The main public providers of post-secondary education in Malta are the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) and the Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS).
The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST)
MCAST is the main Vocational Education and Training (VET) provider in Malta, offering a vast selection of courses, ranging from MQF Introductory Levels A & B, i.e., pre- MQF/EQF Level 1, to MQF/EQF Level 7, in different subject areas. MCAST strives to provide the best curricula and learning pedagogies by addressing specific needs and preparing students both for the world of work and furthering their education within the lifelong learning conceptual framework.
The onset of the fourth industrial revolution continues to bring about rapid changes to the way people live, work and interact with each other, particularly in the current pandemic circumstances and its aftermath. MCAST programmes of study prepare students with the knowledge, skills and competences to take up technical positions in industry or to progress to graduate studies. As undergraduate and postgraduate students, they will be both academically prepared and practically trained to satisfy the needs of industry at the highest of levels.
The six MCAST Institutes, covering Applied Sciences, Creative Arts, Engineering and Transport, Business Management and Commerce, Community Services, Information and Communication Technology, as well as the Gozo Campus, provide all the technical and professional expertise required to deliver the programmes they offer and maintain their position on the forefront of all the fields of study pertinent to their disciplines. This corporate structure enables the College to create focused strategies, including those pertaining to assessment, that address specific needs, while maintaining a proactive dialogue with all interested stakeholders in order to provide the best programmes for the country's socio-economic needs.
It is the practice at MCAST for academic staff to employ a combination of formative, i.e., continuous, and summative assessment for the benefit of MCAST students. The three documents dealing with the various programme levels referred to earlier, namely, Doc 003, Doc 004 and Doc 005, which can be accessed on the MCAST website at www.mcast.edu.mt, all outline the regulations governing the assessment process in Section 10, which is reproduced below.
Assessment of each unit that students take at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) is carried out mainly through a system of continuous assessment and time constrained assignments (TCAs). Students are assessed progressively throughout the year against learning outcomes that reflect the attainment of specific knowledge, skills and competences.
10.1 Continuous Assessment, Learning Outcomes, Grading Criteria and Assessment Tasks
10.1.1 All Units of study are assessed throughout the academic year through continuous assessment using a variety of assessment tools.
10.1.2 Coursework tasks are exclusively based on the Learning Outcomes and Grading Criteria as prescribed in the course specification. No alterations, deductions or additions to the approved unit Learning Outcomes shall be allowed. The Learning Outcomes and Grading Criteria are communicated to the Student via the coursework documentation.
10.1.3 The method of assessment shall reflect the Level, credit points (ECVETs) and the schedule of time-tabled/non-timetabled hours of learning of each study unit.
10.1.4 A variety of assessment instruments, not solely TCAs, are used to gather and interpret evidence of Student competence toward pre-established grading criteria that are aligned to the learning outcomes of each unit of the programme of study. The distribution of marks and assessment mode depends on the nature and objectives of the unit in question.
Additional to the preceding, the Institute Assessment Board may require a candidate to sit for a viva voce session in addition to taking those assessments prescribed in the programme specifications. Reasons for such action shall be communicated to the Student/s. Viva voce examinations shall be conducted by more than one examiner and a record of the examination and examination outcomes kept. It shall be made clear to the Student whether the viva voce is being carried out solely to ascertain the originality and ownership of the Students’ work, or if it carries marks as part of the assessment.
10.1.5 Units are to be designed with a holistic overview of the whole programme of studies to ensure that a balance between the different domains is achieved according to the guidelines provided in the National Commission for Further and Higher Education Referencing Report and as approved by the MCAST’s Education and Training Programmes and Learning Support Department.
In each unit, all domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy (knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, and creation) shall be addressed in the specified grading criteria. The weighting for each domain (and the marks allocated per criteria), shall be determined by the nature of the unit and addressed at grading criteria design stage e.g. a practical unit will most likely include a higher number of application and creation criteria compared to theoretical units.
Units should ideally have between 10 and 14 grading criteria.
10.1.6 Grading criteria are assessed through a number of tasks, each task being assigned a number of marks. The number of grading criteria is included in the respective Programme Specification. Rubrics and/or model answers should be utilized to facilitate an understanding of the grading for a particular assignment.
10.1.7 Coursework shall normally be completed during the semester in which the Unit is delivered.
10.1.8 Time-constrained assignments may be held between 8am and 8pm during the delivery period of a Unit, or at the end of the semester in which the Unit is completed. The dates are notified and published on the Institute notice boards or through other means of communication. Students are to be responsible enough to be available for allocated TCA time schedules.
10.2 Assessment documentation
10.2.1 The coursework documentation required for the assessment process includes as a minimum:
a) The Assessment Front Sheet and Feedback Information,
b) The Coursework Brief/Task Sheet/Assignment Brief.
10.2.2 The Assessment Front Sheet shall typically include the following information:
a) Grading Criteria and the task/s;
b) Date of internal verification release;
c) Date of the publication of the coursework;
d) Deadline for submission of coursework;
e) Student's signature of authenticity;
f) Assessor's marks and feedback.
g) Signature of Assessor: Issuing results and feedback to students
h) Signature of Internal Verifier: Approving Assignment Brief and Assessment Decisions.
10.2.3 The coursework brief shall include the tasks assigned and the corresponding marks, together with any other relevant and essential material pertaining to the evidence required from Students for their assessment.
10.2.4 In the Assessment Feedback section the assessor records decisions regarding the Student's assessment marks together with written feedback. The written feedback describes the Student's level of achievement and possible areas for improvement.
Students progress from one level to the next by obtaining the necessary requirements at the preceding level of study. Applicants who satisfy the entry requirements can join a Diploma Course in any of the Institutes and may continue to progress up to a Degree level, undergraduate and post-graduate. This is referred to in the documents mentioned above and the pertinent sections are reproduced below.
Successful completion of coursework
10.6.1 For each coursework assigned to the Student, the assessor shall provide feedback on the Student's performance as well as the total marks achieved in the coursework.
10.6.2 The total mark for each unit is calculated by summing up all the marks obtained in (all) the respective assessments set for each unit.
10.6.3 At the end of each Unit of study, Students will be awarded a grade which reflects the total mark obtained in accordance with the table provided below:
% Mark Award Grades
90 - 100
80 – 89
70 – 79
60 – 69
50 – 59
40 – 49
Compensatory Pass (Refer to section 12.2)
10.6.4 If a Student fails to submit one of the assessments set, s/he may attempt the remaining assessments (for the respective Unit). However, the maximum mark that may be achieved for the respective Unit is 59 % (Grade D).
10.7 Unsuccessful completion of coursework and non-submission of integrated assignments
10.7.1 Synoptic Assessment
10.7.1.1 Following the submission of all the unit coursework and its subsequent assessment, Students are assigned marks for each task. In cases when the overall minimum of 50 % is not achieved, the Student is considered to have failed the Unit but shall however be eligible to sit / attempt a synoptic assessment of that failed unit on one occasion only.
10.7.1.2 The Student will be notified that she/he is eligible to sit for the synoptic assessment of that particular unit. Students who opt to formally appeal the result of an assessment will not have the result of that assessment changed until successful hearing of the appeal. For this reason, the Student concerned is to continue with all ongoing activities (such as synoptic sits) under the assumption that his/her assessment result may not change. If in the event of a successful appeal the initial assessment result has been amended, the Student may seek to declare the subsequent synoptic results null and void and retain the earlier result.
This may happen if an appeal takes place at a later date than the synoptic assessment.
10.7.1.3 The following sub regulations exist for the synoptic assessment: The synoptic assessment:
a) is normally held during the same academic period, but not later than the September
following that period;
b) covers a cross-section of the unit from all the Learning Outcomes for the respective
unit in question;
c) may also include practical tasks;
d) can be held as a time constrained assessment or through other assessment tools.
The maximum mark that may be obtained in any synoptic assessment is 59% (Grade D).
If a Student does not achieve at least 50% in the synoptic assessment of the failed unit(s), the Student is considered to have failed the programme of study.
10.7.1.4 Students who fail a unit or a number of units after the synoptic assessment may be considered by the Board of Studies to repeat the outstanding units, with attendance, with the following cohort, space on the course permitting and subject to same unit being delivered in the following cohort. In this case, the Student is still eligible for a synoptic assessment under the same conditions as above (with the new cohort).
10.7.1.5 The Board of Studies cannot guarantee that any of the units delivered during any one cohort period will feature again in the following cohort’s programme or any subsequent programmes.
10.7.1.6 If a Student fails one or a limited number of units and the programme of study is no longer in existence, the Registrar in liaison with the Curriculum Department and the Institute, may consider mapping the Students’ successful units onto a similar programme of study, and allowing the Student to follow the unmapped units of this new programme in order to complete his/her studies. The Student, if successful would then graduate under the new programme of study.
10.7.2 Non-submission of Integrated Assignments
10.7.2.1 In case of integrated assessments where the coursework has embedded criteria from Key Skills subjects, if a Student does not submit one such coursework the grade for that particular Vocational Unit will be downgraded to ‘D’ and any embedded Key Skill subject that carries 25 marks and over in that particular assignment, will also be downgraded to ‘D’.
However, if the embedded Key Skill carries 24 marks or less, the Student will lose the marks allotted for the key skills criteria but the Key Skill unit grade will not be downgraded to ‘D’ for the non-submission of the vocational integrated coursework.
10.8 Assessment of group work
10.8.1 One or more of the learning outcomes of a Unit may be assessed through group work through assessment criteria. This shall be clearly stated in the Unit coursework front page.
10.8.2 Group coursework can help Students develop competencies in:
a) Collaboration / teamwork
b) Communication / listening
c) Conflict management
d) Leadership / project management
e) Articulating and defending a position
f) Negotiating ability
10.8.3 Students need to be aware that group coursework presents a number of challenges, namely:
a) Logistical challenges
b) Time coordination
c) Lack of time to form strong group bonds
d) Personality conflicts among group members
e) Students who are happy to leave the work to others
f) Students who want to take over the project themselves.
10.8.4 The way group coursework is structured shall make it possible for Lecturers to identify each individual’s contribution in the work submitted for assessment.
10.8.5 A clear declaration stating the Students own claims to their contributions shall accompany the final work submitted. This shall be countersigned by all the co-authors to indicate that they are all in agreement with each candidate’s claim. The assessor/s may still wish to verify claims through a viva voce and/or any supporting evidence.
10.8.6 If any form of credit will additionally be allocated for process (such as how well the team collaborated) this shall be stated in the coursework front page.
10.8.7 The instructions to the Students shall clearly explain:
a) How groups will be formed, e.g., self-selecting or pre-assigned;
b) The strategies that will be applied if Students drop out of groups (i.e. withdraw from the Unit);
c) The minimum / maximum size of the group if groups are to be self-selecting;
d) What groups should do if a member is not contributing;
e) How groups will be managed, namely whether this will be Student led or if a group will be assigned a tutor in which case the tutor must be clearly identified.
10.8.8 Irrespective of the nature of the work expected, individual contributions will be assessed separately and can be awarded different grades. Students will be held individually accountable for their contribution to the project.
10.8.9 Feedback (formative and summative) shall be made available to all group members.
10.8.10 For the purposes of transparency in assessment, when a Student/s in the group fail to obtain a pass mark for their own contribution, they shall be given a resit opportunity in line with existing regulations regarding resits. This shall be discussed openly in the presence of all team members and the additional work expected unequivocally agreed upon.
Assessment feedback and the more recent notion of feed forward is addressed in the documents referred to above as in the sections outlined below.
10.11 Assessment feedback
10.11.1 Individual feedback by the Lecturer is given to Students on the institute’s official “Coursework Front Sheet / Feedback Form” (including the online version as a result of the COVID-19 motivators).
10.11.2 The Lecturer’s feedback shall state what has been achieved or not achieved and possible areas for development and/or improvement.
10.11.3 Assessed work shall normally be returned to the Students following the completion of the study unit/s. Irrespective of when assessed work is returned to the Students to keep, feedback shall be given during an individual or group/class session immediately after the internal verification of assessment decisions is carried out (refer to section 10.15 below).
The internal verification process verifies both the assignment briefs and assessment decisions and, as a quality assurance measure, is described in detail in Section 12 of this document. Notwithstanding, Section 10.15 referred to in the preceding paragraph is reproduced below
10.15 Internal verification
10.15.1 All coursework tasks and a sample of Student works shall be verified by the Internal Verifier (IV). The latter shall ensure that all established programme requirements and documentation are in place and in line with approved practice. Internal Verifiers shall also ensure that assessors shall be able to make sound professional judgements.
10.15.2 The Internal Verifier shall also ensure that the assessor’s decisions are accurate, fair and consistent and the written feedback is supportive and encouraging further achievement and improvement.
The reference to the possibility of having access to a compensatory pass was referred to in the table above and the pertinent section is reproduced below.
12.2 Compensatory pass
12.2.1 Students who are in the final year of their course and have obtained between 40 and 49 % in only one (1)* of the 6-credit units, will be offered a compensatory pass. Only one compensatory pass is allowed per qualification.
* Note: Vocational Competences Units (i.e. accredited work based learning - apprenticeship) are not eligible for a compensatory pass. Moreover, students following programmes that include an Accredited Work Based Learning (AWBL) component are required to pass the AWBL unit in order to be eligible for consideration of a compensatory pass.
12.2.2 When considering the unit for a compensatory pass, the best mark obtained (i.e., sum of marks from ongoing assessment OR synoptic mark from current or previous years in the case of repeating students) is to be taken into consideration when determining a student’s eligibility for a compensatory pass.
12.2.3 Students who do not qualify for a compensatory pass are to discuss their options with their respective Institute Director.
A further quality assurance measure which reviews assessment decisions is the Lead Internal Verification exercise carried out by MCAST’s Quality Assurance Department and which is described in detail in Section 12 of this document, as is the involvement of external examiners in the higher levels.
Institute for Tourism Studies
Depending on the type of course, successful students following a course of studies at the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) are awarded a Certificate, a Diploma, a Higher National Diploma (HND) or a degree. Modules are assessed separately according to the criteria set by the Institute. There is also continuous assessment through coursework, a portfolio and end-of-semester tests or examinations. Students are required to complete a module within two academic years from the start date to be able to receive a Certificate. The ITS Certificates/Diplomas are awarded on the basis of Distinction (85% and over) and Merit (65% - 84%) and Pass (50% - 64%).
Coursework may include a written assignment and audio-visual presentations and practical demonstrations. The practical aspect is of fundamental importance. At the Institute of Tourism Studies, throughout each academic year the students need to attend a number of compulsory set tutorial sessions arranged with their assigned tutor in order to receive career guidance, feedback on academic performance and any other necessary support to progress through the course. Students also receive a credit value for this module.