Clifford Beevers and Jane Paterson
In a recent survey the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) Generic Centre asked all subject centres to articulate the three most important issues on assessment in their subject. The LTSN Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research Network at the University of Birmingham responded as follows:
1. Issues in computer-aided assessment, which include reliability, robustness and ease of use. It should also apply to both formative and summative assessment in the forms of diagnostic, continuous and formal testing. There are at least two special issues for mathematics, which are applicable to other numerate disciplines such as science and engineering:
- display and input of mathematical expressions; for example, with powers and fractions that typically display over several lines; and
- equivalently right answers; for example, in mathematical terms x+y is the same as y+x and this would cause some difficulty if standard character matching techniques were employed as the only method for comparing answers.
2. The need to match appropriate assessment methods to learning outcomes for knowledge, basic skills, understanding and problem solving. Some outcomes may be tested within group-work or through independent learning.
3. Coursework and assignments make heavy demands on staff time with regard to submission, marking, monitoring and feedback. In Statistics and Operational Research, project work is very extensive and has special assessment issues including comparability between different types of project and linking project work to the remainder of the curriculum. Ways are sought of making these processes more cost-effective.