Negotiating an Assignment

Negotiating an Assignment



The capability of Self-Directed Learning and Critical Evaluation requires you to negotiate at least one assignment in Phase 1. This requirement has been included as a way of encouraging you to develop a crucial aspect of the capability of Self-directed learning and critical evaluation:

  • the ability to conceive a research question
  • develop and plan this as a feasible assignment
  • and then implement this as a learning project.

The experience of negotiating assignments in phase 1 is intended as a preparatory activity for the more independent style of learning that will operate in the later phases in the program, especially in Phase 3 and the Independent Learning project.

You should ensure you have submitted at least one negotiated assignment before the Portfolio examination at the end of second year. You are welcome to negotiate more than one assignment in Phase 1, however it is not recommended that you do so until at least the last course of your first year, so that you can gain experience in the requirements of assignments. You should try to avoid leaving your negotiated assignment until the final course of Phase 1 because, if the proposal is not accepted, you will not have another chance to do it, making you ineligible to submit your portfolio. Developing a proposal, considering feedback and implementing the plan are essential parts of the process and of the learning involved in this activity, so you should treat it as a serious process.



The following guidelines cover the scope and process involved.

You should start the process by considering the topic and aim of your proposed assignment. You should discuss your proposal for the negotiated assignment with your facilitator after you have considered your topic.

In developing your proposal you need to consider what you wish to research. Ask yourself the following when deciding on this:

  1. Does the proposed question deal with a topic or issue that interests me and fits with broad themes of the course?
  2. Is the topic easily and fully researchable in the time available for this assignment? If it is too broad can I focus on a key part of the issue for this assignment?
  3. What type of information do I need to answer the research question?
  4. Is the scope of this information reasonable? (e.g., can I really evaluate 30 online programs developed in the last 20 years?)
  5. Given the type and scope of the information that I need, is my question too broad, too narrow or just right?
  6. What sources will have the type of information that I need to answer the research question (journals, books, internet resources, government documents, interviews etc)?
  7. Can I access these sources?


How do I need adjust the question to better reflect a realistic scope of this assignment given the answers above?

Your proposal should contain:

1.  A description of what incident or experience suggested the assignment focus to you.

  • This is to help anchor the question that drives the assignment in an event or experience, and should give an indication of why you have chosen this focus.

2.  The proposed topic of the assignment.

  • The topic must be relevant to the course themes but should not be too close to the topics addressed in lectures and other activities in the course, nor too close to the topics of set assignments and projects in the course.

3. A statement of the aim of the assignment.

  • Think carefully about this. A negotiated assignment should be interesting and worthwhile.
  • Specifically it should be;
    • Related to the themes and aims of the course
    • Significantly different to the set assignments and projects in the course and in other courses in the program.

Items 2 and 3 together should indicate what you expect to learn from doing the assignment

4.  An indication of the focus capability for the assignment.

  • Note that all negotiated assignments have Self-direction and Critical Evaluation as one capability focus.
  • See below for focus and generic assessment criteria for this capability.

5. A description of what you propose to do in order to investigate the nominated question/topic.

  • This might include sources of literature for review, people to interview, processes to observe, skills to develop, etc.
  • The scope of the tasks should be suitable in terms of the time and resources required.
  • Do not plan an assignment that requires ethical approval as there will be not be sufficient time for the ethics approval process.

6. An indication of the length and format of the report that will be produced.

  • Will a supporting file be submitted? (i.e. What will you produce as evidence that you have pursued your aim and to demonstrate what you have learned?)
  • Note that a written assignment report is a maximum of 2000 words long, including the text in the required ‘Statement of modifications’ made to the original plan in light of feedback received and issues encountered.

7. An indication of the assessment criteria that you propose for the focus capability.

  • The criteria can be broad, and should say what an acceptable response would look like.
  • As for any assignment these criteria must be written in such a way that the marker is clear about what is expected, and can evaluate your performance against them.
  • Check the criteria on some set assignments for examples, but make sure your criteria reflect the significant aims and tasks of your proposal.

8. A schedule of activities for weeks 2 to 6.

  • Note that the assignment should be submitted at the same time as other assignments in the course.


Submission information

You should submit your plan to the eMed Registrations system by the time and day specified in the course guide. Registrations are usually expected by the end of the first week of each course. The Course convenor and a panel of assessors will review your proposal, provide you with feedback and indicate if the proposal is approved or not approved.

If not approved, you should register for a set assignment from the course guide.

If approved, consult with your facilitator over any modifications to the plan that you need to make in response to the feedback you have received. If the feedback from the convenor alters the assignment so it is no longer of interest to you, you may drop it and register for a set assignment from the course guide. Otherwise, proceed with your plan.

Your final report should be a single document that contains the following five elements:

  1. Your Assignment report
  2. The Original plan
  3. The Feedback document received from the course convenor
  4. A Statement of modifications made to the plan in light of the feedback and/or problems encountered while doing the assignment.
  5. The Assessment criteria for the assignment. These should incorporate any changes made to the criteria that were originally proposed in light of the feedback received.

Please note that a failure to incorporate the final assessment criteria in the final submission may result in a Fail grade!

The document should be submitted as a Negotiated assignment (a special category of submission on eMed-Portfolio) by the due date and time for submission of assignments in your course. You may include one separate supporting file as part of the submission.

The maximum of 2000 words applies to the Report and the Statement of modifications made (and not to the original plan or feedback document).

Assessment Criteria

Assessment Criteria

You need to specify one focus capability in your plan when you submit the final document to eMed Portfolio. The criteria for assessing your performance in this capability will be taken from your plan and any subsequent modifications.

Tips for writing the assessment criteria

  • Use active verbs to frame the criteria (e.g. explain, design, solve, apply, critique) and avoid vague terms that are difficult to ascertain and measure (e.g. gain awareness, appreciate)
  • Start off with a more fundamental action
    • e.g. Describe the basic anatomy, histology and pathology of a degenerative disease.
  • Then follow with criteria for analysing, applying or evaluating this basic research information.
    • e.g. Compare and contrast the mechanisms of two forms of treatment.

This shows the marker that you found the basic material and were then able to use, digest, develop, analyse or apply this.

Did you specify only one behaviour in each criteria?

  • Specify the essential content that you will be working on or with when you are preparing your assignment - what you will explain, design, solve, discuss, etc
  • Specify the focus of the research question proposed/ target population under study
    • e.g. a health promotion message for a target population, ethical perspectives for a specific dilemma, scientific concepts that underpin a specific problem, etc
  • Check that these criteria are achievable and they meet the criteria for your assessment task:
    • Clearly identify the important characteristics that your work will demonstrate to show that you have answered your research question
    • Have you used concise language?

The above is based on work developed from the following:
Armstrong, S., Chan, S., Malfroy, J. and Thomson, R. (2008). Assessment Guide: Implementing criteria and standards-based assessment. University of Western Sydney, Teaching Development Unit.

The other focus will always be Self-Directed Learning and Critical Evaluation. The differences between the focus and generic criteria for assessing the capability of Self-Directed Learning and Critical Evaluation for negotiated assignments are:

Focus assessment criteria for capability: Self Directed Learning Generic assessment criteria for capability: Self Directed Learning
  • Topic question is interesting and worth exploring.
  • Quality of the learning plan (a range of appropriate learning activities, achievable within time & resource limits.)
  • Adequate search strategy.
  • Assessment criteria are related to the learning aim and are able to be evaluated.
  • Plan is completed on time and submitted to eMed-Portfolio by due date and time
  • Sources are accurately referenced, using the specified format.
  • Evidence of critical thinking, awareness of own & others’ values & biases, logical argument and use of evidence.


Well written assessment criteria

  • tell the marker what you are going to do in your assignment
  • relate to your original question
  • provide the basis for a marking guide

Negotiated assignments, like set assignments, are assessed against criteria for the three generic capabilities (communication, self direction and critical evaluation, and reflection). Penalties for late submission and over-length reports are as for set assignments.

Some examples of verbs used in developing effective assessment criteria:
Note: Each of these active words can be described differently in various contexts, so they are used here as examples. What is important is HOW you use them within your assessment criteria sentence: be specific and focused.

Briefly describe, summarise main features or principles. Clearly define stages in a process. Omit lesser detail.

Provide accurate and precise information; illustrate with example/s where appropriate.

Give precise meaning. Describe and clarify. May involve showing different interpretations, or explaining boundaries or limitations. Provide example/s if appropriate.

Provide a shortened version in your own words, highlighting major points and omitting less important detail.

Examine / explore
Inspect in detail, investigate thoroughly, identify all important aspects

Compare and Contrast
Analyse all issues, but focus on similarities and differences. Identify major underlying concepts or themes and discuss where they agree or disagree, what they have in common and where they diverge.

Questions ,e.g.: How? Why? What?
Specify details, give precise, accurate information, analyse all relevant perspectives, issues. Answer must show conviction, supported by example/s if appropriate

Analyse, discuss, consider
Treat the topic in some depth, examining all relevant issues. Identify key components, theories, principles, or concepts. After considering all perspectives, develop a viewpoint in response to the essay question, and support your reasoning with evidence as appropriate.

Assess, understand
Examine all aspects and make a judgment as to quality or attributes. May involve identifying cause and effect, implications and impacts, or strengths and weaknesses.

Critique, review, evaluate
Treat in a detailed and analytical way. Will involve some description but most importantly a judgment as to quality, highlighting strengths or weaknesses, advantages or disadvantages.

Assignments involving Interviewing

Assignments involving Interviewing

All students doing a Negotiated Assignment that involves interviewing either professional colleagues or patients MUST ensure that relevant ethical considerations are respected.

Communicating with patients and colleagues is part of your professional training, however when you are conducting interviews you should always seek informed consent and respect confidentiality. This means:

  • explaining the purpose of the interview/discussion, and detailing who will see the resulting report,
  • ensuring that what you have said is understood,
  • obtaining additional verbal consent if the written assignment report is going to be shown to anyone apart from the assessors,
  • keeping all names confidential by using pseudonyms (that is, a false name) or a number or code. You should note that the medical record number is not appropriate as a “code” for de-identifying patients. You must be particularly careful about de-identification when there is the risk of identification of “de-identified”patients by other means, eg. uncommon condition or particular family history. You may only use the real names of colleagues if you have been given explicit permission to do so, keeping interview tapes or transcripts, if any, de-identified (that is, do not put the name of the person on it, but put on the code),
  • being careful how you write up your reports. In particular, if someone has given you sensitive information then be sure to deal with it carefully. You must ensure that you do not cause them harm or problems as a result of your reporting.

All this is common sense behaviour required of a professional working with humans in vulnerable periods of their lives, and also showing care for colleagues and the impact you may have on them.

Seeing Patients on Wards

If you are seeing patients on the wards unsupervised you must:

  • Identify yourself to a member of the nursing staff. Ensure your ID card is visible. 
  • Obtain permission from the nursing staff to see the patient if your team does not know the patient. 
  • Introduce yourself to the patient as a “medical student” or “student doctor” and explain the purpose of your visit. The more precise you are about your aims, the more likely the patient will agree. 
  • Obtain the patient’s permission. The patient has the right to decline for no stated reason. If the time is not suitable, ask the patient if you can return at a later time. 
  • Not disturb a patient who is sleeping, having a meal or undergoing any nursing care. 
  • Obtain permission from visitors to interrupt their visit. Ensure you inform visitors when you have finished seeing the patient. 
  • Not disturb dressings without the permission of the nursing staff.
  • Not move patients who require assistance without the permission of the nursing staff. 
  • Stop immediately if the patient is to be taken off the ward for any reason. 
  • Help the patient with dressing, repositioning when you are finished and leave their area as you found it. 
  • Return the patient’s medical records and any charts to the appropriate place. Students must not remove any information relating to the patient, including medical records and X-rays, from the ward. 
  • Report any incident to the Acting Nurse Unit Manager that may have occurred during your visit that may have harmed the patient or which could result in a complaint. Note that all students are covered by an insurance policy.

Patient Confidentiality

At all times, students must be mindful of patient’s confidentiality.

  • You should not include identifying details when discussing a patient’s condition with other students or staff who are not involved in the patient’s care.  Students must obtain consent from patients for their name to be passed on to other students for teaching purposes. 
  • You should never discuss a patient in a public place eg in elevators or in corridors, even if the patient is not identified. A relative could readily identify whom you are talking about and hear information not disclosed by the patient. 
  • You cannot photocopy medical records. 
  • You cannot use the hospital’s computer clinical information system to obtain information on a person, which is not relevant to their clinical care.
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