Manuela Pischedda CEA

What is your current role and background in educational assessment?

My current role is as an Associate Dean for Assessment in Higher Education. As hinted in my job title, I manage anything assessment related, and no day at work is the same for me. I am responsible for quality assuring all the assessment processes. For instance, I review assessment briefs for accessibility, transparency, authenticity and fairness; I produce guidelines for standardisation and attend markers’ meetings, to ensure that assessment criteria are understood and applied correctly across the board; I advise assessors so they can provide effective feedback; I support assessors when responding to external moderators and examiners reports. I also deal with tasks that are associated with assessment, such as student appeals, mitigating circumstances and academic misconduct. Prior to this position, I worked as an examiner, as a marker, project supervisor, lecturer, trainer, all roles that require understanding of appropriate assessment practices.

Why did you decide to complete the CEA course and assignment? Had you already completed the Certificate/Diploma in Educational Assessment?

I was always interested in assessment practice – my background is in Psychology, but I found out about the CIEA whilst marking A-Levels exams. At the time I was the Lead Internal Verifier for assessments at Level 3/4 in my institution, and I felt that, despite being an experienced tutor, my knowledge of test theory or my involvement in developing and reviewing assessments, I needed some specialist course, focussed explicitly on assessment – something that I feel is not fully covered in any teacher training. I began with the Certificate in Educational Assessment, where my two amazing course tutors inspired me to embark on the full CEA training course. At the time the Diploma wasn’t available as a separate programme, it was embedded within the CEA one.

What did you like about the course?

I liked its practical approach and the opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other professionals for two full days. Even when going through the heavy theory that underpins assessment practices, I felt supported and guided by the tutors throughout. The activities done in class and also the online sessions were aimed at encouraging us to reflect on our current practice and how to improve, and how a CEA actually works.

Briefly describe the context and focus of your CEA assignment.

I must say that I worked on my CEA assignment during COVID-19 and the lockdown. I initially had a different idea for my portfolio, but the move to online classes offered me the perfect opportunity to focus on a (then) new way of submitting assignments: to the VLE platform, rather than to the tutor, in exams conditions. The Centre was concerned about student progression in an online learning environment; therefore I devised a plan with them that underpinned the same principles of assessment practice recommended by the CIEA (validity, reliability, transparency, fairness, feasibility, authenticity and sufficiency) but adapted to the context of assessment in distance learning more specifically.

How has the course benefitted you / your employer / students?

I feel very important when I say that I’m a Fellow CEA. Being a CEA has helped my professional development and certainly boosted my career (I’m positive the title has stimulated the interest of my current employer!). After I completed the CEA training course, I was offered a promotion within the institution where I gathered data for the portfolio. My intervention plan involved reviewing areas of effective marking and feedback, with a view to refocus the attention of the Centre staff towards a system of Assessment for Learning, encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning, and stressing the importance of feedback to ensure student success. I am confident that my support with quality assurance made a difference in obtaining high student attainment and satisfaction, and these positive results have also increased staff’s trust in my role as a Chartered Assessor. I would say that the course has given me the tools to support the Centre and my staff stand out in assessment practice.

Would you advise someone else to do this qualification and why?

I would recommend this qualification to anyone who works directly or indirectly with assessments, at any educational level or institution. The course is invaluable as it enables to reflect on own assessment practice and encourages trust and collaboration. I believe that the role of qualified assessors should be further enhanced and promoted, as should be acknowledged that it is instrumental in ensuring better learner outcomes