Designing Flexible and Authentic Assessments | Formative Assessment | Inclusive Assessment | Exams

Designing Flexible and Authentic Assessments

Flexible assessment is a sustainable and inclusive approach to assessment that seamlessly integrates with a blended model of learning and teaching. This approach is responsive and relevant to the needs and circumstances of individual students and the curriculum. The approach involves some element of control and choice within the assessment process on part of the student, and encourages the use of a range of technologies and tools. Flexible assessment aligns with competency-based learning and incorporates authenticity into the assessment process.

The University of Teesside has published a set of principles for designing flexible and authentic assessment at course and module level. These principles ensure that:

  • assessment processes are inclusive and equitable for all students
  • assessment processes and tasks are learner-focussed and authentic
  • assessment and feedback processes are transparent, relevant, and enable meaningful action.

As an example of developing a more authentic assessment, Deborah Fitzgerald Moore has produced a case study on the process she used to change assessment from an exam to course work for level 6 students (PDF version, audio version).

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Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is an important method and opportunity for students to obtain feedback that helps reveal their existing understanding and where they need to spend additional time in developing their knowledge. Additionally formative assessment offers a way for lecturers and tutors to monitor their students’ understanding and abilities, and identify common areas of misunderstanding that can be addressed prior to a summative assessment.

The distinction between formative and summative assessment is that formative focuses on fostering learning while the purpose of summative is to measure learning.

Formative assessment can take many forms and work at different scales, including:

A guide to formative assessment is available from the Assessment Essentials guidance site.

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Inclusive Assessment

As with teaching, ensuring that assessments are inclusive is important. In the past, making an assessment inclusive tended to follow an accommodation approach where the requirements of specific students were met by, for example, giving them extra time in exams, making assessment materials in alternative formats, etc. However, a more equitable approach, and one that is more efficient for lecturers, is to design the assessments to inclusiveness from the outset, rather than making these individual adjustments for students during delivery of the course. This approach maintains academic standards while improving the chances for all students to demonstrate their ability to meet the learning outcomes.

The specific adjustments that can be made to the assessment design will depend the learning outcomes being assessed, but examples of how this approach to inclusivity could be facilitated include:

  • offering students the choice to submit in a range of formats, e.g. a written essay, a video presentation, or a live presentation;
  • incorporating any ‘extra time’ provision into the standard assessment duration for all students;
  • providing formative assessments that assist students in developing required academic skills for summative assessments; and,
  • ensuring that assessment briefs and criteria are clear and accessible in themselves.

Further information on Inclusive Assessment is available.

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The default approach for 2021/22 remains that exams will be set online using Blackboard unless there are Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) requirements which require adjustment to this.

A case study from Sue McPherson outlines the change of assessment from a traditional closed exam to a mid-semester take home examination paper ( PDF version, audio version)

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