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Synoptic Assessment


What is synoptic assessment?

Synoptic assessments require students to synthesize their learning from two or more modules within a programme. The assessment may seek to discern the breadth and depth of connections that students have made between topics covered in the programme. Alternatively it might require that the student applies specific skills, knowledge and understanding taught in one part of the programme to other aspects of the discipline.

Why might you use synoptic assessment?

Synoptic assessments require learners to develop a holistic view of the discipline, making connections between multiple facets of their programme. This can be particularly valuable when the programme has a multidisciplinary basis.  In a professional context, synoptic assessment can encourage students to integrate theory, evidence and regulation with practice and values. 

Other benefits

  • Helps students to view the programme as a cohesive learning experience
  • Helps staff to think more holistically about their teaching
  • Promotes staff collaboration
  • Can promote the consideration of real world problems
  • Can reduce the student’s assessment burden by combining several individual assessment activities alternatively
  • Where the assessment has more than one part feedback on one part might inform the student’s approach to another
  • Ultimately, the students should develop a broader view of each topic included in the assessment.

e-AFFECT Principles Addressed:

  • Encourage “time and effort” on challenging learning tasks

Case Study Examples

Social Work Level 1

Video and Written Case Studies

Module convenors integrated teaching and assessment across the first year modules within the semester. Teaching in each week was based around a common theme. The programme introduced a "mini assessment" in each module based around a common case study. 

Implementing synoptic assessment

Planning and collaboration are crucial to the success of synoptic assessment. It is important to:

  • define the domain of the assessment – what are the learning outcomes from each of the modules that will be covered? Will the student learning clearly benefit?
  • Ensure terms and examples used within the modules covered by the assessment have a coherence
  • consider the assignment wording – are the terms used common to the content of the modules concerned?
  • give students explanation as to the rationale for this form of assessment, so that they see the value of a new challenge
  • plan the timing of the assessment – when will all the required content bye covered in teaching period? Is is possible to phase aspects of the assessment without overly burdening the students and markers?


Tools you might use of synoptic assessment

To explain the assessment you might record the explanation using Jing, Mediasite etc. and make that available in each relevant module area of the VLE.

List of references and any external examples

Related topics: Authentic assessment