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The quality of student assessment is one of the major concerns in Europe’s universities. Emmanuel Sylvestre from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland discusses the issues related to student assessment and the concrete actions his university takes to contribute to the improvement of assessment practices.

The question of student assessment is an integral part of quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area. Standard 1.3 of the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) on student-centered learning, teaching and assessment underlines the importance of implementing different actions and good practices to enhance the quality of student assessment.

In 2011, the University of Lausanne adopted General Regulations for Studies that provide a framework for implementing student evaluations. Moreover, in order to further develop the quality of student assessments, the University of Lausanne has included in its 2017-2022 strategic plan a specific goal to “promote the quality of assessment”. In order to achieve this goal, the Teaching & Learning Support Centre (CSE) of the University of Lausanne leads various actions such as providing teachers and pedagogical teams with resources, advice and trainings on student assessment. It also coordinates more institutional projects such as e-assessment and anonymisation of assessment.

In concrete terms, this means supporting teachers in the implementation of student evaluations whose assessment criteria are clearly explained to students, proposing innovative forms of assessment (e-assessment, integrative examinations, etc.), prevention of plagiarism, anonymising all assessments and providing teachers with feedback on the docimological analysis of their assessments (statistical analysis of the results on the test items, an analysis of the overall consistency of the test).

Like learning outcomes, the assessment criteria will allow students to better focus their learning on what is expected of them. However, it is not easy for teachers to define assessment criteria or to develop rubrics (a table including assessment criteria and expected performance levels). The CSE has made available a pedagogical resource that allows teachers to write rubrics independently. Training workshops are also offered to enable them to develop and use such tools.

E-assessment has become an institutional project, currently in progress, following various challenges encountered by teachers from different faculties. In particular, they want to be able to integrate video material into their exams, assess specific skills such as computer coding or propose multiple choice questions with automated correction. A working group involving various university partners (teachers, students, IT centres, CSE, pedagogical advisor, legal service, etc.) has been set up to produce a solution that meets teachers' expectations but also to integrate solutions to reduce biases related to the correction of exams such as copy mixing or partially automated correction.

In order to limit the many potential biases associated with the correction of exams, work has been put in place to make examination anonymous. Although this practice is common in many universities, it was only widespread in our medical school. As this is a significant cultural change for our institution, a consultation process was carried out to identify the most appropriate solutions that could be implemented without overburdening the administrative staff or the teachers.

A system for preventing plagiarism has been set up through the adoption of a directive describing the legal framework for dealing with cases of plagiarism; the provision of a self-learning space for students on the institution's learning management system to raise their awareness of the issue of plagiarism; and the opening of a training workshop for teachers to develop assessment methods that considerably reduce the risk of plagiarism.

A docimologist has been hired within the CSE to provide teachers with feedback on their examinations. Thus, teachers can benefit from a precise analysis of the examination results per question. This makes it possible to identify problematic questions or exercises, those that discriminate most against students (for example, a question can only be successful by the top 5% of students). This approach is proposed with the aim of reinforcing the pedagogical coherence of the courses: are the results obtained in line with what the teacher wanted to achieve? These analyses can also be carried out at the program level to identify the courses that make students succeed or fail in the curriculum, to identify the exams that could be grouped into an integrative assessment because they evaluate close learning. This allows the teaching teams to reflect on the selectivity of their curriculum but also to conduct a pedagogical reflection on the modalities and formats of assessment that can be proposed to students. 

The list of actions presented above is of course not exhaustive. Participation in the EUA Learning & Teaching Thematic Peer Group "Student assessment" makes it possible to consider several development paths such as the implementation of inclusive assessments within the framework of Universal Design principles or the development of sustainable assessment.


Emmanuel Sylvestre
University of Lausanne

Emmanuel Sylvestre is the Head of the Teaching & Learning Support Centre at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He also has a PhD in Education Sciences. He is a member of the 2019 EUA Learning & Teaching Thematic Peer Group on “Student assessment”.

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