Assessment Policy: What’s on the Horizon? with Matt Brett
JUN, 2019
Assessment Policy
Reimagining Education
By Matt Brett the Director of Academic Governance and Standards in the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Education.
Clark Kerr in The Uses of the University quipped that the university can be understood as “a mechanism held together by administrative rules and powered by money”. Some of the most important administrative rules in the University policy library relate to assessment, and these policies are currently under review. This review, and others like it, gives us a chance to show that good policy can embody values and culture rather than merely facilitate the type of cynical adherence to administrative processes referred to by Kerr.

As a relative newcomer to Deakin I’ve been struck by the contradiction between a pervasive innovative approach to assessment that embodies a dynamic and collegiate culture, and the dry procedural tone of assessment related (and many other academic) policies.

In the emerging complex higher education context clear and purposeful policy is essential. Professor Jane den Hollander made a point of singling out strong academic governance as a key factor in Deakin’s success in her farewell tour of the University. TEQSA cited robust quality assurance in its decision to extend Deakin’s registration for the full seven years without conditions.

This is a tremendous achievement given we operate at the digital frontier – confronting issues for which there is no clear precedent – reimagining what higher education can be along the way. 

Deakin is not prone to set and forget in its policy and practice. Whilst it may be tempting to maintain the course and core architecture of our academic policies – we should at the very least ask ourselves whether our academic policies are fit for purpose for the current and emerging context.

“…we should at the very least ask ourselves whether our academic policies are fit for purpose for the current and emerging context…”

The capping of the Commonwealth Grant Scheme and performance based funding, for example, suggests we’ll have to improve performance for domestic undergraduates, make ourselves more competitive in postgraduate education, and grow our international partnerships. Our policies define us, and can both enable and constrain efforts to adjust our practice to these challenges.

I believe there is scope to better align our practice and culture with our policy. I am sure that most would prefer our policy to better reflect our dynamic and innovative nature, rather than have our culture take on dry procedural hues.

To this end I encourage you to interrogate the purposes and substance of our assessment procedure, and whether its stated purpose adequately represents our culture and ethos:

Purpose: This Procedure governs assessment in undergraduate and postgraduate award courses other than higher degree by research theses.

A working group led by Pro-Vice Chancellor Teaching and Learning Marcus O’Donnell has been convened to review assessment policies and chart a longer-term strategy. I believe we can achieve much with a little, and seek feedback on whether the following statement of purpose better reflects who we are and where we want to go:

Purpose: This Procedure provides guidance in design, administration and evaluation of assessment consistent with an outstanding education of the highest standard.

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