Policy and practical tips on collecting and using exemplars to enhance student assessment literacy.

What are exemplars?

Exemplars are carefully chosen examples of student work which are used to illustrate dimensions of quality and to clarify assessment expectations (Carless & Chan 2017).

They are not model answers. Rather, they are used to helps students develop their ability to identify and understand different aspects of quality and associated expectations for an assessment and the relevant marking criteria.

Ideally exemplars should be authentic examples of student work. Where this is not possible instructor created exemplars can be used.

Where possible exemplars should align to or match the specific assessment. It should also be made clear (e.g. by annotation or provision of feedback) how the exemplars map against the marking criteria.

Please note: When using students’ work, the student author’s consent must be obtained prior to the use of the assessment as an exemplar. When sourcing students’ work the form linked below must be used and a completed copy must be stored.

Consent form for student work to be used in teaching and learning activities (Box login).

Why use exemplars?

Unless students have a conception of what good work looks like and, importantly, why it is ‘good’, it is difficult for them to produce quality assignments. Exemplars, particularly when provided in conjunction with clear marking criteria and opportunities to discuss how such criteria are applied, can help build student confidence and develop their assessment and feedback literacy.

How to use exemplars in teaching

Providing exemplars via your module site in Canvas, ideally from the start of term, is a valuable first step.

You can make exemplars work harder by making space in your teaching to guide students in analysing and discussing exemplars, alongside the task description and marking criteria. This can be done during class, and/or asynchronously.

For example, you might ask students, working alone or (better still) in groups to:

  • apply marking criteria to an exemplar to decide on a grade band and draft some feedback (such as identifying two or three positives and areas for improvement)
  • as above but with two or three exemplars across a range of grade bands
  • match feedback, which should be aligned to the marking criteria, to exemplars.

Once they’ve completed one of the above, or similar, ask students to mark a sample of their own work and identify areas for improvement.

References and further reading

Handley, K., & Williams, L. (2011). From copying to learning: Using exemplars to engage students with assessment criteria and feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(1), 95-108

Carless, D., and Chan, K. K. H. (2017). Managing dialogic use of exemplars. Assess. Eval. High. Educ. 42, 930–941. doi: 10.1080/02602938.2016.1211246

To, J., & Carless, D. (2016). Making productive use of exemplars: Peer discussion and teacher guidance for positive transfer of strategies. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 40(6), 746-764.

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