Negotiated Assessments: I’m a convert!!

Published by Becky Guest on

When I was introduced to the idea of negotiated assessments a couple of years ago, I have to confess that I was rather bemused by the idea. I couldn’t quite comprehend how you might avoid someone always choosing an essay, and therefore not developing other skills (that they might otherwise have to develop with a set mode of assessment).

However, at Programme level we decided to try negotiated assessments in one module at each level. In level 4, for example, we set the task but left the mode of assessment open (it was either a written piece or a presentation with a voice over). At level 5 the choice of mode was wider suggesting blogs, videos etc. At level 6, the choice of task AND the mode of assessment were all up for grabs.

  • Unleashing the untapped creative skills in your students

The module was Working with Families Facing Violence and Harm, taught in semester 2. This, therefore, was really one of the final pieces of work the students were going to complete, so we really wanted them to be able to showcase any other skills that they may have …and oh my days, did some of them do that!!. Yes we had students who played it safe with an essay (why wouldn’t they, at the end of the day degree classifications hung in the balance. I would have done the same in that position). However, this allowed students the opportunity to use creative skills that we hadn’t unleashed so far in their studies … and nor were we aware that they had.

We had student practitioners creating resources that they could use in practice, digital monologues, presentations with voice overs. But the real pièce de résistance was a book of poetry and artwork.  When the student asked if she could use poetry, I didn’t want to say no because that defeated the point of a “negotiated” assessment, but I was worried about how it was going to meet the module learning opportunities against which students are assessed and fuflfil the 3000 word count. Clearly this student had far more creative ways of getting her messages across. We were totally blown away by the results. Just to ensure that we (first and second marker) weren’t getting carried away by the fact that there was something different to an essay or presentation, we asked the internal moderator to ensure that this assessment was part of the moderated sample, which also meant that in turn it went to the External Examiner for comment. They even went so far as to suggest that the student should seek to publish their book.

Credit: Christine Mutshipay WCYPF graduate 2022.

Credit: Christine Mutshipay WCYPF graduate 2022.

At the same time, I was having tutorials with students who were struggling to get their ideas down on paper in required written format. But when I say to them “talk me through your ideas” they could discuss fluidly what they wanted to say. The barrier was the blank page in front of them, and I could see how this was discriminating against students for whom writing was not a strength for whatever reason. These students then had further hurdles to jump through to seek Reasonable Adjustments to the assessments, but why were we making them do that? Why not be more inclusive from the outset? After all I was far more interested in whether or not they understood and could critically apply theories into real-world practice. The outcome? Taking modules through the MAP process to change the mode of assessment to “negotiated” to better meet the learning needs of each student, and be less discriminatory.

I am now really looking forward to seeing how creative and imaginative students can be in this academic year – the bar has been set!

Author: Dr. Claire Monk

Senior Lecturer – Working with Children, Young People and Families.



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