With the Bologna Process, the renewed framework in the curricula has brought about changes with implications for teaching, learning and assessment methodologies. 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). In this context, the need for developing and evaluating Assessment for Learning (AfL) approaches in higher education has been pointed out (McDowell et al., 2011).
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. Thus, the development and assessment of these practices 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). As Swaffield (2011, p. 441) highlighted, AfL is a teaching and learning process and the main concern is “with the here and now of learning”. In Cowie’s study (2005, p. 137), students described AfL “as a complex activity in which they are active and intentional participants”. Yet, 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, 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). 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 tests and that the assessment methodology is 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. On the other hand, “students who conceive assessment as a means of taking responsibility for their learning will demonstrate increased educational outcomes” (Brown & Hirschfeld, 2008, p. 3).
Thus, there is a need for further research in this area in Higher Education, particularly in the Portuguese context.
Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2005). Assessment for Learning. Putting it into practice. England: Open University Press. Brown, G., & Hirschfeld, G. (2008). Students’ conceptions of assessment: Links to outcomes. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 15(1), 3-17. Carless, D. (2005). Prospects for the implementation of assessment for learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 12(1), 39-54. 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. MacLellan, E. (2001). Assessment for Learning: The differing perceptions of tutors and students. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 26(4), 307-318. 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. 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. Swaffield, S. (2011). Getting to the heart of authentic assessment for learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 18, 433–449.
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