Assessment is an important part of your work in Drama at the University of Manchester. It’s a way of testing yourself and working out what you have (and have not) grasped in a module and it’s a way to work out your enthusiasm for specific aspects of the subject. It’s also, of course, a way to communicate that understanding and enthusiasm to the staff who have taught the subjects that you’re covering. Because we are operating in a formal system of education those staff will deliver a judgement on how effectively you have communicated that learning and enthusiasm and they will make comments on your work as well as awarding a grade to the work that you submit.
In Drama we are guided in how we assess your work by the School of Arts Languages and Cultures (SALC). Our school defines assessment as ‘the process of forming a judgement about a student’s attainment of knowledge, understanding or skills’. Assessment is guided by Educational Principles which govern how much assessment we should set, when it should take place and how to give constructive feedback. We also follow an ethical approach which emphasises fairness in setting and marking assessment tasks, following clear protocols and setting clear instructions and making sure that students understand the feedback they’re getting and how best to act on it.
You’ll come across lots of different ways to assess your work while at university and in Drama we mostly use essays, exams, presentations and performances. These are obviously all very different modes of assessment and they will need different ways to judge their success. As staff we are guided by what are called Grade Descriptors which offer suggestions for appropriate standards and ensure that we mark fairly and objectively. You can see these on all written work when you get feedback through Blackboard and they may be included in the Handbook for that course. The Grade Descriptors generally look for evidence that you have structured your work effectively, that you have a level of knowledge and understanding of the subject, that you can use sources and that you are communicating clearly. We also assess through practice and we are guided here too by sets of descriptions of different levels of practical work. These focus on preparation and on carrying out a number of practical tasks.
This academic year staff will be working with new grade descriptors and will be using a slightly different system of marking. Most students in their 2nd and 3rd years will not notice much difference. We’ll be using what’s called ‘step marking’ which bunches marks into the top middle and bottom of each grade band. So, work in the 2:1 band, for example, will be marked as ‘Good to very Good’ with 62 (low), 65 (middle) and 68 (high). So not exactly world-shatteringly different! Where students might start to see some effect of the new system is in the First Class category where work is classed as, Exceptional (92, 95 and 100), Outstanding (82, 85, 88) and Excellent (72, 75 and 78).
If you have any questions at all about any aspect of assessment please have a chat with your Academic Advisor. You can (and should!) discuss assessment with the member of staff who is teaching you or who is running the part of the module that you’re working on. Any student can also talk to Alison Jeffers (Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org) about assessment at any point in the year because she has overall responsibility for assessment in Drama.
We look forward to working with you over 2017/18 on all aspects of your work!