Scaffolding assessment and feedback to support student engagement and retention Faculty Spark - View, reflect and apply

Last updated on 06/01/2020

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Popi Sotiriadou discusses the redesign of a first year sports management course using a scaffolded assessment approach, and the positive impact this approach had on course outcomes and student engagement.


My challenge was to redesign a first year course, while transitioning it into a second year course.

The existing assessment tasks relied heavily on an exam component, consisting of two exams and a 4000 word essay. I could see from the outset that this model would not meet the needs of students, nor provide the desired outcomes in terms of skills development.


So the changes that I implemented were to work on scaffolding three assessments which had to be conducted on and with the same organisation (i.e., case study) that students would choose, including:

  • An Environmental Analysis Report (A1)
  • A Problem-Based Case Study (A2)
  • An Interactive Oral Exam (A3)

During A1, students had to conduct a broad environmental analysis for the organisation to enable them to familiarise with the organisation’s purpose and goals, services/programs, successes and challenges and the ways the operating environment impacts the organisation and its management. An important requirement for the report was the collection and use of organisational ‘evidence’, including materials and information (e.g., an interview or communications with staff, organisational documents, and photos) that were required to enable authenticity and discourage academic misconduct.

For the second assessment task, students built on the knowledge acquired during the initial report and continued their investigation on their organisation. They had to analyse (a) organisational structures, (b) governance/decision making, and (c) strategic management by conducting a SWOT analysis. Student had to use real examples and discuss their findings in light of the relevant literature that was presented during the course. This assessment enabled students to connect and draw links between theory and practice.

The interactive oral required students to attend a mock job interview. The student was presented with a scenario in which they had been shortlisted for a sport management position in the organisation that they used as a case study.

An interactive oral (previously known as a viva voce exam) is an opportunity for genuine and unscripted interaction between a student and other students or a student and an examiner. Specifically, students can demonstrate knowledge verbally in an authentic setting representative of what would be encountered in the workplace (Beccaria, 2013).

I used interactive orals as the final piece of a set of three scaffolded assessments to assess the culmination of knowledge and skill development including communication skills and professional identity and awareness. The interactive oral required students to attend a mock job interview. The student was presented with a scenario in which they had been shortlisted for a sport management position in the organisation that they used as a case study. To scaffold Assessment 2 and 3, there were three key components in the essay (A2) that the course examiner used as information to draw questions for A3, the interactive oral.


Based on our findings, the students embraced the suite of authentic assessments offered and in particular interactive orals. They felt that the assessments had real world relevance and enabled them to gain professional skills, thereby enhancing their employability. What’s was even more interesting was that interactional students did not find the process daunting in particular due to the resources that were offered to them in advance and the opportunities they had to understand what was involved. They expressed the view that they enjoyed doing something meaningful and engaging.

In essence, we found:

  • Positive feedback from students in end of course evaluations
  • Students built critical industry links
  • Redesigned course met desired outcomes around employability, authenticity, engagement, and communication skills

As a result of this multi-phased study, we published a paper (Popi Sotiriadou, Danielle Logan, Amanda Daly & Ross Guest (2019). The role of authentic assessment to preserve academic integrity and promote skill development and employability, Studies in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2019.1582015), and proposed six characteristics as essential features for successful design of authentic assessment that would enable the achievement of three key objectives: student engagement, better prospects for graduate employability and greater levels of academic integrity.

These characteristics and their links to enabling these three objectives are framed in Figure 1, and can be viewed in the Media field below.


Work with Learning and Teaching Consultants when redesigning courses - they can compliment your skill set as an academic, and can offer advice on how to avoid reinventing the wheel.

If you are going to implement an oral examination in can’t be done in isolation, and it must fit in with the authentic assessment across the semester.

Students need to understand the value of this approach:  “you are going to love this -  it’s designed to get you into industry”.  It's vitally important that we communicate this to students from the get go and get them excited.  

In time there will be a shift, so don’t worry too much about traditional measures such as SET results.  Collect other data to show the effectiveness of your new approach.  Keep in mind that people often avoid change because they are risk-averse.

Griffith Graduate Attributes

This course directly aligns to the following graduate attributes:

1. Knowledgeable and skilled, with critical judgement
2. Effective communicators and collaborators
3. Innovative, creative and entrepreneurial
4. Socially responsible and engaged in their communities

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Preferred Citation

Sotiriadou, P. & Learning Futures (2020). Scaffolding assessment and feedback to support student engagement and retention. Retrieved from