Assessing key skills


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  • This session was organised for academic staff. The aim of the session was to enable staff to embed key skills in teaching and assessment, according to the principle of constructive alignment (Biggs 2007). Session participants worked on the basis of their own courses and disciplines. They considered how key skills could be integrated into curricula. The inclusion of a range of key skills in learning outcomes, teaching and learning activities and assessment is an effective way of promoting student development in its broadest sense.
  • Session learning outcomes are included partly to illustrate how learning outcomes are best formulated. They show how learners can demonstrate their learning by the selection of observable active verbs which can then be used to guide the choice of learning activities and assessment tasks.
  • The aim of this slide is to underline the fact that a skill is the ability to do something. ‘Key Skills’ refer to generic skills that underlie academic work, employability, and life skills. They are a prerequisite for success.
  • One of the reasons we teach is to enable students to achieve graduate level employment when they leave university. With increasing student fees, students certainly expect to be able to secure worthwhile employment. HESA tracks the destination of graduates and these are available for viewing by university, so prospective students can see which universities best prepare their students for work.
  • This slide illustrates the centrality of key skills.
  • This slide shows the importance that the QAA places on the development of key skills at universities. The benchmark for a Bachelors ’ Degree stipulates that holders must have developed these skills.
  • Universities now place high value on the all-round development of their students to equip them for life in a global society.
  • The key skills grid details a range of skills under each heading.
  • There are many ways of developing key skills through learning activities. Student-centred learning tasks foster students ’ all-round development by requiring them to engage with problems and solve them by working with others.
  • Constructive Alignment This slide illustrates how students prioritise the learning necessary for assessment. Their aim is naturally to gain a qualification. Teachers, on the other hand, consider objectives to be most important and sometimes plan their assessment tasks in a way which is not strongly connected to their objectives. For instance, teachers may want students to develop analytical skills, but the forms of assessment they choose does not give students the opportunity to demonstrate their analytical ability. As students are assessment driven, they are unlikely to spend much effort developing analytical skills if they aren ’ t assessed. If teachers want students to develop skills, they must therefore formulate learning outcomes, learning activities and assessment tasks that all include the desired skills.
  • Universities emphasise the need to assess skills as well as knowledge and understanding. In fact, it is impossible to assess any knowledge without the use of skills to demonstrate that knowledge. Assessment must be either written, spoken, or practical. Preparation for the demonstration of the knowledge which has been acquired should be integrated into courses. It is not fair on students to expect them to be able to give a good oral presentation, for instance, without any indication of what is considered high quality. Students will also need the opportunity to practise to achieve the necessary skills to communicate their knowledge.
  • Slides 13 to 16 are included to demonstrate how one course has integrated the development of skills into curricula. Ben Thomsen has kindly given permission for their inclusion.
  • This slide underlines the basic elements of consistency in course design, learning activities and assessment tasks. Assessment criteria should also be given to students early on in a course, preferably with examples of the type of work which is required. Learners will then understand what is required.
  • Session participants worked on their own assessment tasks, designing them to integrate key skills. For examples of the kinds of tasks you might want to include, see Epstein.
  • Assessing key skills

    1. 1. Assessing Key Skills Short Course This document is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales license, available at
    2. 2. Learning Outcomes <ul><li>On completion of the course, participants are expected to be able to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Describe how key skills can be integrated into teaching, learning and assessment on their courses. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design assessment tasks for key skills. </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. What are key skills? <ul><li>An ability to do something </li></ul><ul><li>Underlie a wide range of activities </li></ul>
    4. 4. Why develop key skills? <ul><li>Employability </li></ul><ul><li>To improve academic work </li></ul><ul><li>To develop students as people </li></ul>
    5. 5. Employability <ul><li>Why are we teaching? </li></ul><ul><li>What do students expect? </li></ul><ul><li>Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA): Destination of Leavers </li></ul>
    6. 6. To improve academic work <ul><li>“ UCL's Learning and Teaching Strategy … is designed to ensure that students … acquire (in an explicit sense) …subject-specific and key skills and gain experience which will equip them either for further study or for entry to employment.” (UCL’s Assessment Strategy) </li></ul>
    7. 7. To improve academic work <ul><li>Descriptor for a Bachelors degree: </li></ul><ul><li>“ holders will have: the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring: </li></ul><ul><li>- the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility decision-making in complex and unpredictable contexts </li></ul><ul><li>- the learning ability needed to undertake appropriate further training of a professional or equivalent nature. ” (Quality Assurance Agency, QAA) </li></ul>
    8. 8. To develop students as people <ul><li>UCL aims to develop ‘global citizens’ who are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Critical and creative thinkers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ambitious – but also idealistic and committed to ethical behaviour </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Aware of the intellectual and social value of culture difference </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Entrepreneurs with the ability to innovate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Willing to assume leadership roles: in the family, the community and the workplace </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Highly employable and ready to embrace professional mobility. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(UCL Education for Global Citizenship) </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. The UCL Key Skills Grid <ul><li>Academic Skills </li></ul><ul><li>Self-management skills </li></ul><ul><li>Communication skills </li></ul><ul><li>Interpersonal skills </li></ul>
    10. 10. Integrating key skills into learning <ul><li>Problem-based </li></ul><ul><li>Project-based </li></ul><ul><li>Research-based </li></ul><ul><li>Enquiry-based </li></ul>
    11. 11. Constructive Alignment Teaching activities Learning activities Objectives Assessment Assessment Outcomes Teacher perspective: Student perspective: (Biggs, 2003, Teaching for Quality Learning at University, p. 141).
    12. 12. Constructive Alignment <ul><li>“ 3.1 The fundamental principles of UCL's assessment strategy are: </li></ul><ul><li>• to recognise and enhance students' learning, capabilities and skills… ” (UCL’s Assessment Strategy). </li></ul>
    13. 13. Introduction Case Study: Electrical Engineering
    14. 14. Case Study: Electromagnetic weight lifting <ul><li>Essentially an optimisation problem </li></ul><ul><li>Need to determine and apply theory to produce a mathematical model </li></ul><ul><li>Some parameters need to be determined experimentally </li></ul><ul><li>The optimum solution determined by the model is then constructed and tested </li></ul>A company hired a mechanical engineering design firm to produce battery powered electromagnetic lifting coupling to integrate into their remote controlled robotic crane. Unfortunately the magnet produced did not provide sufficient lifting force. At this stage in the design process of the robot it is too late to change the mechanical design or the battery type (either a 1.5V C or 9V. You have been contracted to redesign the coil of the electromagnet to maximise the lifting force. <ul><li>Constraints </li></ul><ul><li>Mechanical design </li></ul><ul><li>Two battery types </li></ul><ul><li>Goal </li></ul><ul><li>To lift the most weight </li></ul><ul><li>Validation </li></ul><ul><li>Weight lifting competition </li></ul>
    15. 15. Scenario Project Model Checkpoints Case Study: Scenario Project Model Concept & organisational approval? Design approval? Specification Met?
    16. 16. Case Study: Feedback and Assessment <ul><li>Feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Regular facilitation sessions </li></ul><ul><li>Reports are submitted and marked online in moodle, feedback and comments provided by using ‘ comment ’ in word and a marking pro forma </li></ul><ul><li>Post scenario debrief session </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Formative </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Checkpoints </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Competitions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Summative </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Group Presentations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Individual technical reports </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Traditional reports </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Critical Assessments of other teams solutions </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Group technical report </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>User manual </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Due diligence document </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Individual Narratives </li></ul></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Assessing Key Skills <ul><li>Learning and assessing: the skating metaphor </li></ul><ul><li>If you want to learn to skate, you start skating. Your teacher gives you skating tasks to improve your skating. You practise them. </li></ul><ul><li>If you want to assess someone ’ s skating you give them a skating task and watch them skating. </li></ul><ul><li>In a formal setting, you grade their skating according to a set of assessment criteria . </li></ul>
    18. 18. Building on the skating metaphor: a scenario <ul><li>Students will be doing oral presentations for part of the summative assessment on a course </li></ul><ul><li>To prepare, they need to practise oral assessment tasks and get feedback on their skills </li></ul><ul><li>They need to develop their presentation skills so they can fulfil the assessment criteria for the summative assessment task </li></ul>
    19. 19. Over to you… <ul><li>Consider which key skills are or can be integrated into your module. (See key skills grid) </li></ul><ul><li>Plan teaching and learning activities and assessment (formative and summative), which promote the development of the selected key skills. See assessment tasks in Epstein, </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    20. 20. References <ul><li>J. Biggs. 2003. Teaching for Quality Learning at University . (Maidenhead: The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press). </li></ul><ul><li>Epstein, R.M., (2007) New England Journal of Medicine. ‘ Assessment in Medical Education. 356:4 </li></ul><ul><li>QAA. 2008 “The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.” </li></ul><ul><li>Thomsen, B. 2009. ‘Design, Implementation and evaluation of a Scenario Based Learning trial in Electronic and Electrical Engineering.’ Presentation provided by the author: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>UCL ’s Assessment Strategy. </li></ul><ul><li>UCL ’s Education for Global Citizenship. http:// / </li></ul><ul><li>UCL Key Skills. http:// </li></ul>