22 SES 08 A, Assessment and Learning: Diverse Perspectives
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 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). Also, pedagogical innovation and assessment are seen as key issues to achieve educational excellence in Higher Education and also to improve the teaching and learning quality.
According to students’ perceptions, learning is strongly correlated with assessment (Pereira, 2011; Pereira & Flores, 2012), but assessment and feedback processes are the issues with which students remain less satisfied with (Norton, 2009). Pereira’ study carried out in Portugal concluded that assessment methods in Higher Education are still mainly defined by teachers with no discussion and negotiation with students (Pereira, 2011). Furthermore, MacLellan (2001) concluded that students do not take advantage of assessment to improve their learning and, consequently, have an underdeveloped conception of what assessment is.
The Assessment for Learning (AfL) approach, seen as a pedagogical innovation in Higher Education (Gipps, 1994), highlights the close relation between assessment and learning since it 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). Perrenoud (1991) characterizes AfL as a learning regulation. Therefore, learning results from significant learning experiences adjusted to students’ needs, rather than developing traditional activities, prescribed knowledge (Perrenoud, 1991) and 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”.
In regard to students’ perceptions, literature has shown that AfL practices stimulate 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, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, & Wiliam, 2005; McDowell et al., 2011). Also, AfL is described by students “as a complex activity in which they are active and intentional participants” (Cowie, 2005, p. 137). Other 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 (Cassidy, 2011; Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006).
The development and assessment of practices that promote students’ learning as a priority implies the adoption of a wide array of assessment methods and less tests; feedback to report students’ strengths and weaknesses; opportunities to overcome weaknesses, to work in assessment in a collaboratively way and to carry out peer or self-assessment; sharing with students the goals of learning and the use of assessments tasks that enhance creativity and understanding rather than memorization of knowledge (Carless, 2005).
Recent literature points to the need for higher acknowledgement about the relation between assessment and the teaching and learning process in Higher Education (Pereira, 2011), as well as the need for developing and evaluating AfL approaches in Higher Education (McDowell et al., 2011). 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. (2005). Assessment for Learning. Putting it into practice. England: Open University Press. Carless, D. (2005). Prospects for the implementation of assessment for learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 12(1), 39-54. 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. 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, 4-5 junho 2007. Alicante. 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. MacLellan, E. (2001). Assessment for Learning: The differing perceptions of tutors and students. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 26(4), 307-318. 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. Norton, L. (2009). Assessing student learning. In H. Fry, S. Ketteridge, & S. Marshall (Eds.), A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Enhancing Academic Practice (pp.132-149). New York and London: Routledge. Pereira, D. (2011). A Avaliação das Aprendizagens no Ensino Superior na perspetiva dos estudantes. Um estudo exploratório (Unpublished master’s thesis). Universidade do Minho, Braga, Portugal. Pereira, D., & Flores, M. A. (2012). Percepções dos estudantes universitários sobre a avaliação das aprendizagens: um estudo exploratório. Avaliação: Revista da Avaliação da Educação Superior, 17(2), 529-555. Perrenoud, P. (1991). Towards a pragmatic approach to formative evaluation. In P. Weston (Ed.), Assessment of pupil achievement (pp.79-101). Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger. 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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