Paul Vermeer on cooperating during assessment development

Portretfoto Paul Vermeer
Through sparring and evaluating together as colleagues, we keep each other on our toes!
Paul Vermeer
Current role
Programme coordinator Theology and Religious Studies

Paul Vermeer is the programme coordinator of Theology and Religious Studies. Over two years ago, he and his colleagues received a report from the visitation committee. Assessment had to improve. The team seized on this by critically reviewing their working method. For them, it was the start of a lot more cooperation when it comes to assessment.

‘In 2020, we received the report, and it did not beat around the bush. The verdict was ‘partially satisfies’ for two of the four standards, namely assessment and realised final qualifications. That was quite a shock. We did not expect that. The visitation panel felt that there was too little transparency on how the assessment was developed and which requirements the student had to meet. This was a wake-up call for us. After that, we became combative. We knew we had to make improvements, because otherwise we were in big trouble.’ 

‘Before all this, we didn’t have a default inspection moment for students, and the assessment was often developed by just one person. Also, rubrics or other tools to make assessment transparent were not universally used. We did have a standardised form for the bachelor theses, but the final grade was the average score of the first and second assessor. The student would receive two forms, which could sometimes differ considerably.' 

‘This is what we started working on. When, as a study programme, you receive such an appraisal from the visitation committee, you enter a recovery process. We received a lot of support from Academic Affairs department when doing so. The biggest challenge was turning our group of lecturers into a team. Academics are often also busy with their research. This is not to say that we have bad lecturers or that education just kind of hangs in there. But thinking about that or having to carry and develop a curriculum together is not something that happens automatically.’ 

‘Now we have introduced the four-eyes principle. You are no longer allowed to individually develop an assessment. We also hold a teacher’s council two to three times a year, of which one solely focuses on assessment. We think about why we assess and how we can maintain a high quality. Exams are developed cooperatively and lecturers mutually calibrate. The appraisal of the bachelor theses has also drastically changed. The thesis supervisors now confer, and the student receives just one form, which is signed by both assessors. The exam committee has been assigned to monitor these procedures.’ 

‘The visitation has been very helpful for us. On 4 November, the committee returned and afterwards we received a recovery appraisal. They were very positive. They even talked about a culture shift. The programme committee agrees with that thankfully. They also see great changes. Colleagues cooperate more often and are better informed of what others are dealing with. I personally see this is a fundamental revision of our education, in which we are collectively responsible for the curriculum and the assessment.’ 

‘The small groups of lecturers and courses we had before, did not work well. It even led to a negative appraisal. Working together truly is a great improvement we have made. Sparring and evaluating as colleagues is very valuable for the quality of education. In doing so, we keep each other on our toes!’