Assessment does matter: it matters to students whose awards are defined by the outcomes of the assessment process; it matters to those who employ the graduates of degree and diploma programmes; and it matters to those who do assessing. Ensuring that assessment is fair, accurate and comprehensive – and yet manageable for those doing it – is a major challenge. It is a challenge which has been grappled with by many, as several of these chapters have recorded but one which, however, often has to be tackled in relative isolation. Despite the fact that there is a considerable body of international research about assessment and related issues, we experiment largely in ignorance of the way others have effected positive change, and we have limited opportunity to learn from the lessons of others.
Attending conferences is one way of finding out how others are tackling the challenges of changing curricula and changing contexts and of sharing good practice. A number of the chapters in this book arose from a conference held in April 1996 on 'Innovations in Student Assessment'. Attending that conference were over one hundred academics, many of whom had experience of trying to innovate – some more successfully than others. Internationally, there are many conferences and seminars for higher education teachers to develop their thinking about assessment, including in the UK the Northumbria Assessment conference organized annually by the University of Northumbria at Newcastle and events organized by the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA), Higher Education for Capability (HEC), the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE), the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development (OCSLD) and the Open University. Events organized by the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australia (HERDSA) and in the USA, the conferences of the American Association of Higher Education Professors, the American Assessment in Higher Education (AAHE) conference and Alverno College seminars, perform similar functions of enabling academics to think carefully about assessment issues, as do the myriad of other national and international conferences which focus on evaluation of student performance.