The importance of formative assessment has been widely evidenced; but it has also been shown to be under threat in a higher education world of shrinking finances, increasing student numbers and decreasing student/staff ratios. How is all this formative assessment to be carried out and marked? And at the same time, how is the concept of ‘quality’ to be conveyed to the students? D. Royce Sadler has written widely about the value of using exemplars as a means of showing what quality is; this article explores the use of exemplars alongside peer assessment as part of a mixed approach to formative assessment, and provides evaluation and feedback from the first-year students involved. It reinforces Sadler’s own conclusion that exemplars can convey messages in a way that nothing else can, and suggests that a mixed approach to formative assessment - involving peer as well as tutor marking, together with the use of exemplars - could provide both an effective and efficient way forward.
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