22 SES 03 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
Overview: The purpose of this paper is to report and discuss a project undertaken by the authors which comprised, first, an analysis and comparison of selected assessment models, principles and frameworks, and, second, a critical examination of how these models might be translated or applied to different disciplinary areas within a single institution. The paper offers discussion points and ideas about the process, value and limitations of applying assessment models in real life, higher education contexts. Assessment of students represents an important and relevant issue in universities across Europe and the world, so it is hoped that the paper will have wide-ranging appeal at ECER 2014. An explanation of what constitutes assessment models for the purposes of the project will be provided at the beginning of the paper.
Aims of project and central line of argument: During the last 10-15 years, it has been increasingly recognised that assessment plays a key role in the enhancement of teaching and learning (Bryan & Clegg, 2006; Bloxham & Boyd, 2007; The Higher Education Academy, 2012). Accordingly, various assessment models have been developed, which provide principles, tools, case studies and other advice for the enhancement of assessment practice, and are themselves guided by research (Carless, 2009; Kearney, 2012; Sambell, McDowell & Montgomery, 2013). These models address issues such as assessment design, assessment methods, and assessment for learning.
This project sought to synthesise and compare a number of these models, and then apply them to a specific professional context. The project featured two aims. The first was to identify key models, and consider their central arguments and ‘messages’ for the enhancement of assessment practice. This was undertaken through a focused review of the literature, using an approach similar to that documented by Smith (2012). This informed the second aim that involved devising an assessment framework that could be used by staff developers for assessment design and enhancement in a specific university. The intention was that the framework could be used to inform assessment design and enhancement in departments throughout that university. The overall aim of the project was, then, to map key models and principles for enhancing assessment practice in higher education, and critically explore how these might be translated or applied to discipline areas within a single institution.
It will be argued that, whilst there exists a wide range of valuable assessment models, there is also a number of common assessment themes that can be extrapolated from them. This suggests a need for the development of ‘meta-frameworks’ to guide assessment practice. It is also suggested that assessment models need to be further developed to take fuller account of different disciplinary areas. These arguments should have clear relevance in the European context, as assessment has broad-based, international importance.
Conceptual framework and literature base: The paper draws on a conceptual framework for describing educational development practice (Amundsen & Wilson, 2012), considering the interplay between generic issues in assessment practice and disciplinary concerns and challenges. This framework will be used to cast light on the main arguments and conclusions of the paper. The study draws on assessment models and principles, including those by Boud (2010), Carless (2009), Gibbs & Simpson (2004-2005), Kearney (2012), and Sambell et al. (2013).
Amundsen, C. & Wilson, M. (2012) Are We Asking the Right Questions? A Conceptual Review of the Educational Development Literature in Higher Education. Review of Educational Research, 82, 1, 90-126. Bloxham, S. & Boyd, P. (2007) Developing Effective Assessment in Higher Education: a practical guide. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill, Open University Press. Boud, D. (2010) Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education. http://www.uts.edu.au/research-and-teaching/teaching-and-learning/assessment/assessment-futures#propositions-for-assessment-reform Access date: 13 January 2014. Carless, D. (2009) Learning-oriented assessment: Principles, practice and a project. In L. H. Meyer, S. Davidson, H. Anderson, R. Fletcher, P. M. Johnston and M. Ress (Eds.) Tiertiary Assessment & Higher Education Student Outcomes: Policy, Practice & Research (pp. 79-90). Wellington, New Zealand: Ako Aotearoa. Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004-5) Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students’ Learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3-29. Hart, C. (1998) Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. London: Sage. Kearney, S. (2012) Improving engagement: the use of ‘Authentic self- and peer-assessment for learning’ to enhance the student learning experience. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2012.751963 Lea, J. (2012) 77 things to think about… teaching and learning in higher education. Canterbury Christ Church University. www.canterbury.ac.uk/lteu/77things Access date: 14 January 2014. Lizzio, A. & Wilson, K. (2013) First year students’ appraisal of assessment tasks: implications for efficacy, engagement and performance. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38, 4, 389-406. Sambell, K., McDowell, L. & Montgomery, C. (2013) Assessment for Learning in Higher Education. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Smith, K. (2012) Lessons learned from literature on the diffusion of innovative learning and teaching practices in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49, 2, 173-182. The Higher Education Academy (2012) A Marked Improvement: Transforming assessment in higher education. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assessment Access date: 14 January 2014.
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