09 SES 10 B, Investigating Student Attitudes on Assessment and Evaluation Practices
Formative assessment (FA) has become a prevalent practice in higher education everywhere for its purposes of improving the quality of education. Students’ beliefs of FA serve as a powerful determining force for the optimisation of FA potentials on learning. However, few studies have investigated students’ beliefs of FA in a thorough manner in higher education. In this study, a group of 27 Chinese non-English-major college students were individually interviewed about their beliefs of FA implemented in their English curriculum and the underlying reasons for such beliefs. Four specific research questions were explored as listed as follows.
a) What purposes do students believe FA serve?
b) What attitudes do students hold towards FA tasks?
c) How do students evaluate the effectiveness of FA tasks on improving their college English learning?
d) What factors mediate students’ beliefs of FA?
FA offers teachers and students alternatives to assessment by eliciting evidence about learning progress ‘to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded, than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicited’ (Black & William, 2009, p.7). Struyven et al. (2005) systematically examined the academic papers in the databases of the Educational Resources Information Center, the Web of Science and PsychINFO between 1980 and 2002, and concluded that students preferred multiple-choice examinations to essays and thought that alternative evaluation modes encouraged deep learning approaches and were fairer than traditional evaluation modes because of authenticity in assessment.
Brown (2011) summarises four major students’ conceptions of the nature and purpose of assessment through a literature review. Firstly, students realise that assessment serves the purpose of improving learning and teaching. Secondly, students are aware that assessment is external to them and is used to guarantee quality of education and measure learning. Thirdly, students know that assessment has an affective function and influence learning environment. Fourthly, students realise that assessment can be unfair, negative or irrelevant.
Recently, researchers have found that students hold distinctive views of assessment. They are more likely aware of summative or negative use of assessment than their teachers. However, few studies have explored the factors that contribute to students’ unfavorable beliefs of FA. For example, Fletcher et al. (2012) explored faculty’s and students’ conceptions of assessment in four universities in New Zealand. They found that faculty tended to regard assessment as a credible process which assisted teaching and learning, while students emphasised the accountability of assessment and viewed assessment as irrelevant or even neglected in the process of teaching and learning.
A few FA studies have been conducted in Asian higher educational contexts. In these studies, teachers’ interpretation and practices of FA are the focus of investigation. Students tend to be subordinate in providing a complementary perspective of outcomes caused by teachers’ FA practices or in providing information that would allow for triangulation of data obtained from teachers. Sometimes, they are even ignored in the research. For example, Thanh Pham and Renshaw (2015) described how two teachers transformed their formative assessment in Confucian heritage culture classrooms in Vietnam and reported students’ data on the difficulties they faced in conducting peer assessment and their change of beliefs of learning as result of teachers’ adapted FA practices. Zhou and Deneen (2016, 1154) explored 17 award-winning tutors’ perceptions and practices of class-based assessment in mainland of China and found that tutors emphasised the improvement purpose of class-based assessment and paid considerable attention to the ‘non-achievement dimensions’ of assessment. These studies show that FA appears to be interpreted and implemented in a special way in Asian higher educational contexts.
References Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21(1), 5-31. Brown, G. T. (2011). Self-regulation of assessment beliefs and attitudes: A review of the Students’ Conceptions of Assessment inventory. Educational Psychology, 31(6), 731-748. Fletcher, R. B., Meyer, L. H., Anderson, H., Johnston, P., & Rees, M. (2012). Faculty and students conceptions of assessment in higher education. Higher Education, 64(1), 119-133. Struyven, K., Dochy, F., & Janssens, S. (2005). Students’ perceptions about evaluation and assessment in higher education: A review. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 30(4), 331-347. Thanh Pham, T. H., & Renshaw, P. (2015). Formative assessment in Confucian heritage culture classrooms: activity theory analysis of tensions, contradictions and hybrid practices. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(1), 45-59. Zhou, J., & Deneen, C. C. (2016). Chinese award-winning tutors’ perceptions and practices of classroom-based assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41 (8), 1144-1158.
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