Teaching modules are dead, long live assessment modules

Teaching modules are dead, long live assessment modules

27 Mar 2019 15:00 15:20

27-March-2019 / Wednesday / 15:00 - 15:20


To be In institutions of higher education we are used to the idea of ‘modularisation’, a process of carving a degree programme up into modules/courses that identify a number of themes associated with those programmes. We characterise modules according to level/number of credits, and identify the intended learning outcomes that we expect a student to gain by completing the module. At the end of their programme a student is issued with a transcript of their studies (sometimes called a Diploma Supplement) that gives the grades (e.g. percentage or GPA) achieved. They can then present this transcript to a potential employer who can see at a glance a graduate’s strengths and relative weaknesses on the programme. In this paper we explore the various pros often argued in favour of such an approach, based on what we refer to as teaching modules, and argue that many of them are rarely realised in practice. Instead we argue for an alternative approach based on synoptic assessment that cuts across a number of themes, thus giving a more integrated and coherent approach to the curriculum. Such an approach is not without its own problems when it comes to flexibility, and we explore how they may be overcome.completed

This paper looks at how to design an outcomes-based curriculum based on synoptic assessment rather than the traditional approach of modules/courses that cover specific topics in such a way that students gain a coherent understanding of their programme.


Prof Chris Phillips 
Professor of Computer Science Education,

Positions held include Head of Academic Operations at Newcastle University's campus in Singapore, Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the Faculty of Science Agriculture and Engineering (SAgE), and Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in SAgE. Extensive experience of TEMPUS/Erasmus+ .programmes as coordinator.