Vrije universiteit Amsterdam logo
Universiteit Groningen logo
Universiteit Leiden

Project Up-GradeProblem-Solving for Challenges of Assessment in the Humanities of Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

Mink Sieders
Johanne Jeung
Mara Albanese


Project Up-Grade aspired to initiate, if not further, encourage, a highly emotive and yet highly  essential conversation on assessment in the humanities. By assessment, we refer to the  [feedback] process leading up to (or sometimes limited to) the final grade, which should clarify if  the student succeeded or failed. Specifically, this project will address the dynamics of  Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. However, many of the results can also be generalized to other  universities in other countries, and even to disciplines beyond the humanities. However, we do  feel that the humanities (eg: Art History, Philosophy, Theology, etc.) face especial pedagogical  difficulties. We created this redesign over a series of two months, where we transformed our  personal frustrations—as three masters students, two of us being humanities—into a systematic  analysis, which cooperatively reflects and involves students, faculty members, and  administration members. We based our Problem Analysis on a series of surveys, in order to  provide a reflection of shared and actualized assessment procedure. We then provide an  intentional Minimal Viable Product design, which carries on conceptual frameworks from the  Problem Analysis. These frameworks extend into a Justification section with a literature review  and data analysis. We conclude with a toolkit of pedagogical techniques.

Problem Analysis


As students, it is not uncommon to feel frustrated by the process of receiving grades and being assessed. However, this frustration is not merely due to students projecting their self-worth into the academic system, but moreover due to a wider web of systematic challenges facing Academia. In humanities subjects, these frustrations and challenges with assessment are all the more pronounced, due to the increased dependence on subjectivity. As a team of students, with two of us being from humanities faculties at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, we hope to offer a research-based, inside perspective to assessment processes. 

To foreground, we importantly envision a distinction between grades and assessment. Grades should indeed help support the assessment process; but while grades serve as an end to an intellectual conversation—like a wall—, assessment should be a doorway to a grander intellectual journey! Broadly speaking then, assessment is the [feedback] process leading up to (or sometimes limited to) the final grade, which should clarify if the student succeeded or failed 

The following chart showcases the frustrations (ie: assessment problems on the individual level) and challenges (ie: assessment problems on the system level) for assessment which inspire this project going forward. 

With this conceptual base of what one can be concerned for in the humanities one must therefore inquire how we should be concerned for assessment in the humanities. There are three questions to consider when approaching assessment: (1) what do we assess (ie: what skills or knowledge is rewarded); (2) how do we assess (ie: how do we assure standards amidst more subjective disciplines); (3) why do we assess (what are assessments processes supposed to communicate amidst more subjective disciplines). These are, correspondingly, objective (ie: assessment should be standardized to some degree), inter-subjective (ie: assessment should be associative to some degree), and intra-subjective (ie: assessment should be meaningful to some degree) orientations. This means that assessment should encourage students to pursue mastery (ie: we should achieve), association (ie: we should cooperate or coordinate), and growth (ie: we should improve). 


When we can conceptualize assessment in the humanities as a matter of comparison with the rigor of the disciplinary field, with others in the discipline, and with our own self-growth in the field, these comparisons are a matter of social relationships. Students’ relationships with the discipline are a matter of the current [academic] workforce with the future [academic] workforce. But before this professional network, students first train and therefore develop proto-professional relationships with other students, which are then facilitated by faculty. But a base even before this post- or proto-professional comparison with others, is the student’s relationship to their own self-growth, including the selection of these professional pursuits. However, self-growth in Academia is a relationship that is greatly limited by institutionalized possibilities, whether to assure connection between courses or even beyond the classroom. Such possibilities are shared across various actors in local to international government. However, in the bounds of the university, administrators are the primary sculptors of these institutionalized possibilities of self-growth through assessment. Our stakeholders therefore are: (1) students; (2) faculty; and (3) administrators of the three humanities faculties. 


For our project, we collected survey input from these three stakeholders. As well, we reached out across all three humanities faculties of Rijksuniversiteit Groningen: Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies; Faculty of Arts; Faculty of Philosophy

[HC LL INTERNAL STATEMENT:] Despite numerous attempts to contact (eg: several email exchanges with several persons, in-person introductions, getting into the faculty newsletter, groupchat disseminations, u.s.w.), our team was unable to receive any survey input from anyone in the Faculty of Theology. This report will therefore center the status, efforts, and results of the Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculty of Arts. Disaggregated by faculty, we collected 49% from Philosophy, 41% from Arts, and 10% from non-humanities. 


Surveys were disseminated for a one-month period, primarily over email for administration and faculty and primarily over groupchat (both foreign and personal) for students. Each survey’s language was adjusted for each of the three categories of stakeholder. However, all contained the same base question and all were formulated as open and optional questions. Disaggregated by stakeholder category, we collected 75.5% students, 7.5% administration, and 15% faculty.

Methodological limitations include: our outreach tactics to administration and faculty proved difficult since their time is limited and inboxes are occupied; no one from our group was a part of one of the faculties, which proved to be the least participatory; open questions sometimes proved to still not elicit thoughtful or long responses; we cannot be sure of reasons for some participants’ lack of participation in certain questions; one question offered a series of example responses for clarity’s sake but most participants merely copied one of the examples; the difference between “assessment” and “grades” seems to have not been made quite clear enough; and lastly, while we were satisfied to have gathered enough data to make a statement on RUG trends, we could have still used more survey responses for richer micro-trends. 

Methodological strengths include: our outreach tactics to students were efficient in timeliness and secondary network encouragement; our group members were a part of two of the three humanities faculties and thus had an inside and more direct line of navigation, communication, and encouragement; open questions assured we did not mandate particular expressions or search out affirmations to any expectations. 

Patterns & Trends

While all three categories of stakeholders cohesively agreed on actualized assessment priorities, all prioritizing critical thinking and argumentation, there was nonetheless severe disagreement on the goal of assessment and its impact on their contextual relationships. This shows that, while they agreed assessment was developing broad skills, there is still dissatisfaction, and disagreement if assessment needs to nonetheless grow to become more. 

Moreover, on the matter of assessment goals, students are far more negative than faculty or administration. Particularly, they severely doubt that grades reflect self-growth. A pattern that continues through the entire survey, administration is the most positive about the efficacy of the assessment process. Faculty are likewise very optimistic, although consistently less than administration. No matter the ‘reality’ of whether students are in fact fairly assessed in these goals, the fact stands that students have far higher expectations and remain unsatisfied. 

Furthermore, reflecting our MVP design, we inquired about assessment’s impact on relationships in the classroom, field, and society. Once again, students are also the most negative on how assessment affects these relationships to contexts. Administrators are not the most optimistic here, so much as they report not feeling any effect on any of the relationships or some even not feeling that a relationship even existed for them due to their distanced position. While students did feel there was some degree of a relationship between them and their lecturers, they largely reported assessment not affecting their relationship due to the lack of one-on-one opportunities and the lack of continual cooperation to relate on. Meanwhile, faculty reported feeling extremely polarized in their relationship with students, either feeling deep compassion for them, asserting that assessment was a negative experience for students, or deep detachment, asserting that assessment could be a positive experience for students if not for students’ skewed perspective. Faculty, however, mirror administration in that they do not report assessment to impact their own relationship with their field. Students, however, report deep frustration and that any relationship with the field is largely built outside of the classroom due to assessment frustrations. This might seem to suggest that faculty tend to align with administration, in their likewise not being on the receiving end of the assessment process. However, faculty importantly align separate from administrators and with students in their reporting that the assessment process was a negative effect on students’ relationships with self-growth. Students feel a polarized negativity, where they either are deeply frustrated or resist victimhood by intentional apathy, declaring assessment to not have anything to do with their own self-development. On the other hand, faculty remain holistically negative, reporting either deep discomfort or feelings of personal failure. These results on assessment especially showcase the frustrations of students and faculty of the assessment process being able to enrich these three contexts.

More generally, these survey results demonstrate a deep disconnect between the parties involved in assessment in the humanities. While faculty are more optimistic about assessment goals being achieved, they nonetheless admit much weaker efficacy as far as assessment extending meaningfulness across contexts. While not a completely united front, students demonstrate a general trend of frustration or self-loathing. Lastly, again, the administration continues to demonstrate deep detachment from the assessment process, despite being the ones with some of the most influence on policy and procedure. 

Minimum Viable Product

Our team therefore pivots this problem analysis into a product which we hope can begin to inspire and direct those who continue these concerns after us. 

What is an MVP?

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) needs to be a balance between the minimum and maximum expectations of viability. This compromised average will be a product that is good enough to actually be put to pragmatic use (ie: the minimum) and yet retains the vision of the ideal transformation (ie: maximum). 

Maximum vs Minimum

In the maximum and ideal vision of the project, we imagine a total reorientation of the assessment system. Clearly something needs to be radically reimagined if so many lecturers feel badly to give grades and so many students feel the need to become apathetic to grades meaning anything at all. 

However, our team understands that real, viable change requires much smaller and much more particular suggestions. And imperatively, change within an academic institution only can be mobilized for the longterm by those who remain within them longterm, ie: not students, but faculty and administration. Student organizers eventually leave and the student body’s memory thus remains short. Therefore, in the minimum and pragmatic limitations of the project, our team strives to foremost shift the willingness of RUG administration and faculties to (re)imagine. We thus will not recommend radical change but possible reforms within the current grading system.

Pragmatic Constraints

Considering that our relevant stakeholders are (1) students, (2) faculty, and (3) administration, relevant pragmatic constraints include: 

  1. students: connected to and participating in relevant institution for limited time and yet institutional action usually restrained until a long-term pattern can be established; leads to short-term memory capacity of the student body 
  2. faculty: very limited time for individual attention compared to all assigned students; the high stress of ‘publish or perish’ labor-market competition; research being more highly rewarded and regulated than teaching 
  3. administrators: disconnected from the student body & disconnected from classroom activities. 

An Important Pragmatic Constraint

Pragmatic constraints can include, not only the time and resources of the project designers and stakeholders, but also persuasion and influence. This is especially the case with more sensitive issues, such as assessment. It is therefore a challenge both for project designers and for stakeholders to stretch their norms (ie: which status-quos are questioned) and their capacities (ie: how much one is willing to stretch past our status-quos) amongst their consistencies and also towards each other. 

The Negotiated Ideal

Stakeholders must not only feel supported in logistical mobilization but must also feel a compromised alignment with the designers’ vision. While logistical research, preparation, and arrangement can be more-so the responsibility of the designers, the project vision must be constantly and collaboratively adjusted between both designers and the stakeholders. The challenge is thus to normatively diversify whilst compromising in such a way that most parties can feel satisfied, as opposed to merely expanding the normative depletion so that no party is satisfied.

Our Project Goal

For Project Up-Grade, our goal is to (re)connect learning to the assessment process and thereby improve the feedback procedures to be more constructive. Such constructiveness would require not only a qualitative enrichment—be it categorical or expressive—but also the opportunity for a prolonged feedback procedure which resembles more of a dialogue than a pronouncement. 

Centering this more constrictive feedback in assessment, we therefore strive to: improve the relationship (1) between the student and the lecturer; (2) between the student and their subject of study; and (3) between the student and their own growth. 

Our MVP Plan-Of-Action

Step 1. Research local and global challenges in humanities’ assessment. 

Step 2. Designate a range of stakeholders. Clarify assessment procedures that currently connect them to each other. 

Step 3. Collect stakeholders’ perceptions of challenges & strengths via open-ended questions. Adjust MVP to stakeholders’ concerns. 

Step 4. Assess patterns, trends, and contradictions across stakeholders’ perceptions. 

Step 5. Summarize results & match with research-backed tricks, techniques, and solutions. 

Step 6. Disseminate in a manner that reinvigorates the conversation!


Literature Review

Why Care About Assessment? 

When assessing students one should consider what it is that you want to assess, how you will want to assess something, and lastly, why do you want to assess. These questions take into consideration which specific skills or knowledge is rewarded, how one assures the standards within and between course modules, and what the assessment process is supposed to communicate to the students and the outside world. These considerations can be classified into the following categories: objective (what), focusing on overall standardization and the pursuit of mastery within a discipline; inter-subjective (how), which takes into accounts the associative aspect and the pursuit of effort within learning and assessment; and the intra-subjective (why), which considers the meaning and purpose behind assessment in the context of the pursuit of self-growth of students. Assessment is a crucial component of education, and can reflect growth and development with regards to a specific discipline to both teachers and students. However, while assessment can be a bridge between students and learning, as well as with their discipline and their teachers, it can also create feelings of dissociation between the afformation and function as a wall rather than a bridge when implemented and executed poorly. 

Problems of Assessment in Higher Education 

Given the ever ongoing debates regarding the improvement of student performance, knowledge retention, course completion, and overall satisfaction within college and university contexts, it is crucial to place emphasis on assessment feedback from a higher education (HE) standpoint [1]. Although there is not a general definition of ‘assessment’, and only few studies have investigated the meaning of assessment, the definitions appear to fall under two categories: people looking at assessment as a mean to provide constructive feedback to a student, and others perceiving assessment to be purely a measurement tool [2, 3, 4]. As there are a vast amount of definitions and perceptions of what assessment should or could be, many researchers described that assessment as a whole could be better used as an umbrella term [5, 6, 7]. As assessment in HE, as well as assessment in education as a whole, encompasses such a wide variety of activities such as grading, testing, evaluation, and/or feedback, these researchers and educators argue that understanding the complexity of assessment in higher education requires an appreciation of all the different approaches and methods used by educators and researchers in this field; there is no “one size fits all” [8]. York et al. (2015) described assessment as a crucial tool to provide an insight in the progress of 

student’s learning. More specifically, they describe how assessment can be used as a proxy (academic achievement; often expressed in the form of a grade or GPA) for academic success. In this framework, academic success is used as an umbrella term for concepts like attainment of learning outcomes, acquisition of skills, and persistence. Looking at assessment as a tool to proxy these concepts surrounding academic success, heavily relies on seeing assessment purely as a measurement tool [9]. The loss of assessment as a device to provide feedback and insights to students appears to become a problem in HE as a whole. In ever growing faculties and programmes it is undeniable that the measurement aspect of assessment becomes more crucial with the need for high-throughput systems to assess a lot of students at the same time; which in academia often results in the deployment of a standardized grading system accompanied by an exam or assignment. When classroom sizes increase, so do the needs for easy to employ proxies of academic success which can be easily expressed in a simple grade [10]. However, this often comes at the cost of the learning experience and efficacy of students themselves, as a lower teacher to student ratio has been well-studied to be detrimental to performance measurements of students [11, 12, 13]. Studies have stated that the utilizing of such “one-dimensional assessment systems” like grading in an exam might even promote a disconnection between the students and the teacher, as well as the discipline they try to learn more about as a whole. These types of assessment also allow for limited opportunities for teachers to provide students with constructive feedback. Besides these issues, there is also the overarching problem of grades not accurately representing all aspects of learning (i.e. learning new skills, considering the starting level, and attainment of knowledge) anymore, but rather representing a proxy of them. Additionally, assessment systems that heavily rely on grading are thought to be detrimental to the HE system as a whole. “Focusing on grades is a barrier to learning”, was the title of a blog-post on the Harvard Business Publishing Education website by prof. Gerald E. Knesek, who spoke about his concerns about students focusing to much on their grades as an indication of success. He argued that with all this focus on grades there will be no real emphasis on learning, which should be and is the true purpose of HE [14]. This taps into the renowned framework provided by educational researchers Ryan and Deci (2000), who defined the concepts of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in the broader context of education and assessment [15]. They defined intrinsic motivation to be associated with an internalized promotion of interest, and enjoyment/satisfaction, while promoting a positive learning environment which heavily stimulates learning. Extrinsic motivation however, is associated with externalized loci of causality when it comes to academic performance and learning (i.e. focusing on grades; an external stimulant). This “taxonomy of human motivation”, together with the aforementioned literature, stipulate the downsides of HE systems that rely heavily on standardized assessments and the often one-dimensional grades that go accompanied by them. All in all, current HE assessment systems that primarily utilize grades as the main form of assessment 1) lack the ability to provide proper constructive feedback to students, 2) promote externalized motivation in education that re-locates the purpose of education from learning to obtaining high grades, and 3) does not properly address all the different concepts that are associated with learning. 

These problems are especially pronounced in the humanities, where assessment is in and of itself is already a larger challenge compared to other fields. In programmes associated with the humanities, subjectivity and complexity often go hand in hand. Due to this subjectivity and complexity, but also the requirement to assess soft-skills such as creativity, it is hard to fairly, structurally, and consistently assess large groups of students. The content and methodology standards are less straight forward, clear-cut, comparable, and constant [16, 18, 24]. On top of that, the humanities too struggle with the problem that a grade does not fully encompass nor properly proxy the “learning progress” of a student [17]. There is a lack of solidarity between and within classrooms, which is paired by the struggle within the humanities to explicate and justify particular knowledge and skill strengths to the labor market. 

A robust and in-depth insight in the education provided by the humanity faculties at the University of Groningen 

To gain an insight in the situation at the University of Groningen’s (UG) humanities faculties we primarily conducted a survey. In addition to this qualitative data, we opted to gather a relatively more robust view into the current education provided by the relevant faculties. For this, we developed and employed a web-scraping algorithm that can effectively gain access to and extract information from the university website (general course and programme information) as well as the website (course schedule information). By accessing the so-called Application Programming Interface (API) of these websites, we got a sort of back-end access to all the text that is used to fill all of the pages. For our analysis, we decided only to include courses within programmes that are organized in the academic year 2023-2024 within the following humanities faculties: Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Faculty of Philosophy, and the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies. The allocated times are based on scheduled course components, and self-study is inferred from the total amount of workload (ECTs per course * 27 hours) minus the scheduled for workload. Course schedule components have been divided and sorted into 11 major groups (figure 1). 

In total, we have identified 1537 identical courses that fall within the programmes offered at the aforementioned humanities faculties. Of these courses, we were able to extract reliable schedule information from 1527 courses, which were then sorted based on the faculty that organizes the course itself (not the programmes it is taught in) (figure 1). These 1527 courses were included in further analysis. It is clear to see that the most courses are provided by the faculty of arts (n = 978), and that only a small fraction of courses are organized by faculties outside of the humanities in the miscellaneous category (n = 31). The latter includes courses from the faculty of science and engineering, economics and business, and campus Fryslan. In figure 1B, we have projected the average amount of ECTs that is provided by a course organized by each of the faculties. In general, you can see that the average amounts of ECTs that are awarded upon completion is the highest for the faculty of theology and religious studies (6.7 ECTs). The total average of ECTs awarded per course is 5.8. 

In figure 1A, you can see that in general the large majority of study time is reserved for self-study, which is most pronounced in the theology and religious studies department. What we immediately saw in our analysis, is that only a few courses utilize events such as a Q&A, and an exam review session. In these types of sessions, students can come to a small lecture hall where the teacher is located to ask any questions that they might have before the exam. The exam review session allows students to get more in-depth feedback when looking into their filled in, graded, exams. These type of events that we have found in our data, or rather the lack there of, might already point to the importance and the need of a revision of the assessment structures within the humanities at the UG. 

While the theology and religious studies department deals with the most amount of expected self-study for students, they do appear to play a leading role in offering courses that employ a combination of lectures and tutorials (categorized as ‘combi events’). Most faculties adopt a similar course structure, and allocate relatively similar times to lectures, tutorials, and self-study. The most notable differences that we have identified can be found at the philosophy and theology and religious studies departments. Both having a high expected self-study time, as well as relatively low times for events such as review and Q&A sessions, we think it is most prudent to focus on these faculties when trying to implement our solution and get ahold of more stakeholders to gain a better insight in our problem.

Strategies that can be employed to improve the quality of assessment, and tips on how to leverage it’s full potential: 

Reviews that have assessed literature on assessment in engineering education, identifying gaps in current knowledge and suggesting research areas where further insights are needed. The authors find that much of the literature has focused on design, accreditation, and marking, with less attention paid to issues such as workplace assessment, student engagement, and program-level design [22]. There are limitations of some critical appraisal systems used in developing evidence-based guidelines, particularly those that give higher grades to randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and lower grades to other study designs. Upon reviewing several grading systems, researchers have suggested a matrix that can guide the choice of the appropriate system for different types of guidelines [20]. Researchers have also argued that traditional grading systems can be detrimental to learning and suggest several strategies for making grading more supportive of learning. These include using self/peer evaluation, balancing accuracy-based and effort-based grading, curbing curved grading, and being skeptical about the meaning of grades [21]. A viewpoint by David Carless in the published by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment presents a framework for learning-oriented assessment that involves productive assessment task design, activities that support students in developing understandings of quality work, and approaches to feedback that focus on dialogue rather than telling. The author analyzes the practices of five teachers from different disciplines and their students’ perceptions of their assessment practices to illustrate how the framework can be applied in practice [23]. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on education worldwide, leading to a shift from face-to-face to online learning and assessment. This sudden change forced teachers and learners to scramble to adjust and adapt to the new reality. To investigate the different aspects of online pedagogical trends and online assessment practices from the perspectives of teachers and students during the pandemic, a systematic review was conducted on 45 studies from March 2020 to April 2021 [25]. The results of the study showed that there were numerous advantages and challenges of online learning, with 18 advantages and 28 challenges identified. Additionally, 15 different purposes of shifting to online learning were identified, with 14 different platforms used for online learning under different aspects of online pedagogical trends. For online assessment practice, the study identified five different types of assessment and 15 challenges of implementing online assessment. To address some of these challenges and promote deep learning in higher education, assessment has been recognized as a pedagogical and measuring tool. The key principle of assessment was traditionally based on the depth and intensity of the knowledge taught in class, but the notion of assessment has shifted to learning, promoting deep learning, critical thinking, and analytical skills. The article suggested that assessment should be made explicit and aligned with learning outcomes that consider deep learning, including acquisition of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and understanding of basic concepts. The article concludes that students need to be engaged in their assessment to develop skills and dispositions that prepare them for the future as socially responsible citizens. To support this approach, an article by Black and William proposed a model where the design of educational activities and associated assessments is influenced by the theories of pedagogy, instruction, and learning, together with the wider context of education [26]. The article explores how teachers may develop productive relationships between the formative and summative functions of classroom assessment, informing the formal external assessment of students and increasing the validity of those assessments. 

To move away from teacher-centered assessment and evaluation of student writing, the manuscript from Inoue promotes a recursive framework of writing, assessment, and reflection activities that move students toward productive praxis [27]. This pedagogy encourages a community of writers that are implicated in each other’s writing and assessment practices, critically engaging with these practices. The article offers theoretical justifications and qualitative data from three semesters, suggesting conclusions based on them. Innovative pedagogies are needed to guide teaching and transform learning, empowering learners with skills and competences to cope with a constantly changing landscape. An integrated framework has been developed to select pedagogies for inclusion in the paper by Herodotou et al. [28]. This paper presents a set of innovative pedagogical approaches that have the potential to guide teaching and transform learning, including inquiry-based learning, maker pedagogy, learning through play, place-based education, and computational thinking. 

In conclusion, these articles highlight the importance of assessment as a pedagogical and measuring tool in promoting deep learning in higher education. To achieve this, innovative pedagogies are needed to guide teaching and transform learning, empowering learners with the skills and competences to cope with a constantly changing landscape. The design of educational activities and associated assessments should be influenced by the theories of pedagogy, instruction, and learning, as well as by the subject discipline and wider context of education. By developing productive relationships between the formative and summative functions of classroom assessment, teachers can improve the validity of external assessments, and students can take control of their writing assignments, assessment criteria, and reflective activities, promoting a community of writers critically engaged with each other’s practices. 



A redesign refers to the process of making improvements to an existing product, service or system and its goal is to enhance the functionality of an already-existing reality. This process typically involves researching and analyzing the existing design, identifying areas for improvement, reconsidering concepts, prototyping and, in the end, testing the final product. 

We have soughtprecisely this course of action. Wanting to briefly summarize the steps followed during the conception of our contribution to the learning-teaching scenario, it is certainly necessary to refer to the role that observation of the phenomenon played during the initial stages of the project. The creation of the questionnaires forwarded within the university, the interviews with administration staff and the consultation of all those who comprise this academic environment, were of crucial relevance in obtaining a clear profile of the existing system. The subsequent stages of analyzing the data collected and providing an overview of the subject and how it is addressed in research papers, articles and publications in general, have certainly stimulated and informed the achievement of this redesign. 

When it actually became necessary to think pragmatically about what could have made the data and information collected functional for an improvement in the condition of the assessments system, it seemed appropriate to devise a minimum viable product that approached the existing method and made slight but effective improvements aimed at reconnecting the learning, teaching and evaluating processes. 

The resulting MVP is our toolkit, an easy-to-understand decision diagram that we hope will allow a teacher to make the evaluation criterion more effective by relying on methodologies that have been successful elsewhere within the university and other teaching environments. Providing ongoing feedback to students during the learning process, with the goal of identifying areas of strength and weakness and guiding further instruction, identifying areas of strength and weakness prior to instruction with the goal of tailoring it to meet student needs, or gauging students’ prior knowledge are some of the possibilities identified. It has been designed to be considered not only in the context of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen but also for other institutions. 

In conclusion, the vision of our redesign is to reconceive assessments on several levels: an effective system is not one aimed at quantifying performance numerically and in an aseptic manner but rather is one that is qualitatively rich, fosters more dynamic conversation than a grade, provides ongoing feedback to students, and is not afraid to stretch into new assessment formats. In this way, learning can better (re)connect with grades and assessment systems, not only for students, but also for faculty and even administrators, be it in the mastery of a professional field, the association in the classroom, or (self)growth within larger society. 


  1. Eckel, P. D., & King, J. E. (2004). An overview of higher education in the United States: Diversity, access, and the role of the market place. Washington, DC: American Council on Education. 
  2. Angelo T. A. (1995). Reassessing (and defining) assessment. AAHE Bulletin, 48(3), 7. doi: 10.1002/aehe.3640480303 
  3. Clark, I. (2011). Formative assessment: Policy, perspectives, and practice. Florida Journal of Educational Administration & Policy, 4, 158–180. 
  4. Frey, B. B., Schmitt, V. L., & Allen, J. P. (2019). Defining authentic classroom assessment. Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, 17, Article 2. 
  5. Evans, C. (2013). Making Sense of Assessment Feedback in Higher Education. Review of Educational Research, 83(1), 70–120. 
  6. Ajjawi, R., Tai, J., Nghia, T. L. H., Boud, D., Johnson, L., & Patrick, C.-J. (2020). Aligning assessment with the needs of work-integrated learning: The challenges of authentic assessment in a complex context. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 45(2), 304–316. 
  7. Quality Assurance Agency. (2011). Understanding assessment: Its role in safeguarding academic standards and quality in higher education. Gloucester, UK: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. 
  8. van de Watering, G., Gijbels, D., Dochy, F., & van der Rijt, J. (2008). Students’ assessment preferences, perceptions of assessment and their relationships to study results. Higher Education, 56(6), 645–658. 
  9. York, T., Gibson, C., & Rankin, S. (2015). Defining and measuring academic success. Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation, 20(5), 1–20. 
  10. Lynch, R., & Hennessy, J. (2017). Learning to earn? The role of performance grades in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 42(9), 1750–1763.
  11. Monks, J., & Schmidt, R. M. (2011). The impact of class size on outcomes in higher education. The BE Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 11(1). 
  12. Toth, L. S., & Montagna, L. G. (2002). Class size and achievement in higher education: A summary of current research. College Student Journal, 36(2), 253–261. 
  13. Gibbs, G., Lucas, L., & Simonite, V. (1996). Class size and student performance: 1984–94. Studies in Higher Education, 21(3), 261–273.
  14. Harvard Business Publishing. (2019). Why Focusing on Grades Is a Barrier to Learning. Inspiring Minds. Retrieved from
  15. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1020
  16. Zemits, B. I. (2017). Representing knowledge: Assessment of creativity in humanities. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 16(2), 173-187.
  17. Mann, K. B. (2000). You can herd CATs: Assessing learning in the humanities. College Teaching, 48(3), 82-89.
  18. Akcanca N, Ozsevgec LC. Effect of activities prepared by different teaching techniques on scientific creativity levels of prospective pre-school teachers. European J Ed Res. 2017;7(1):71-86. doi: 10.12973/eu-jer.7.1.71
  19. Gardiner, P. (2020). Learning to think together: Creativity, interdisciplinary collaboration and epistemic control. Thinking skills and creativity, 38, 100749.
  20. Baker, A., Young, K. G., Potter, J., & Madan, I. (2010). A review of grading systems for evidence-based guidelines produced by medical specialties. Clinical Medicine, 10(4), 358–363.
  21. Schinske, J. N., & Tanner, K. D. (2014). Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently). CBE- Life Sciences Education, 13(2), 159–166.
  22. Halls, J. E., Tomás, C. A., Owen, J., & Hawwash, K. (2021). Mapping out the landscape of literature on assessment in engineering education. European Journal of Engineering Education, 47(3), 373–393.
  23. Carless, D. (2015). Learning-oriented assessment in practice. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA)
  24. Johnson, D. (2019). Assessment and Orff Schulwerk Pedagogy. The Oxford Handbook of Assessment Policy and Practice in Music Education, Volume 2, 538–560.
  25. Seraj, P. M. I., Chakraborty, R., Mehdi, T., & Roshid, M. M. (2022). A Systematic Review on Pedagogical Trends and Assessment Practices during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Teachers’ and Students’ Perspectives. Education Research International, 2022, 1–13.
  26. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2018). Classroom assessment and pedagogy. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 25(6), 551–575.
  27. Inoue, A. B. (2004). Community-based assessment pedagogy. Assessing Writing, 9(3), 208–238.
  28. Herodotou, C., Sharples, M., Gaved, M., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Rienties, B., Scanlon, E., & Whitelock, D. (2019). Innovative Pedagogies of the Future: An Evidence-Based Selection. Frontiers in Education, 4.