From January 2018 to September 2018, The University of Portsmouth will run the Transforming the Experience of Students through Assessment (TESTA) project. Initially involving 10 courses, the aim is to expand this pilot project to more courses and improve the quality of student learning through addressing programme-level assessment​ ​across the university.

What is TESTA?

TESTA, originally funded by the Higher Education Academy, is currently sustained by the University of Winchester and Southampton Solent University. TESTA aims to improve the quality of student learning through addressing programme-level assessment. Over 50 UK universities as well as universities in Australia, India and the USA have engaged with TESTA since its early project days (2009-2012). TESTA works with academics, students and managers – and for students, academics and managers – to identify study behaviour, generate assessment patterns to foster deeper learning across whole programmes, and promote assessment for learning.



  • There needs to be more consistency between modules, across programmes, and a greater emphasis on progressively developing students’ internalisation of programme-level standards, over time, rather than relying on documentation to specify criteria at the level of assignments or modules.
  • The programme view shifts perspectives from: figures/percentages  and student experience surveys (e.g. NSS)  to enhancement strategies;‘my’ unit to ‘our course’; teacher-focused on module delivery to student experience of the whole programme; from individualistic modular design to coherent team design.
  • It engenders a team approach. The process enables the researcher to get to know the team and programme;. It’s a listening process, and a valuing process​. The team make decisions based on data, knowledge and guidance.​
  • It enhances curriculum Design and Pedagogy; a.rebalancing formative and summative, b.making connections across modules, and c. ensuring sequencing and progression of assessment across the programme. Also, developing approaches to formative, including more authentic assessment, influencing curriculum design (content-load etc.) etc.

What does TESTA involve?

The process involves mixed research methods for the sake of a. exploring various dimensions of the programme and b. triangulating the data. The process for each course/programme includes: a TESTA audit; an Assessment Experience Questionnaire; and Student focus groups. The process results in a programme case study report with summary of findings, interpretations and recommendations and an interactive workshop presenting this report.

What people say:

The value was to look at what we do from a scientific perspective and look at things objectively, and that is really enabling us to re-think how we do things. Because it’s driven by the project the staff are very willing and accepting of the data. I don’t think anybody, after we had the meeting with you guys, sat there and said ‘They’re talking absolute rubbish.  What do they know?’ (Programme Leader, Nursing). ​

​‘I’ve found it useful to have a mirror held up, to give a real reflection. We talk about the ‘student voice’, but actually this has provided a mechanism, which isn’t part of the programme, which isn’t the evaluation’ (Programme Leader, Education).​

TESTA has revealed some really interesting and, I believe, accurate information about our programme/ approaches/ student experience.  The details of your report have enabled some really strong shifts. We would not have reached these conclusions otherwise and I feel that TESTA has had the desired effect of enabling us to think a little more progressively.’ (Programme Leader, Dance)

‘Our very productive TESTA meeting has stimulated much discussion about how we can develop our modules to include more formative feedback and more engagement in large lectures. Somedevelopments will be incorporated in the interim validation and others will influence our departmental policy on assessment and feedback for next year’ (Programme Leader, Psychology.)

More information about TESTA and a variety of resources can be found at and

Any interested programme/course leaders can send an email to or

Image credits: Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash