The Green Paper outlines the challenges we must address to ensure The University of Queensland (UQ) continues to be a destination for the world’s best and brightest students. It also includes proposed strategies that encompass all areas of the student experience from curriculum delivery to campus design and student support.

Peter Høj

Outstanding students, staff and alumni, cross-sectoral partners, imaginative teaching, and supporters in government, industry and philanthropy, have all combined to position The University of Queensland in the top echelons of the world’s universities.

UQ graduates become national and international leaders and contribute to solving some of society’s greatest challenges. They are sought-after employees, valued for their ability to think on their feet, work in cross-cultural settings, and identify opportunities for innovation often overlooked by others. This is in no small part a reflection of the tireless efforts by UQ staff to provide high-quality learning opportunities through student-focused, researchbased teaching. It also reflects the emphasis in the UQ Strategic Plan on student success and the development of ‘must-have’ graduate employees as the first of UQ’s six foundations for the future.

We have already taken a number of steps to welcome students to UQ, enhance online systems and services, develop employability strategies and produce world class online learning materials, and are looking at strategies to free up resources to be re-directed to the academic purpose. There are also many examples of effective, future-oriented practices in student learning across UQ from which we can learn. However, there is a clear view that the University should do more.

Drawing on the perspectives of students, staff and alumni, several data sources have informed this Student Strategy Green Paper, which intends to open a discussion across UQ and its stakeholders on UQ’s distinctive student experience. Following the synthesis of feedback on this Green Paper, a White Paper will be released in early 2016. The next steps will prioritise goals and assess resource implications. In turn, the student strategy will inform UQ’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, thereby setting an ambitious, five-year enhancement process that will include all UQ coursework students, staff, and stakeholders and enrich the career and life prospects of graduates. I hope you will engage actively with this process.

Peter Høj

9. Effective assessment and feedback for enhanced learning outcomes

Students report that assessment and feedback are the least satisfying features of higher education, yet assessment is one of the most significant influences on students’ experience of higher education.[77] Students need to develop the capacity to make judgements about both their own work and that of others to become effective continuing learners and practitioners. However, the over-reliance on summative assessment to provide feedback to students at the end of the course fails to enhance learning or provide a satisfying student experience.[78]

Results from the 2014 Australian Graduate Survey and University Experience Survey show a clear need for improving the efficacy of feedback processes that guide and inform students’ learning at UQ. For instance, UQ graduates report that they would like to see staff make a better effort to understand difficulties they might be having with their work, take the time to comment on their work and provide helpful feedback on their progress and development. This view is echoed by University Experience Survey 2014 results and Student Evaluation of Course and Teacher results that show current students would like to see teachers provide more comment on their work in ways that help their learning with feedback on course progress.

Increasingly, students expect educational institutions to set authentic assessment tasks.[79]  Sadler advises that ‘students need to be challenged with problems that develop, activate and coordinate the same cognitive processes and professional skills they will need as graduates’.[80] Contextually applicable assessment requires students to go beyond declarative knowledge and demonstrate their knowledge and skills through the performance of tasks in complex and rich contexts.[81] [82] Assessment is most powerful when tasks are seen as components of an assessment program[83] that systematically and comprehensively aligns with the courses’ and programs’ learning objectives and the University’s Graduate Attributes.

As UQ provides challenging assessment tasks and sets high academic standards, it is critical for the University to give effective formative feedback for students to manage their learning. Feedback needs to be reconceptualised ‘as a fundamental part of curriculum design, not an episodic mechanism delivered by teachers to learners’.[84]Carless et al.[85] studied excellent teachers and found sustainable and effective feedback practices emphasised the need for students to engage in dialogue about their work, reflection on the quality of their own work and planning their learning over time to understand the standards of quality performance and to enact them.  E-portfolios, as a purposeful and sustained collection of annotated student work, invite students’ reflective commentary and peer collaboration. 

E-assessment strategies and learning analytics can assist students to access immediate and continuous formative feedback on their progress. E-assessment enables flexibility ranging from where and when students engage with assessment activities (including feedback) and the mode of engagement enabling accessibility for a more diverse range of students in a broader range of contexts. For example, Ohio State University supports an online tool, Intelligent Agents, which allows instructors to monitor student activity in a course and facilitates student-instructor communication.[86] Projects have shown that large scale institutional change is possible with e-assessment and that it can deliver an enhanced experience for learners without compromising academic integrity.[87] From a resourcing perspective, it also assists in reducing staff workloads as a host of technological tools, including intelligent tutors, offer students personalized, immediate feedback and helps learners to self-evaluate.[88]

The New Media Consortium: 2015 Horizon Report notes the enormous potential for the emerging field of learning analytics, combined with e-assessment, to ‘build better pedagogies, empower students to take an active part in their learning, target at-risk student populations and assess factors affecting completion and student success’[89]from a personal and organizational perspective. Learning analytics can be optimised by implementing real-time assessment and feedback systems and processes that allow more detailed investigation of students’ specific strengths and weaknesses. Learning analytics, therefore, should play a core role in UQ’s assessment design.

Challenge 6:

How can we develop and resource assessment and feedback practices that support student learning and enhance the student experience?

Key strategies to consider

6.1 Create program-level assessment frameworks that stipulate meaningful, authentic tasks and that include quality and timely two-way feedback mechanisms that are supported by enabling technologies

6.2 Progress the development of UQ’s learning analytics capacity to afford students and staff ready access to assessment outcomes and provide support where required


[77] Boud, D., & Associates (2010). Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education. Sydney, Australia: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.

[78] National Union of Students (2015). Comprehensive guide to learning & teaching. A resource for students’ unions. London, UK: National Union of Students.

[79] Lombardi, M.M. (2008). Making the grade: The role of assessment in authentic learning. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, paper 1. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3019.pdf 

[80] Sadler, D.R. (2015). Three in-course assessment reforms to improve higher education learning outcomes.Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1-19. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2015.1064858

[81] Biggs, J. B. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

[82] Ashford-Rowe, K., Herrington, J., & Brown, C. (2014). Establishing the critical elements that determine authentic assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(2), 205-222.

[83] van der Vleuten, C.P., Schuwirth, L.W., Driessen, E.W., Dijkstra, J., Tigelaar, D., Baartman, L.K., & van Tartwijk, J. (2012). A model for programmatic assessment fit for purpose. Medical Teacher, 34(3), 205-214.

[84] Boud, D., & Molloy, E. (2013). Rethinking models of feedback for learning: The challenge of design. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(6), 698-712.

[85] Carless, D., Salter, D., Yang, M., & Lam, J. (2011). Developing sustainable feedback practices. Studies in Higher Education, 36(4), 395-407.

[86] Brokenshire, H. (2015, January 15). eLearning support resources: Activating Carmen Intelligent Agents. Retrieved from http://odee.osu.edu/news/1830

[87] Ferrell, G. (2013). Supporting assessment and feedback practice with technology: From tinkering to transformation. (Final synthesis report for the Jisc Assessment and Feedback programme by Dr Gill Ferrell). Retrieved from Jisc Repository website: http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/id/eprint/5450

[88] Lombardi, M.M. (2008). Making the grade: The role of assessment in authentic learning. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, paper 1. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3019.pdf 

[89] Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). New Media Consortium horizon report: 2015 higher education edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.