETL, Liz was a key member of the PASS project team who made a major contribution in shaping its success by producing our Short Guide to Programme Focused Assessment. Always generous with her knowledge, Liz was passionate that we should always consider assessment from the student perspective and we were grateful for her case study “How do students see programme level assessments?”  PASS has grown considerably over in recent years and it is especially sad that Liz will not see the long-term impact of some of her work. 

Liz will be missed by many colleagues across the sector whose lives are far richer for having known her and having drawn benefit from her wisdom.

PASS Conference

Assessment Strategies: The way forward - 24/25 July 2012

The PASS project hosted its end-of-project event from lunchtime Tuesday 24 July 2012 to lunchtime Wednesday 25 July 2012 at the Norcroft Conference Centre, University of Bradford.

The PASS team presented project outcomes and evidence which supports the contention that programme-focused assessment can alleviate or resolve many of the issues associated with conventional assessment and feedback practices across HE. Staff involved in the various PASS Case Studies summarised their work and the outcomes and impact. The event had an explicit 'forward-looking' theme by inviting other projects and initiatives to discuss and debate common issues and to further disseminate/publicise important developments.

Photo of the Norcroft Conference Centre, University of Bradford

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Registration and refreshments.
Welcome by Shirley Congdon, PVC Learning & Teaching, University of Bradford.
Introduction to the event and the PASS project/workshop - Prof Peter Hartley
PASS case studies part 1:

  1. Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter.
  2. Exeter College (Flybe), University of Exeter.
  3. Northumbria Design.
  4. Coventry Business School, Coventry University.

PASS case studies part 2:

  1. School of Information Systems, Computing & Mathematics & School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University.
  2. School of Pharmacy, University of Bradford.
  3. Big Dilemmas Project - University of Exeter. 
  4. PASS Emerging Issues - Discussion around the importance of institutional support, staff mindsets re curriculum structures, the importance of the course team (staff development strategy?), simplifying feedback to students.

Paper sessions featuring invited projects:

  1. TESTA: Three years on and going strong
    Yassein El-Hakim, Director of Learning & Teaching, The University of Winchester.
    The TESTA research project has, over three years, grown the application of an evidence-based process for programme-based enhancements to assessment and feedback. The essence of the methodology has revolved around three methods of data collection in presenting coherent, related and interesting case profiles for each programme back to the programme team. In disseminating the methodology widely and training others to carry out the process, the TESTA leaders were able to disseminate a process that has resulted in some significant changes within degree programmes in over 20 institutions worldwide and growing. The findings are to be discussed in relation to other theoretical perspectives, briefly.
  2. Learning about Masters Level Assessment: The Assimilate NTFS project
    Sally Brown, Emeritus Professor, Leeds Metropolitan University.
    The Assimilate team have been exploring innovative assessment at Masters level. Recognising that limited prior research had been undertaken in this area, the project was designed to review the range of assessment methods used to assess at this level, particularly exploring authentic assessment.
  3. Making Assessment Count (MAC), Current Progress and Future Plans
    Gunter Saunders, Director, Technology Enhanced Learning, University of Westminster.
    In this presentation the principles of the Making Assessment Count (MAC) framework and the role of e-Reflect in MAC will be outlined. In addition the ways in which different universities have adapted the MAC framework to suit their context will be explored. Upcoming changes and enhancements to the e-Reflect system will also be described and explained.
  4. Assessing Student Learning Outcomes
    Marcia Mentkowski, Alverno College.
    This presentation provides an overview of the Alverno approach, gives an example of mid-programme assessment and offers main insights from the Student Learning Initiative.