This tip is partly based on UAntwerp's Education and Examination Regulations (2021-2022). Certain elements in this tip may differ from the rules imposed by other higher education institutions. Moreover, almost every academic year, changes are made to the Education and Examination Regulations. It is therefore advisable to always consult the current education and examination regulations applicable to your institution.

in collaboration with Winnok De Vos (UAntwerp, Veterinary Sciences) and the Education Department and Legal Services at UAntwerp

Since the establishment of the Council for Disputes on Study Progress Decisions ('Raad voor betwistingen inzake studievoortgangsbeslissingen') in 2005 more than 6,000 appeals were processed. In 2020 alone, 892 judgements were made, the highest number so far. It happens more and more that poor communication or an ECTS sheet with incomplete/incorrect information is successfully used as legal evidence. In 2020, 15% of the 184 appeals with regard to study progress decisions were considered justified.

It is therefore essential that, as a lecturer, you communicate about your expectations and assessment methods as clearly as possible. After all, clear and complete information helps students to understand the organisation, learning objectives and evaluation methods of the course. The broad support this creates can help mitigate the perception of unfair treatment and consequently the recourse to legal means.

Below we will discuss some important and necessary elements that can help you to provide sufficient and clear information to the students.

  • ECTS-sheet

​ECTS is an abbreviation for European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System. The ECTS sheet contains all the essential information about a programme component and expresses the awarded credits on an international scale. 

The information on the ECTS sheet is binding for both the lecturer and the student. It is a kind of contract, the contents of which must be observed by the lecturer and known to every student. The ECTS sheet of a programme component should be available at the start of the academic year (at the latest) and should always remain accessible.

  • ​Transparency beforehand

It must be clear what a student has to know and has to be able to do at the time of assessment. This should not only be mentioned on the ECTS sheet, but also explicitly at the start and/or at the end of your series of lectures.

You should also provide information on aspects such as: the relative weight of various assessment methods (e.g. assignments throughout the year, the final written examination, oral presentations), the conditions for taking interim results into account, any changes in the assessment method(s) used during the second examination session (resit), the pass mark for a multiple-choice examination, the type of questions that will be asked, and the assessment criteria.

  • Tailoring the assessment to the learning outcomes

Always make sure that the learning outcomes of your course are clear and measurable. Use active verbs (such as name, illustrate, assess, analyse, solve) and be specific, both for theoretical learning content and for practical components. Focus on the essence and avoid going into detail. Make sure that you assess all the learning outcomes of your course, regardless of the assessment method(s) used. The best way to do this is to use a testing matrix.

  • Feedback afterwards

Students have the right to see and discuss their marked exam copy. You should schedule either a collective feedback session or a moment when individual discussion is possible. ​Students have the right to obtain a copy of their marked exam, unless you can claim intellectual property rights on the questions, such as in the case of multiple-choice questions or application-oriented questions you personally drew up.

Being able to motivate the awarded mark in a transparent fashion is essential. Therefore always provide a correction key and/or assessment criteria. You can use this as basis to explain what was good and what was not so good or wrong, in a given answer. For oral exams, taking notes is recommended, so that reconstruction of what was said is possible in case of disputes(in Dutch).

  • Internships, master dissertations and projects

Also – perhaps even more so – in the case of an internship, master dissertation or project, transparent communication and explicit tailoring of the assessment to the predefined learning outcomes is essential.

Provide sufficient interim feedback moments. Give targeted, high-quality feedback in line with the expected learning outcomes and document this with specific examples. Collect material to motivate the awarded score. If an internship, master dissertation or project is assessed by several people, it is best to reach a consensus on the final mark through consultation rather than simply calculating the average of the individual marks awarded.

  • Group assignments

Group assignments can lead to tensions if one or more group members take a less active role, but also if one person takes on all the work and leaves little relevant input to the others. Assessing the group assignment in such a situation is not easy.

If you want to take everyone's individual input into account, you can try to measure it as best as you can via an individual presentation and/or via peer assessment. Check the reliability and validity of this peer assessment, especially if it might make the difference between a passing or a failing mark.

Looking for more practical tips and inspiring examples? Then read the full education tip!