Fostering significant learning and academic integrity through non-standard assessment formats

Matthias Dilling

Dr Matthias Dilling, Department of Politics, Philosophy, and IR

This post shares my experiences in seeking to foster significant learning and academic integrity through non-standard assessment formats in my Parliamentary Studies module. Parliamentary Studies is an optional final-year module available on various BA programs at Swansea’s Department of Politics, Philosophy, and International Relations (PPIR). Being taught in cooperation with the UK Parliament’s Education Team, the module combines guest speaker talks and a field trip to Westminster with an emphasis on active learning and small-group activities.

As part of conversations within PPIR around the value of non-standard assessment formats, I introduced the following changes to the module’s assessments when becoming convenor in 2022. Previously, the module was assessed through a take-home exam (50%) and a draft submission to a House of Commons select committee inquiry (50%). I reduced the latter’s weighting and replaced the take-home exam with a draft Wikipedia article and a recorded presentation (table below).


Assessment format % of module mark Learning outcomes Deadline


Coursework 1:

Draft Wikipedia article


25% 1, 2 27 October

(Th, Wk. 4)

Coursework 2:

Draft submission to a House of Commons select committee inquiry

45% 2, 3, 4, 5 08 December

(Th, Wk., 10)



Coursework 3:

Recorded presentation

30% 3, 4, 5 18 January 2023


  • For the Wikipedia article, students could choose between creating a new article of approx. 1,250 words and expanding an existing article by the same length. Students were free to choose their topic as long as it related to the module content of the first three weeks and met Wikipedia’s article criteria.[1] Rather than making online edits on Wikipedia, students were asked to submit their draft via Turnitin.
  • The second assignment provided students with an opportunity to practice researching and writing for Parliament by drafting a written evidence submission to a House of Commons select committee inquiry (approx. 2,250 words).[2] Students were free to choose an inquiry from the list of inquiries that accepted submissions at that time and had a closing date after the assignment’s submission deadline as long as they adhered to Parliament’s guidance for written evidence submissions.[3]
  • Politics in and around the UK Parliament has generated numerous questions and debates about some of the most important challenges and opportunities of our time. In the final assessment, students were asked to select ONE question among a list of such questions and prepare a 10-minute recorded presentation proposing and defending their answer.[4]

I wanted to make these changes for several reasons. 1) The move from two to three pieces of coursework aimed to move toward a more continuous approach to assessment in order to identify and address bottlenecks early (Middendorf and Pace, 2004: 4-5), enhance in-course feedback to support student learning (Molloy and Boud, 2013), and assess the learning outcomes at lower levels of Bloom’s revised taxonomy before moving toward more sophisticated tasks (Anderson et al., 2001). 2) The Wikipedia assessment built on a platform students tended to be deeply familiar with to facilitate reflection on core assessment criteria that are relevant for many assignments beyond this particular module. By engaging students with the platform’s criteria for new articles, this assessment aimed to introduce students to notions of originality/novelty, relevance, referencing, and research rigor that are relevant for many types of coursework at a stage where such assessments tend to become particularly prominent and impactful for their final classification (e.g. dissertation). It thus aimed to enhance students’ understanding of assessment criteria and empower them in the self-assessment of their work. 3) By providing the option to (support students in revising their work in order to) publish their article on Wikipedia and/or submit their report to their chosen select committee inquiry, I wanted to facilitate a sense of ownership and agency over their assignments and support significant learning by making students reflect on their work’s societal contributions (Fink, 2013). 4) The recorded presentation aimed to capture the learning outcomes previously assessed through an exam while empowering students in enhancing their employability by producing output that evidences communication and IT skills often sought after by employers. 5) The recorded presentation also aimed to enhance inclusivity by providing a non-written asynchronous assessment and thereby further recognizing special learning requirements such as dyslexia.

The new assessment format resulted in concrete benefits.

1) The move from two to three modules reduced the pressure on individual assessments and facilitated assessment-to-assessment learning. At the end of the feedback for each assignment, I included 1-2 specific action points that I particularly encouraged students to consider when working on the next assignment. Conversations during office hours and assessing students’ subsequent work have suggested that this helped create opportunities for students to reflect on feedback and make adjustments to their work process.

2) By dissecting how and for which sentences authors on Wikipedia included references, this assignment proved highly effective in sharpening students’ engagement with academic integrity. I was amazed by the great care students took in properly referencing their sources and the critical reflection some students articulated with regard to what constitutes a suitable source.

3) The new assessments were also useful in fostering an understanding of academic work as contributing to knowledge. Especially the Wikipedia article and the select committee inquiry submission required students to reflect on why and how their work would contribute to and expand on what we already knew about a topic. For the Wikipedia article, they needed to reflect on why their topic would meet Wikipedia’s originality and relevance criteria if they chose to write a new article or visualize (e.g. through track-changes) where and how they contributed to an already existing article. For the select committee submission, students were required to maintain a clear focus on the objectives of the inquiry and reflect on why and how their selected material constituted suitable evidence to respond to these objectives.

4) The use of the recorded presentation also proved effective in building confidence in students who, by their own sharing, had found presentations very challenging in the past. Arguably, this format was also useful as a self-assessment tool since talking through one’s own argument is often an effective technique to evaluate its focus and consistency, and all presentations, while differing in the depth of their analysis and use of evidence, maintained a clear focus and were coherent in their argument throughout.

5) The new assessment types were also highly popular. Student feedback has often highlighted that students appreciate assessment types that do not have the standard essay- or exam-format. The newly introduced assessment formats were praised by students throughout the module and, from correspondence, seemed to attract students to the module in the first place. All this plausibly contributed to very positive attainments. Almost 90 percent of students achieved a 2.1 mark. No student failed. At the same time, an average mark of 63 with a standard deviation of 6.6 suggests the new assessment formats did not result in the often-discussed grade inflation. The module achieved a satisfaction score of 4.9/5.0.

What take-aways can be derived from this experience? Traditional assessment forms certainly have their place in higher education, but this experience has reminded me of the value of “mixing things up” at times. The new assessment formats facilitated conversations in the classroom that highlighted that assessments are not box-ticking exercises. They can be used to produce something that is valuable – for us in higher education as well as for the world more broadly.



Anderson, L.W., D.R. Krathwohl, P.W. Airasian, K.A. Cruikshank, R.E. Mayer, P.R. Pintrich, J. Raths & M.C. Wittrock (2001) A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.

Fink, L. D. (2013): Creating Significant Learning Experiences. An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Middendorf, J. & D. Pace (2004) “Decoding the Disciplines. A Model for Helping Students Learn Disciplinary Ways of Thinking.” New Directions for Teaching & Learning 98(Summer): 1-12.

Molloy, E. & D. Boud (2013) “Changing Conceptions of Feedback.” In Feedback in Higher and Professional Education. Understanding it and Doing it Well, eds. D. Boud & E. Molloy. London: Routledge, 11-33.




[1] I provided scaffolding on how to select a topic by discussing Wikipedia’s criteria for new articles and sharing the list of “stub”-class and “start”-class articles. Students were required to confirm their selected topic with me by the end of Week 2. I also provided guidance on how to respond if a new article on their selected topic was published before students submitted their assignment.

[2] I owe this assessment format to a previous convenor of the module.

[3] I provided scaffolding on how to approach this work via the module guide, in-class discussions, and office hours.

[4] Throughout the semester, we built a toolkit that students could use when approaching analytical questions in the study of the UK Parliament. We repeatedly put this toolkit to work in various class activities. Further support included a Q&A in Week 11 and technical guidance on how to create and submit their recording.

Facilitating Students’ Development of Assessment and Feedback Skills Through Critical Engagement with Generative Artificial Intelligence

Originator: Dr Michael Waring (University of Leeds); Professor Carol Evans (Griffith University)

Shaking hands with AI

An exploration of how, by adopting a principled approach, generative artificial intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT and other large language model based chatbots can be used to support students’ development of assessment and feedback skills.

Access this ResearchGate article here.

Jisc – Assessment ideas for an AI enabled world

Originator: Jisc – via Sue Attewell (Head of AI and codesign)

Jisc AI top Trump cards

Jisc have recently published the following assessment cards, based on Lydia Arnolds Top Trumps. The work was led by Dr Isobel Bowditch, UCL, and the focus is aimed at Assessment development that enabled students to develop foundational knowledge, skills and attributes that will help them thrive in an AI enabled world (with or without AI assistance).

Open in slideshow mode for full functionality. There are 6 categories and over 40 modes.

View the cards here.

Generative AI in Assessment

Originators: Dr Nigel Francis – Cardiff University; Professor David Smith – Sheffield Hallam

Artificial intelligence

Originally written as an internal advice document for the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University, its authors thought it would be helpful to share these ideas more widely in case they are useful for other institutions or departments. This is very much a living document, as new tools and capabilities will, inevitably, cause further changes to assessment design.

Please feel free to share and adapt the document for your individual circumstances if helpful. If you have any feedback or suggestions for improvements, then the authors would be happy to receive these and incorporate them into future versions of this document.

While it is approached through a bioscience perspective, it is hoped that many of the approaches will have cross-disciplinary applications.

View this document here.

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

Originator: Dr Wendy Harris – FSE – School of Biosciences, Geography and Physics


Producing a Preliminary Ecological Proposal for a specified site. The final output will be a written report, but many discipline specific practical skills will need to be demonstrated in its production.
Sampling, species and habitat identification, critical assesssing, knowledge of relevant legislation and practical ecological techniques etc

This is an activity that would be directly relevant to working in the field.

Read full assessment brief here.

HIH3327 Observing Britain: Everyday Life in the Mid 20th Century – Creative Project UnEssay

Originator: Professor Martin Johnes – FHSS – School of Culture & Communication

Creative project

Students were able to choose between a creative project or a traditional essay.

It ran for the first time in 2020-21 and around half the module choose the project. The projects included lesson plans/resources for schools, podcasts, videos, a poem, a one-man play, an illustrated children’s book, and a website for teenagers.

For more information, see here.

ALE250 – Accessible summaries

Originator: Dr Cornelia Tschichold – FHSS – School of Culture & Communication

Working something out

Assessment is broken inot 4 sections. Weekly quizzes, a group video presentation (formative),an accessible (lay) summary and an exam.

For the accessible summary, students choose a research paper (from a list) for their presentation and summary. They receive formative feedback on the group presentation and then write their individual summaries of this paper.

For more details, see here.

DAD275 – Creative Non-Fiction Blog + Reflective Commentary

Originator: Dr Alexia Bowler – FHSS – School of Culture & Communication; Dr Adele Jones -FHSS – DACE

City walking

Students write an original piece of creative non-fiction in the form of a blog of approximately 1,500 words. The blog should be accompanied by a 500-word piece of reflective writing which considers the techniques, ideas, research, sources etc., that have influenced the writing and the experience you’ve talked about in the creative non-fiction piece submitted.

The blog will take the form of a response to a dérive the students will have taken in any city space.

The blog piece can include photographs, scanned images, video/voice recordings, as appropriate.

For full details, see here.

To view the marking grid for the assignment, click here.