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Exemplars

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Guidance on the use of ‘exemplars’ to support students’ learning.

This resource has been developed by Helen Kay, Academic Development & Diversity Team, Emma Heron, Head of Teaching and Learning SSA, Lucian Tipi, Head of Teaching and Learning BTE and college colleagues. 

What are exemplars?

Exemplars are examples of previous students’ work or examples developed by practitioners that when used in learning activities help students to grasp key concepts, skills, content and assessment standards and criteria. Unlike model answers which are examples of a ‘perfect’ answer, exemplars are examples of varying standards of academic work.

Exemplars can be examples of assignments or parts of assignments, exam question answers, coursework, presentations, videos of performance, posters, research papers etc, produced by students or created by tutors.

Exemplars are useful tools in the development of students’ academic literacy. They benefit students by providing them with tangible examples of the academic standards teachers expect them to demonstrate to achieve a given grade. They are particularly beneficial for students who may not have experience of the range of different assessments used in Higher Education and are a useful means of scaffolding students learning and skills development and clarifying our expectations of them. Exemplars are also a useful means of developing students’ ability to benchmark their own work.

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Definitions

David Newlyn, “Providing Exemplars in the Learning Environment: The Case for and against,” Universal Journal of Educational Research 1(1): 26-32, 2013 http://www.hrpub.org DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2013.010104

D Royce Sadler, “Interpretations of Criteria-based Assessment and Grading in Higher Education,” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 30, no.2 (2005): 175 – 198, 192.

Margaret Price, Karen Handley, and Jill Millar, “Feedback: focusing attention on engagement” Studies in Higher Education, 36 no.8 (2011): 879-896.

Jenny Scoles, Mark Huxham & Jan McArthur (2012) ”No longer exempt from good practice: using exemplars to close the feedback gap for exams” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 2. DOI:10.1080/02602938.2012.674485.

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Gaining permission to use students work and anonymisation

Please use the permissions template to gain permission from students.

You should ensure students’ work is appropriately anonymised. Remove students names or identifiers from the work and check there are no references within the work which could identify the author, fellow students or staff. You should use work from previous cohorts, so you will need to collect the examples of students work well in advance. If you would like to use exemplars but haven’t yet collected and gained permission to use students work, you may wish to consider creating a few examples yourself.

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What supports the effective use of exemplars?

The literature suggests that you shouldn’t use exemplars that too similar to the assignments students are about to undertake. You should aim to use more than one exemplar, so you can show a range of quality and compare their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t give students the teacher-generated assessment criteria initially. Allow students to critic the work and develop their own judgements. You should create opportunities for students to discuss the exemplars peers, the whole class, and the teacher. It is also suggested that you use exemplars with students once they have written/created a draft of their assignment.

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Guided Marking

UCL Arena Centre have produced a guide on the use of Guided Marking. Guided marking involves students reading a range of peers’ assignments (anonymised and from a previous year with authors’ permission) at the beginning of the module, ranking the assignments, commenting on them and agreeing a grade. The assignment used is similar to the module assignment and helps students understand what they need to do to be successful.

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Examples of the effective use of exemplars

The use of exemplars within the Physician associate course – Lopa Husain – Department of Nursing and Midwifery, HWLS.

The use of formative feedback to support L4 student assessment preparation for their first summative reflection – Jayne Revill & Tony O’Brien – BTE.

The use of formative feedback to support L4 student assessment preparation for their first summative reflection (Marketing & Digital Analysis) – Jeanette Baker & Jayne Revill – BTE.

A formative feedback worksheet that students complete in the run-up to their first assignment, which is used as the basis for a formative feedback seminar session – Jennifer Smith Maguire – Department of Service Sector Management, BTE.

Early feedback to improve overall outcomes with use of Turnitin to improve referencing – Jo Daley and Toyin Aderiye – Department of Marketing, BTE.

Weekly, scheduled Formative Feedback and Optional Formative Submission – Jo Watts and Marc Duffy – BTE.

Small changes to boost engagement with formative tasks – Lynne Booth and Michelle Blackburn – Department of Marketing, BTE.

Applied projects: Working with local businesses – Sue Beckingham – Department of Computing, BTE.

The use of formative feedback to support students as they prepare for their single individual assignment – FABS, BTE

The use of formative feedback in developing an Employability Portfolio to support students in assessment and achieving their future goals – Zoe Newsham – BTE.

Take a look at our collection of Formative Feedback Case Studies on our Academic Essentials: Case Studies Library.

We would be please to receive case studies of your use of exemplars. Please use our Case Study – template and send the completed template to ! Academic Development & Diversity.

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References

David Newlyn, “Providing Exemplars in the Learning Environment: The Case for and against,” Universal Journal of Educational Research 1(1): 26-32, 2013 http://www.hrpub.org DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2013.010104

D Royce Sadler, “Interpretations of Criteria-based Assessment and Grading in Higher Education,” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 30, no.2 (2005): 175 – 198, 192.

Margaret Price, Karen Handley, and Jill Millar, “Feedback: focusing attention on engagement” Studies in Higher Education, 36 no.8 (2011): 879-896.

Jenny Scoles, Mark Huxham & Jan McArthur (2012) ”No longer exempt from good practice: using exemplars to close the feedback gap for exams” Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 2. DOI:10.1080/02602938.2012.674485.

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Resources

Using exemplars to enhance learning and support achievement: explaining the importance of using exemplars and advice on how to select and use exemplars. It was produced by Heriot Watt University and authored by Kay Sambell, Sally brown and Phil Race.

Does sharing exemplars with students lead to unproductive copying? In this blog Phil Smith explores the steps that can be taken to make unproductive copying less likely and what can be done to enhance the pedagogic practice of sharing exemplars with students.

Keen: Show and tell: Using peer assessment and exemplars to help students understand quality in assessment. This article explores the use of exemplars alongside peer assessment as part of a mixed approach to formative assessment and provides evaluation and feedback from the first-year students involved.

Universities using exemplars: Chris Rowell’s blog – totallyrewired. This is a blog post containing links to universities using exemplars and various journal articles.

Example Essays – Here, Sussex University provide a sample of critical essays written by Sussex students.

Case Study: Using Exemplar Assignments to Enhance Student Feedback. Warwick University. This is a case study of an exercise that used exemplar assignments as a means of creating dialogue for students around assessment criteria and feedback. The exercise was conducted in advance of students submitting an assessed coursework essay.

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Journal articles

Carter, R., Salamonson, Y., Ramjan, L. M. & Halcomb, E. (2018). Students use of exemplars to support academic writing in higher education: An integrative review. Nurse Education Today, 65 87-93.

Grainger P. R., Heck D., and Carey M. D., Are Assessment Exemplars Perceived to Support Self-Regulated Learning in Teacher Education? Frontiers in Education, 14 August 2018. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2018.00060/full

Handley, Karen & Williams, Lindsay (2011) From copying to learning: using exemplars to engage students with assessment criteria and feedback, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36:1, 95-108, DOI: 10.1080/02602930903201669

Hendry, Graham D., Armstrong, Susan & Bromberger, Nikki (2012) Implementing standards-based assessment effectively: incorporating discussion of exemplars into classroom teaching, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 37:2, 149-161, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2010.515014

Hendry, Graham & Jukic, Katherine. (2014). Learning About the Quality of Work that Teachers Expect: Students’ Perceptions of Exemplar Marking Versus Teacher Explanation. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice. 11. 58-68. 10.53761/1.11.2.5.

Ho, Kong, Empowering Learning: Using Student Exemplars in Teaching. Teaching Artist Journal, 2015, Vol.13(4), p.193-203. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283431807_Using_Student_Exemplars_in_Empowering_Learning

Lipnevich, A.A., McCallen, L.N., Miles, K.P. et al. Mind the gap! Students’ use of exemplars and detailed rubrics as formative assessment. Instr Sci 42, 539–559 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-013-9299-9

Newlyn, D., & Spencer, L. (2010). Improving student performance in interdisciplinary law unit assessment by providing annotated exemplars. http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/JlALawTA/2010/8.pdf

Nicol, David. (2021) The power of internal feedback: exploiting natural comparison processes, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 46:5, 756-778. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2020.1823314

Orsmond, Paul, Merry, Stephen & Reiling, Kevin (2002) The Use of Exemplars and Formative Feedback when Using Student Derived Marking Criteria in Peer and Self-assessment, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 27:4, 309-323, DOI: 10.1080/0260293022000001337

Smyth, Philip & Carless, David (2021) Theorising how teachers manage the use of exemplars: towards mediated learning from exemplars, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 46:3, 393-406, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2020.1781785

Tatano Beck C. Intuition in nursing practice: sharing graduate students’ exemplars with undergraduate students. J Nurs Educ. 1998 Apr;37(4):169-72. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9570416/

To, Jessica & Carless, David (2016) Making productive use of exemplars: Peer discussion and teacher guidance for positive transfer of strategies, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 40:6, 746-764, DOI: 10.1080/0309877X.2015.1014317

Wimshurst, Kerry & Manning, Matthew (2013) Feed-forward assessment, exemplars and peer marking: evidence of efficacy, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38:4, 451-465, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2011.646236

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Last updated: 24th December 2021 NB