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Assignment Brief Consultancy


The Assignment Brief Pilot Consultancy (ABC) Research Project

  Project lead:  Garry Maguire     Research Team Lead: Fiona Gilbert

UPDATE: The Assignment Brief Communication resource is now available HERE

What is the ABC Research Project?

The ABC research project aims to improve the communicative effectiveness of assignment task instructions through developing a set of guidelines for staff and through the subsequent dissemination of a platform for an institutional-based consultancy.

This is an HEA teaching development grant funded project.

It targets the setting stage of the assessment cycle, offering support and guidance to academic staff on improving the effectiveness of their assignment brief design. It aims to facilitate the optimal communicative effectiveness of assignment task instructions through the development of a set of design guidelines.


The design of the instructions stage of the assessment cycle has received little attention in the literature. Exploratory research suggests there exist elements of design which determine the effectiveness of instruction processing. These contribute to efficiency in cognitive and institutional resource use and to the student academic experience.

Although the various stages of the assessment cycle have been targeted across HE for development, especially the feedback stage, and although there exists guidance and training in assignment task design itself, there is currently no guidance available on the design of the instructions themselves beyond recommendations for appropriate use of language. As such instructions become by necessity ever more complex and less familiar to staff and students alike, the need for the output of this project becomes ever more urgent.

The project therefore investigated staff perception of the role of and their production of briefs as well as student processing of briefs, thus informing the development of design guidelines and a consultancy-based staff training and support service to improve practice in this area.

The guidelines were further informed by primary research involving a survey of the range of assessment task types, assignment instructions discourse and from secondary research in a range of fields associated with the interpretation of written task instruction including, information processing, educational psychology, discourse analysis and existing assessement related staff guides.

An initial set of assignment brief design guidelines was developed and with these, an Assignment Brief Consultancy pilot was offered to Oxford Brookes academic staff. The pilot further informed the development of the guidelines.

Why would a lecturer make use of the Assignment Brief Guidelines?

·     With more time and cognitive resources freed up to invest in the task itself rather than in the processing of its requirements, enhanced performance of students on the assignment is facilitated

·     Increased effectiveness in the setting of assignments means less support is sought - so fewer student queries and requests for clarification as well as less need to use study support tutorials  

·    More effective brief design can enhance the student academic experience

·  The type of assignments lecturers have to design require increasingly complex instructions as the tasks themselves to meet the demands of the expanding range of learning outcomes  

·    The more expert a lecturer becomes in their field the less straightforward it becomes to make the task requirements explicit

·      Devising assignment briefs that suit the information processing styles of the full range of student groups is no easy matter

·       Professional development in assessment literacy is a priority goal in HE.

How would a lecturer make use of the pilot Assignment Brief Consultancy service?

Register your interest by email to the team:

We will enrol you on the ABC Assignment Brief VLE

You then submit your assignment brief to the VLE

The team will process it by applying the assignment brief guidelines

You will receive, using the Grademark tool within Turnitin, feedback and guidance on possible ways to increase the  communicative effectiveness of your assignment instructions.

A video explanation is available HERE

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