22 SES 11 C, Student Learning and Evaluation
Over the time, the higher education systems have been exposed to deep and radical transformations. Different processes such as, standardization, diversification, privatization, and internationalization have brought deep institutional changes. Many are the problems that higher education systems have had to deal with: first of all the pervasive attention on teaching-learning quality considered both at institutional and individual level. This concept brings together the most varied aspects such as curricula design, attention to learning context, students’ services support (OECD, 2012), and the recognition of a different kind of assessment of students’ learning outcomes.
In the European area, the widespread diffusion of Dublin Descriptors, following the Bergen Conference (2006) and the Bologna Process (1999) has led to an assessment that is more transparent and aligned with the higher education system and quality assurance process.
European higher education institutions have started to develop internal systems of quality assurance (ENQA). In Italy this system has been designed and implemented by ANVUR.
Five are the main phases of the quality assurance process:
- Define learning outcomes and program outcomes;
- Design and plan courses and modules;
- Monitor and assess learning outcomes;
- Foster improvement actions;
- Supply with documentary evidence what is done and realized.
The emphasis on measurement and assessment of learning has darkened further purposes related to assessment and reduced the role and the importance of the main subjects involved in the teaching-learning process (Rust, Price, O’Donovan, 2003). The assessment should not, in fact, just be aimed to determine what students have acquired in terms of contents at the end of a module or program (traditional and instrumental view). Assessment should allows teachers to provide students with information about their learning so they can become «more effective, self-assessing, self-directed learners» (Angelo, Cross, 1993: 4). A considerable scientific literature about feedback and assessment emphasises the influence of the assessment in the teaching-learning process (Hattie, 2009; Popham, 2008). However, sometimes assessment seems to be irrelevant and not supportive both for teachers and students (Taras, 2010; Brown, 2006; Warren, Nisbet, 1999; Torrance, Pryor, 1998). This raises a variety of questions:
- How much does assessment improve students learning?
- Do teachers provide useful, appropriate, and timely feedback?
- Do they allow students to recognize and understand elements that can lead to an improvement in their performance?
There is a strong drive internationally in higher education to support a new assessment culture. Remarkable are the efforts to outline a different kind of assessment that should be more sustainable (Boud, 2006) and useful in order to foster students’ learning process (Price et al., 2012). Assessment practice in the Italian higher education system has become more complex, serves different purposes, and involvers various stakeholders because it tries to combine two main instances:
- The implementation, for the first time, of a national quality assurance system;
- The requests for a teaching-learning process designed in order to promote learning outcomes aligned with the Dublin Descriptors. The implant of learning outcomes has an impact on teaching, learning, and assessment that is uncertain and a matter debate and contrasting views.
This paper reports the rationale and the research design of the IDEA project that is an ANVUR (Italian National Agency for University Quality Assurance) approved and granted research project. The project is aimed to the implementation of an assessment model that, in one hand, can be able to enhance the role of feedback for the improvement of the teaching-learning process, and, on the other hand, can produce concrete and relevant “evidence” within the higher education quality assurance system.
Angelo, T.A., Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Boud, D. (2006). Sustainable Assessment: Rethinking Assessment for the Learning Society. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 22(2), pp. 151-167. Brown, G.T.L. (2006). Teachers’ Conceptions of Assessment: Validation of an Abridged Instrument. Psychological Reports, 99, pp. 166-170. Hattie, J.A.C. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-analysis Relating to Achievement. Abingdon: Routledge. Popham, W.J. (2008). Transformative assessment. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Price, M., Rust, R., O’Donovan, B., Handley, K., Bryant, R. (2012). Assessment literacy: The Foundation for Improving Student Learning. Oxford: OCSLD. Rust, C., Price, M., O’Donovan, B. (2003). ‘Improving students’ learning by developing their understanding of assessment criteria and processes’. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 28(2), pp. 147-164. Singh, M., Ramya, K.R. (2011). Outcome Based Education. International Journal of Nursing Education, 3(2), 87-91. Slavin, R.E. (2008). Evidence-based reform in education: What will it take?. European Educational Research Journal, 7(1), pp. 124-128. Taras, M. (2010). Assessment for Learning: Assessing the Theory and Evidence. Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences, 2(2), pp. 3015-3022. Torrance, H., Pryor, J. (1998). Investigating formative assessment: teaching, learning and assessment in the classroom. Buckingham: Open University Press. Warren, E., Nisbet, S. (1999). The relationship between the purported use of assessment techniques and belie,fs about the uses of assessment. In J.M. Truran, K.M. Truran (Eds.), 22nd Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education and Research Group of Australia (pp. 515-521). Adelaide, SA: MERGA.
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