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How we designed an authentic assessment for online learners in Educational Psychology

14 February 2024

3 minutes to read

How we designed an authentic assessment for online learners in Educational Psychology

Authentic assessment refers to a wide variety of educational and instructional techniques focused on connecting what students are taught to real-world issues, problems, and applications, mirroring the complexities and ambiguities of real life. In this blog post we will share how Rebecca Georgis (Module Leader), Darren Moore (Co-Programme Director) and Mike Clapp (Senior Learning Experience Designer), the module development team, designed an authentic assessment for our online learners on ERPM010Z Educational Psychology.

ERPM010Z is one of two optional modules that are part of the MSc Psychology Conversion (online), a fully asynchronous online course accredited by the British Psychological Society. The module development team decided to design an authentic approach to assessment for this module, as we wanted to provide our students with a meaningful and relevant learning experience. Most of our students are looking to pursue or further a linked career in an educational setting or are keenly interested in this field of psychology, so we wanted to create an assessment that would allow them to apply their knowledge and skills to a realistic scenario and bring together theory, research, and practice in educational psychology. The module was unique on the programme, being the only module that did not already exist as an equivalent in-person module with the associated constraints of adapting existing content and assessment. As one of the latter modules on the programme, this also allowed the module development team to draw on their experiences of teaching the online cohort and the feedback from other, earlier modules when designing the learning experience. 

The assessment task

In designing the assessment, the context, scenario, and task was considered, and the task was checked for alignment with ILO’s and based on the following scenario:  

‘You are invited by the Department for Education to create a mini guidance report for school staff on one educational psychology topic from those covered in the module (e.g. motivation, achievement, learning, diversity, school belonging, stigma and labelling etc).’ 

To engage and motivate students, we offered a wide selection of potential topics to choose from so that they could select one that reflected their interests and goals. 

The report had to be 2000 words long and follow APA-7 referencing. The report also had to be creative and engaging, as it was intended for a non-academic audience. 

The assessment support

Having decided the assessment at the start of the design process, it was then possible to build similar, scenario-based formative assessment opportunities in the weeks preceding the submission. 

The included scenario-based activities required students to apply their knowledge to hypothetical situations related to the topics of the module and share their responses in Discussion Forums for feedback from peers and tutors. 

One of the most crucial aspects of supporting asynchronous online learners is to scaffold the learning appropriately and carefully; we know that our online learners are time constrained and juggling multiple commitments, therefore every minute counts. Detailed, specific guidance was written to ensure students reports were focussed and relevant. Signposts were given to comparable reports published by professional bodies so that students could see examples of authentic WAGOLL’s (What a Good One Looks Like). These were examples of authentic reports published by professional bodies, such as the British Psychological Society, the Education Endowment Foundation, or the Department for Education, that addressed similar topics or issues as the ones covered in the module. The WAGOLLs served as models and inspiration for students to see how to structure, write, and present their reports in a professional and engaging way. 

Because the students were being asked to create guidance and recommendations for schools, we asked them to consider their audience and reflect on what might be the barriers to their recommendations in that setting and think about how they could make their report accessible and engaging. 

A video was produced by Rebecca in which advice, tips and reassurance was given to students completing the assignment, complementing the assessment brief guidance. We had asked students to be creative in the format of their report to give them some agency in the assessment but recognised that for some students this could cause anxiety, and this was addressed sensitively by Rebecca in the video. 


The student voice has been positive: 

I’ve also really enjoyed the assignment. It’s been my final piece and my favourite for the whole MSc

We hope that this blog post has given you some insights and ideas on how to design and implement authentic assessment for learners. 


For more information please contact:

This blog post was written by Mike Clapp, Senior Learning Experience Designer, with Dr Rebecca Georgis (Module Leader) and Dr Darren Moore (Co-Programme Director).


Dr. Darren MooreDr. Rebecca GeorgisMike Clapp
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