I suspect the dimensions of assessment at London College of Fashion have not changed for quite some time, we are approaching revalidation on many of the courses I teach and so how we approach assessment is about to come under review.

On the majority of the courses that I teach they run a final major project throughout the first two terms of the 3rd year, this would typically be making a collection of 6 outfits or creating a range of four shoes (they rarely make pairs). The mark they receive for this and an extended essay they are asked to write are put considered holistically although there is a extremely heavily empahises on the practical side and less on the written. This would account for 75% of their overall mark, as they would then have to under a negotiated brief which account for the other 25%. Within this brief the student defines the outcomes and they are encouraged to focus on a specific area this could sampling, illustration, research or anything else they had shown a particular interest in.

Formative / Summative

A student’s personal tutor would offer feedback on a weekly basis, once a term there would be a formative critique when the students tutor and another member of staff would discuss the students work offering very structured formative criticism that would be officially documented. Summative feedback would be offered at the end of the final major project. The feedback they receive would have no impact on this project as they cannot resubmit but it could help form there approach for the negotiated brief that follows.

Formal / Informal

We would define the marking style as formal. But as the tutor who taught a student would primarily be responsible for marking the students work they would inevitable by influenced by the perceptions of the students they had formed through over the year. This is often highlighted by the discrepancies when new we benchmark as sometimes it is hard to look objectively on a students work who may have developed a rapport with over the year.

Product / Process

We mark the final product being their collections, we also mark the process work which takes the form of their portfolio and tech files. An equal number of marks go towards these documents does the collection, however many of the students see these aspects as an afterthought so they enviably get pulled down in assessment. One of the key aspects of my role is instilling the importance of their portfolios and the need to document their process

Continuous / Terminal

All of the marking for the 3-year BA degrees I teach with is done with the final three months. There are there are arguments both for and against terminal approach. On one hand it gives them complete carte blanche to explore their ideas throughout the first two years even if they sometimes end in failure, as they knowing that as long as the pass they will have a clean slate by the third year. On the other hand three years of education is resting on the outcome of the final major project and negotiated brief, I have seen many strong and conscientious students suffer with immense stress.

Standardised / Authentic

The assessment is authentic as the outcomes of the learning and teaching exercises that the engage are directly assessed. The assessment is also aligned to activate that they would engage in if they worked in industry.

Internal / External

Initially the marking is done internally with a tutor marking their students work. Then each tutor takes an example of what they view as a top, intermediate and bottom candiate. The examples are them compared and discussed, we can then calibrated the marking rectifying if someone has been to generous or harsh with the marking so there is consistent approach for all students. Once all marking is done internally we then offer a sample across the grad spectrum for external review.

Norm referenced / Criterion Referenced

Our system is norm referenced, this approach has its strengths and weaknesses. The number of people we have receiving top grades remains consistent year by year so, but if we have a particularly strong year, a student who receives a 2.1, could theoretically achieve a 1st if they submitted the exact same project the following year when there may be a weaker cohort. This also works in reverse as a student in a weaker year group may find it easier to receive top grades.


I since moving to the position I do not actively involved in any facet of the marking process, and the facets that I each are never explicitly marked. I think there needs to be a overhaul in the process and marking and feedback and hope to research and develop ideas around this in my teaching development project


6 thoughts on “Assessment

  1. Hi Thomas,

    It has been really interesting to learn how differently we all assess on our courses. And the positives and negatives to doing it these ways.

    In your post, I was particularly interested to read that your students have a final negotiated brief, where they define the outcomes. Is this also in terms of learning outcomes and the criteria they will be marked on?

    Do your students keep reflective / learning journals or do they have other forms of self-assessment / evaluation?

    Since the assessment on the courses you teach on are about to come under review, have you considered what you would like to change about the way it is currently done?

  2. I was interested to read how student work is assessed and marked on your course. When you talk about the form of the assessment you say that the tutor you taught the student would mark that same student and would inevitably be influenced by subjective aspects, and difficult to be objective about the work or development. Is this a problem do you think? I’ve been talking to my collegues at NUA and trying to understand an ‘old school’ approach that seems to be that you should assess who you know and how you know a student is working and ‘new school’ thinking that we can all assess everything because if it is all ‘constructively aligned’, we should be able to see how well ANY student has ‘analysed’ ‘reflected’, ‘demonstrated’ etc.

    It is also interesting to hear about the ‘norm referenced’ aspect of your assessment. I wondered, would there be any value in recording/keeping maybe 3 examples of student work from the previous year to reference against the current work presented – say, a fail, an average and an exceptional? This might even out the changes year to year and make the system fairer?

    • Hello Mathew
      I think ultimately why these model is used is in terms of time efficiency, I think the system that is more constructively aligned system would be fairer and ultimately of more benefit for the students

      The idea of norm referencing that is currently used also seems to be radically opposed to constructive alignment, as there is a distortion between merit and achievement. I hope that when the course is revalidated they really address this both of these areas.

  3. Hi Thomas,

    I enjoyed your post.

    Wow, I’m really surprised that you don’t have student critiques where the students them selves are part of the formative feedback process. Do you not have any discussions or feedback sessions in front of the group or any presentations with feedback? I’m only surprised because it seems (from what I’ve been reading and experiencing as a teacher) a very effective method for not only creating objectivity through peer critique- i.e: students learn how to critique each others work within a safe environment and through a precess of evaluation and reflection learn the skills of self critique or objectivity.

    Also what Matthew was saying in his blog about the Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick chapter about ‘self-regulated’ learning – where the student is proactive in generating and using feedback. So its not rooted in “older ‘transmission’ models, where the tutor ‘judges’ performance and students are then expected to assimilate and use this to improve their performance.” Because I’ve been trying more student lead learning strategies like peer presentations and discussions and been finding them very fruitful in terms of the standard of students work but also their cultivating really important skills for professional practice like: group work, challenging cliche, language skills and objectivity.

    Have you thought of trying small group or larger group presentations and formative feedback sessions? Once you manage to get a discussion going (usually through smaller group presentations) it generates some really interesting results. Students tend to put a lot of ideas out there for each other and them selves, if given the opportunity.

    If you do do it let me know!

    • Hello Ellen
      I totally agree it is a very closed model of teaching; it was a massive culture shock to me coming from how I was taught on both my BA and MA. There is no culture of group critiques allot of the students work in total isolation and I not in the practice of discussing their work to a large group and the feedback often offered and assessment is a tick box form with the most credulously jargon academic language that I often struggle to understand myself. We ultimately have taken on far to many students on the courses and the overwhelming size of tutor groups meaning that no one has any space to innovate and are just trying dal with the numbers on a day to day basis.

      I want to focus on the assessment and feedback for my teaching and development project

      • Hi Thomas,
        I was thinking as well that a good method (I think this was something Fred told me about) of teaching workshops like you did that day that I did my Teaching Obs of you is to divide the students into small groups after you have demonstrated a method and get each member of the group to have a go- basically guiding and helping each other (creating Communities of Practice) that way some of the slower students are helped more because the faster learners guide them. Plus the more intimate groups create a safer environment for students to ask questions and flag up problems..

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