22 SES 01 B, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
The Bologna Process has brought about changes in Higher Education within a renewed framework with implications for curriculum design and, consequently, for teaching, learning and assessment methods. This "new" educational paradigm recognises the key role of students in their learning process based on autonomy, shared work and project-based work (Flores & Veiga Simão, 2007). These are some of the key issues for highly competitive environments in universities and changes at the level of conceptions of teaching (Reimann & Wilson, 2012), and through the adoption of transdisciplinary knowledge, pedagogical innovation and student-centred education in order to achieve educational excellence in Higher Education (Esteves, 2008).
The Assessment for Learning (AFL) approach emphasises formative assessment and continuous feedback mechanisms between teacher and student for adjustment of teaching strategies and learning activities (McDowell, Sambell, & Davison, 2009; Reimann & Wilson, 2012). Thus, its contribution for pedagogical innovation as well as for teaching and learning quality in Higher Education has been pointed out (Gipps, 1994). According to Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, and Wiliam (2002), the AFL practices promote students’ learning as a priority, highlighting the close relation between assessment and learning. In other words, it means “assessment as a tool for learning” (Dochy & McDowell, 1997, p. 279) and as “a teaching strategy of very high leverage” (Hargreaves, 2004, in Marshall & Drummond, 2006, p. 133), rather than meeting the purposes of accountability and certification.
McDowell, Wakelin, Montgomery, and King (2011, p. 750) describe AFL as an assessment environment that “is rich in formal and informal feedback; provides opportunities to try out and practice knowledge, skills and understanding; has assessment tasks which are authentic or relevant, assists students to develop independence and autonomy and has an appropriate balance between formative and summative assessment”. Cowie’s study (2005, p. 137), indicates that students described AFL “as a complex activity in which they are active and intentional participants”.
Literature has also shown that AFL practices stimulates students’ engagement in a more active way, providing them with more positive formative experiences, such as: greater teacher support, flexible curricular design, dialogue opportunities, peer learning and research opportunities (Black et al., 2005; McDowell et al., 2011). Further, studies stressed the feedback between teacher and student as a tool to promote self-regulated learning, essential for academic performance and for ways in which teachers organise assessments and support learning (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006; Cassidy, 2011). In the study carried out by Hargreaves (2005) about teachers’ perceptions, AFL practices were considered relevant because they followed students’ performance, were used to understand which steps needed to be taken in the teaching and learning process to achieve continuous improvement and self-regulated learning.Recent literature points to the need for developing and evaluating AFL approaches in Higher Education (McDowell et al., 2011) as a result of traditional assessments (Cassidy, 2011; Kearney, 2012). MacLellan (2001) mentioned that students do not take advantage of assessment to improve their learning and, consequently, have an underdeveloped conception of what is assessment. Thus, there is still research to be undertaken in this area, particularly in the Portuguese context. It is within this framework that the present study was carried out.
Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2002). Working inside the black box: Assessment for learning in the classroom. London, UK: King’s College London School of Education. Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2005). Assessment for Learning. Putting it into practice. England: Open University Press. Cassidy, S. (2011). Self-regulated learning in higher education: identifying key component processes. Studies in Higher Education, 36(8), 989-1000. Cowie, B. (2005). Pupil commentary on assessment for learning. The Curriculum Journal, 16(2), 137-151. Dochy, F., & McDowell, L. (1997). Assessment as a tool for learning. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 23(4), 279-298. Esteves, M. (2008). Para a excelência pedagógica do ensino superior. Sísifo. Revista de Ciências da Educação, 07, 101-110. Flores, M. A., & Veiga Simão, A. M. (2007). Competências desenvolvidas no contexto do Ensino Superior: a perspetiva dos diplomados. In V Jornadas de Redes de Investigación en Docencia Universitaria. Alicante, Espanha, 4-5 junho. Gipps, C. (1994). Beyond testing: Towards a theory of educational assessment. London: Falmer Press. Hargreaves, E. (2005). Assessment for learning? Thinking outside the (black) box. Cambridge Journal of Education, 35(2), 213-224. 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. doi:10.1080/02602938.2012.751963. MacLellan, E. (2001). Assessment for Learning: The differing perceptions of tutors and students. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 26(4), 307-318. Marshall, B., & Drummond, M. (2006). How teachers engage with Assessment for Learning: lessons from the classroom. Research Papers in Education, 21(02), 133 – 149. McDowell, L., Sambell, K., & Davison, G. (2009). Assessment for learning: A brief history and review of terminology. In C. Rust (Ed.), Improving student learning through the curriculum (pp. 56–64). Oxford, UK: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development. McDowell, L., Wakelin, D., Montgomery, C., & King, S. (2011). Does assessment for learning make a difference? The development of a questionnaire to explore the student response. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(7), 749-765. Nicol, D. J., & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218. Reimann, N., & Wilson, A. (2012). Academic development in ‘assessment for learning’: the value of a concept and communities of assessment practice. International Journal for Academic Development, 17(1), 71-83.
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