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Programme Focussed Assessment


Most of our taught programmes at Newcastle University are modular, they are comprised of modules which are assessed as individual units. The modular system brings advantages of flexibility and efficiency, but it can lead to a compartmentalised approach to learning where students struggle to see the connections between their learning across modules.

To avoid these pitfalls, we recommend adopting a ‘programme focussed approach’ in which assessments in individual modules have a clear relationship to programme level outcomes and are considered part of the overall student journey.  A programme focussed approach involves the programme team working together to adjust and adapt modular assessments. In doing so, a programme focussed approach can help prioritise and support student learning, reduce assessment burden and make assessments more inclusive. As a programme team you should also want to consider our University Framework for Assessment Design as this provides some key principles, including those related to programme focussed assessment. A few of these are summarised below.

Evaluating assessment from a programme perspective

Key Principles:

  1. Assessments at module level contribute to programme level learning outcomes. 
  2. The linkage between assessment tasks across the stage and programme are clear to students. 
  3. The assessment mix supports student skill development – assessments are authentic, relevant and diverse.  
  4. The assessment workload for students is manageable over each stage.  
  5. Assessments are spaced so that students have opportunities to act on feedback.   
  6. The programme team negotiate shared feedback practices.  

How to review assessments on your programme

We recommend a five-stage process:


  1. Student Experience: find out more from your students about how they experience assessment on your programme.
  2. Audit: identify every assessment required in the core modules (A starting point could be BW report from MOFS)
  3. Map assessments: against programme learning outcomes over time.
  4. Evaluate: Use the prompts from the principles above to evaluate the assessments from a programme perspective.
  5. Re-design: change assessments at modular level to ensure an effective programme approach.

Communicating a programme view of assessment

The maps and audits you construct during your review can be used to create student friendly documents and diagrams communicating the programme assessment journey.
You could:

  • Present a list of assessments for each stage with a brief narrative
  • Create an assessment or programme journey map

See our blog post on Visualising Programme Level Assessment for examples.