Which laws, formal standards, regulations and guidelines are relevant to the work of an examination board (EB)? The most important of these are listed below. NB. Laws, rules and guidelines are not only important for the EB themselves, but also for all actors within a programme who are affected by or have dealings with them. As a suggestion: make relevant regulations, protocols, manuals etc. that are important for, for instance, lecturers/examiners, accessible on an easy to find website. See for example the website of the EB of BMS. Relevant information can also be communicated this way to students, for example about the way in which they can submit a request or complaint to the EB.
Good practice: the EB of GZW/HS has recently (Sept. 2019) published a newsletter for the lecturers of the programme. This newsletter will be published twice a year. In it they describe the current affairs regarding the examination board's work. The EB makes itself and its activities, but also, for example, new rules or good examples, explicitly known to all the lecturers and other staff.
In the past, the examination board for Management Sciences (BMS) organised a lunch meeting to tell teh staff about its activities. The presentations were illustrated with figures and casuistry, which made the presentations very interesting for all present.
- UT Assessment Policy
Quality Assurance Framework Student Assessment UT 12 Dec 2016(1).pdf
To promote the quality of assessments and (final) examinations, UT has adhered to an assessment framework since the summer of 2011 [UT Toetskader 2011]. This framework indicates which points of attention there are for assessment policy at programme level. It provided guidelines for ensuring the quality of assessment and examination, based on the relevant frameworks, as determined by the WHW and NVAO, and tailored to the UT situation. The assessment framework also provides an overview of the division of responsibilities and tasks for all actors involved in assessment and examination.
In 2016 a new, more elaborate, version was formally adopted by the Executive Board and distributed within the faculties: the Quality Assurance Framework for Student Assessment at the University of Twente. Based on the UT framework, programmes are given the responsibility and freedom to shape their assessment policies tailored to their specific educational situation.
- Education and Examination Regulations (EER) / Onderwijs- en Examenregeling (OER)
Since the introduction of the Higher Education and Scientific Research Act (WHW) in 1993, the main features of the education programme and the examinations for each programme have to be laid down in Education and Examination Regulations (EER; Dutch: Onderwijs- en Examenregeling; OER).
According to the law, the EER contain adequate and clear information about the study programme or group of study programmes (WHW article 7.13 paragraph 1). Section 7.13, subsection 2, of the WHW lists the subjects that must at least be regulated in the EER for the procedures and rights and obligations with regard to education and examinations that apply to each study programme or group of study programmes. In addition, the Act also contains a number of separate obligations to include rules in the OER.
The University of Twente issues an annual institution-wide format - Guideline and Model EER document - for the bachelor study programmes (excluding ATLAS). The format is established by the Executive Board of the UT. Faculties and programmes use this "Guideline and Model EER" as basis for their Faculty EER with programme specific appendixes with provisions that apply specifically to that study programme. The EER's are established by the faculty board or dean.
The Guideline and Model EER document contains articles and parts of articles that must be adopted in full as a guideline and parts that serve as a model and can often be amended. Also the article and paragraph classification must be adopted. It promotes transparency if a particular subject is regulated in the same article number in each EER.
The EER's can be found on the websites of the study programmes.
- Rules & Guidelines of the EB
The WHW mentions two documents in which the regulations concerning assessment and examination must be described: the EER (see above) and the Rules and Regulations (R&R). The R&R are established by and are the responsibility of the examination board. It consist of rules and guidelines regarding the implementation of the board's tasks and powers within the framework of the Higher Education and Research Act and the EER.
This document usually contains at least:
- a description of the way the board operates (composition, profiles for members, the way decisions are made, schedule for meetings etc.);
- mandates if applicable;
- procedures, rules and measurements regarding fraud;
- rules and criteria to grant exemptions for students (on request) from taking one or more exams;
- procedures and measurements for safeguarding the quality of exams and final examination;
- guidelines and instructions (within the framework of the EER) for marking and awarding results for interim and final examinations;
- procedures and criteria for assigning examiners.
Establishing guidelines for examiners
A special task for the EB is: Establishing guidelines and instructions within the framework of the EER as the basis for assessing and grading for interim and final examinations.
These guidelines and instructions can be seen in direct relation to the core task of the EB to guarantee the quality of the examinations. The guidelines and instructions apply to the examiners. Guidelines may for example apply to the way in which the caesura is determined, the taking of exams, the construction of written tests or the reuse of former examination questions.
It may be advisable to provide such important as well as practical guidelines for teachers in the form of a hands-on guide or handbook. On the CELT-examinaton site you find a guide that was developend by two programmes (Psychology and Communication Studies) for this purpose, and is now used within the faculty.
In addition to statutory regulations, the EER (OER) and Rules & Guidelines as drawn up by the EB, it may be advisable to lay down standards and working methods for practice in so-called "protocols". Protocols are a means to regulate matters properly, not an end in themselves. It clarifies what is expected of all parties involved. Protocols can increase the efficiency of activities, ensure better coordination between those involved, it provides clarity for new employees, it prevents conflicts afterwards and it helps with quality control.
Of course, protocols in themselves do not guarantee the quality of the execution of processes and procedures. It stands and falls with the familiarity with these, the compliance, the support of those involved and possibly also the control and enforcement of the compliance. Protocols should also be maintained regularly so that they are in line with current practice.
Protocols will usually be established in the context of quality assurance, i.e. the programme manager or dean if it is meant for the whole faculty, will often take the lead in this. However, protocols can also be useful for examination boards to help to guarantee the quality of assessments or examination. The examination board is by law responsible for safeguarding the organisation of assessments and to safeguard the quality of assessments.
For example a protocol that contributes to ensuring that the taking of tests is well organised and that measures are taken to prevent fraud, to detect it if it occurs and that appropriate actions are taken if fraud is detected, helps to ensure that the assessment process runs smoothly and that the results obtained by the students are reliable.
In this sense, examination boards can also take the lead and/or protocols can be drawn up in mutual agreement between the management and the examination board. An example of such a protocol that has been established through the Platform of Examination Boards is the Rules of order for written tests. This protocol was drawn up in 2018 to achieve greater uniformity in the regulations for the taking of tests. Programmes can use it the way it is or may adapt it according to specific requirements for their own programme.
- Accreditation requirements (NVAO) for study programmes
In order to be accredited, educational programmes have to comply with certain nationally defined requirements. There are four requirements or standards to be met by a programme for (a so called limited) programme accreditation. Two of these are directly related to the role and tasks of examination boards. Their role in this is crucial!
The two standards are:
- Standard 3: The programme has an adequate system of student assessment in place.
The student assessments are valid, reliable and sufficiently independent. The requirements are transparent to the students. The quality of interim and final examinations is sufficiently safeguarded and meets the statutory quality standards. The tests support the students’ own learning processes.
- Standard 4: Achieved learning outcomes. The programme demonstrates that the intended learning outcomes are achieved. The achievement of the intended learning outcomes is demonstrated by the results of tests, the final projects, and the performance of graduates in actual practice or in postgraduate programmes.
Information about the NVAO accreditation requirements can be found on the NVAO site. The most recent (2018) assessment framework can be found <here: English; Dutch>. The law and the new framework will apply from 1 February 2019. There have been some minor changes compared to the previous version.
Is the programme management and/or examination board able to adequately answer the questions of a visitation panel? Has the EB taken good care of all matters and does it fulfil the role and tasks as specified in the law? You can use this question game (game; single cards*) to investigate. NB. CELT can guide the 'game' for a target group, with a game leader and critical observer. Over the years, we have gained the necessary experience with it.
* For the time being a Dutch version; will be translated in due course.
- Standard 3: The programme has an adequate system of student assessment in place.
- Accreditation requirements (NVAO) for institutions
An institutional audit (ITK) is a periodic, external, and independent assessment of the quality assurance in place at an institution. The audit serves to determine whether the institution’s internal quality assurance system, in interconnection with its quality culture, safeguards the realisation of its individual vision of good education. The audit focuses on four coherent questions, translated into four standards:
- Vision and policy. Are the institution’s vision and policy concerning the quality of the education it provides widely supported and sufficiently coordinated, both externally and internally?
- Implementation. How does the institution realise this vision of quality?
- Evaluation and monitoring. How does the institution monitor that its vision of quality is realised?
- Focus on development. How does the institution work on improvement?
The “Wet accreditatie op maat” (Dutch Accreditation Act 2018) is the basis for this.
A new framework (2018, in force from 1 February 2019) for the institutional audit has been drawn up. A tendency can be observed towards enhanced autonomy and ownership, but also towards transparency and accountability.
The institution draws up a self-evaluation, outlining its strengths and weaknesses. A panel will be appointed by NVAO. They are authoritative at the administrative level or within the development of higher education, they command auditing expertise, or they represent the professional field. This panel conducts two site visits: an exploratory visit and an in-depth visit about 4 weeks later. During the first visit, the panel forms a general picture of the institution. During the second visit, at least two audit trails are conducted to gain more in-depth insight. The panel selects a few programmes for the trails. Audit trails may adopt either a horizontal or a vertical approach. “Horizontal” trails examine the implementation or monitoring of a specific aim or objective or aspect in a specific tier of the organisation, e.g., all the faculties. “Vertical” trails follow the implementation in “the line” across all the organisational layers. The trail focusing on how programmes monitor quality assurance is “vertical” in nature.
Due to the fact that examination board are involved in 'realising quality', in monitoring and safeguarding the qality of assessments and examination, they definetly can be involved in the ITK process, especially in an in-depth study or trail. Always good to be prepared for that occasion.
Institutional audit at the UT is scheduled at the end of 2019
At the end of 2019, a second institutional audit on educational quality assurance will be carried out at the University of Twente. In 2014, UT received a positive assessment from the NVAO. Within six years a reassessment is necessary for a renewal. The panel visits are scheduled for four days: on 11 and 12 November 2019 for an exploratory visit and on 16, 17 and 18 December for the in-depth visit. More and actual information can be found on the UT ITK-site.