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  6.  — Student choice and student partnerships in assessment

Student choice and student partnerships in assessment

Give students choices and involve them as partners in the design of their assessment for a more personal and engaging experience.

Why give students a choice?

Providing students with a degree of choice in their assessment tasks promotes engagement, a sense of belonging, and makes assessment personal, authentic and more inclusive, which may reduce stress. Because students are engaged in tasks that are personally relevant, there may be less incentive for academic misconduct.

Even better, by allowing students to contribute to the development of their own assessment criteria, choose to work individually or in groups, or design and teach a module in a course, they can be empowered as co-designers or partners in their learning and assessment.

Choice and scalability

Accessible and equitable opportunities and student-centric learning are key principles at the heart of Taumata Teitei. Providing options for students to choose from in assessment tasks not only complies with university aspirations to be student-centred, but can also help with inclusive assessment.

Allowing for some elements of choice in assessment design need not mean increased marking workload. Choice can be about context, media, personal experience, work-related reflection, or many other aspects specific to the individual – where feasible, students should be given the autonomy to negotiate a topic or format relevant to their needs.

Choice in practice

Small steps

Give students a range of essay topics to choose from.


Reflect on a critical incident in your teaching practice. How did you respond? How might you have responded better?


Consider occasions when a potential ‘teachable moment’ arose. How might you have made use of this moment in your teaching?

Allow students to choose the media they use to portray their values/opinions on a topic.

Create a metaphor that illustrates your organisation’s present and future potential for innovative change. Be inspiring, this can be a drawing or an artefact, a sculpture, craftwork, photograph, or a piece of music. Write a reflection on this metaphor.

Provide a range of optional sources/databanks on which to base their assignment.

Refer to three of the newspapers listed for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Compare and contrast their treatments, highlighting any differences you identify in political viewpoints.

Allow students to locate their own sources of information and justify their selection.

As part of your journey with digital pedagogies, assess a range of educational blogs. Select three that you consider to be worth following and justify your selection of a single blog.

Present a series of scenarios for students to choose from and discuss how they would respond.


Scenario A – the parents presenting a child with herpes.


Scenario B – the father presenting a toddler with distended stomach.


Describe the actions you would take. What led you to these actions and what social and/or environmental influences might have contributed to the situation?

Give students options to transform knowledge from one form to another, for example transferring text to diagrams, to posters, to presentations or constructions (suggestion from Gavin Brown, University of Auckland).

Make a visual resource to illustrate the arguments for and against the practice of streaming classes in schools. This could be a brochure, poster, infographic, video, or storyboard. We will present our resources in class.


Student partnerships in assessment

In recent years, the idea of engaging students as partners in the design of their curriculum has been gaining ground. As part of this movement, a group of international researchers led by the UK HEA are focussing on students as partners in assessment (SPiA). This group have developed 5 principles for partnership in assessment and feedback in higher education:1

  1. Develop assessment and feedback dialogue. This involves a commitment to transparency, conversation, and ongoing dialogic interaction where students and educators work towards a shared understanding of assessment and feedback.
  2. Share responsibility for assessment and feedback. Students and educators need to set clear expectations and be open to negotiating students’ and educators’ roles in assessment and feedback, whilst acknowledging that this disrupts existing learner and teacher power dynamics and roles.
  3. Create an assessment and feedback environment that fosters trust. Through dialogue, foster positive student and educator relationships and integrity in the assessment and feedback process, supporting the building of trust.
  4. Nurture inclusive assessment and feedback processes. Adopt an assessment for learning approach that acknowledges students are knowledge holders/ creators able to showcase and highlight their learning and ways of knowing that reflect our culturally and linguistically diverse global world.
  5. Connect partnership in assessment and feedback with curriculum and pedagogy. Assessment and feedback act as a significant motivator for students. Partnership in assessment and feedback can be a powerful catalyst to enhance the assessment experiences of all students when embedded through co-created learning and teaching processes in the curriculum.

Key to this approach is opening and maintaining dialogue with students about assessment and feedback. There are also clearly links here to the relational learning strand of signature pedagogies.

Related resources

The Advance HE global community have created a set of tools to support the development of student partnership in assessment (SPiA) including questions to help identify your readiness for SPiA, some ‘enablers’ to start from, and a Participation matrix to plot progress.

Student partnerships in assessment (SPiA)

Other resources

Relational learning

Student choice (Rethinking Assessment)

Page added 22/02/2023 (minor edit)

  1. Bovill, Catherine, Kelly E. Matthews, and Tim Hinchcliffe. Student Partnerships in Assessment (SPiA) HEA. London, United Kingdom: AdvanceHE, 2021.
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