Assessing First Year Students


All students starting to learn at university, no matter what their background, need to be properly inducted into our distinctive assessment conventions. In any course you teach, clearly communicate to first year students your expectations and the course and University standards for learning and assessment. This is how they will discover the academic culture at UNSW and become engaged in learning here.

Assessment processes convey strong messages about our priorities. So do our management of and responses to students' learning achievements and performances.

Students in transition

First year students may be coming from:

  • secondary schools in Australian cities, remote or rural environments, or overseas
  • studying at TAFE or private colleges
  • not having studied at all for many years because of commitments in the workplace or taking care of households and families.

Many first year students lack confidence and feel socially isolated. How they perceive the learning environment and the level of support academic staff offer influences their satisfaction with the learning community, and how much they feel they belong (Krause & Coates, 2010:501). Students need to feel that their intelligence and capabilities are respected, if they are to persist in the face of a learning problem.

You can use assessment and feedback (e.g. early feedback, self-assessment and peer-assessment strategies) to shape students' experiences, to encourage them to engage (Krause et al., 2005) and to see themselves constructively as learners.


Case studies

Strategies for Assessing First Year Students

Additional information