09 SES 17 A, Assessments and Evaluation Culture in (Higher) Education
The project intends to conduct a comparative approach to better understand the culture of assessment in higher education institutions. Starting with a well developed, frequently applied and validated English-language 14-item survey instrument, measuring the ‘culture of assessment’ in higher education, the project addresses two core challenges. First, the field of evaluation and assessment contains a diverse set of concepts, and these concepts often do not translate easily from one language to another. We had to address the language challenge because one knows that language mirrors a nation’s culture, that is, “… language fixes concepts” (Le Metais, 2001, p.201).
Second, while the concept ‘culture of assessment’ is a well-established concept and approach in American education, in Europe the concept of ‘culture of assessment’ is used less frequently or is interpreted and applied in distinct ways. For instance, in Norway a ‘vurderingskultur’ is strongly related to learning approaches. This conceptualization started with the Norwegian educational policy initiative in 2010 and following (Directory of Education, 2010, 2011a,b, 2012, 2014, 2015). One core objective of these whitepapers is to stress the aspect of ‘assessment for learning’ by feedback. Moreover, the concepts of ‘evaluation and “reporting found in the Norwegian language reflect some important aspects of assessment that are not necessarily addressed by ‘assessment’.
The quotations below represent the Norwegian understanding of the concept assessment culture:
” … begrep som nettopp dekker både vurdering av hver enkelt elev og samtidig skolens samlede evne og ønske om å vurdere” (Engh, Dobson & Høihilder, 2007, p. 69). [… actually, the concept comprises both the assessment of the individual student and an institution’s joint ability and wish to conduct program assessment].
” … som ledelsens og personalets syn på vurdering” (Engh, 2011, p. 171) and ” … måten disse ressursene blir brukt på, skal forstås som en del av denne” (Engh, 2011, p. 171). [… the staff’s and the leadership’s attitude on assessment and evaluation and “… the way these resources and the knowledge can be applied is a part of the assessment culture as well.]
To establish a positive culture of assessment, one needs to invest in several topics as ” … kompetanseheving, kunnskapsdeling, tolkningsfellesskap, ledelse, samarbeid, utprøving og erfaringsdeling” (Engh, 2011, p. 178). [ “… competence improvement, knowledge sharing, reifications of concepts, leadership, cooperation, application and sharing of experiences.”]
On the other hand, the concept is sometimes connotated normatively, and related with institutionalizing or centralizing (‘Bewertungskultur’ sensu Bertemes, 2007) approaches. It is also seen as restrictive and controlling (Kvalitetssikringssystemer sensu Gjøsæter, 2011; Rossmann, 1995) in terms of neoliberal education policies (Uljens & Ylimaki, 2017, p.5).
Coming back to Norway, one can realize the concept and approach of ‘assessment culture’ is rather used for comprehensive schools than it addresses higher education institutions one can find in a typical American definition.
“The fifteen elements needed to achieve a culture of assessment are the following: clear general education goals, common use of assessment-related terms, faculty ownership of assessment programs, ongoing professional development, administrative encouragement of assessment, practical assessment plans, systematic assessment, the setting of student learning outcomes for all courses and programs, comprehensive program review, assessment of co-curricular activities, assessment of overall institutional effectiveness, informational forums about assessment, inclusion of assessment in plans and budgets, celebration of successes, and, finally, responsiveness to proposals for new endeavors related to assessment.” (Weiner, 2009, n.p.)
One keypoint for our research endeavor is based in the fact that assessment is seen as a crucial part of learning or, as Autio sees it, the reintegration of the meaning of assessment and evaluation as natural part of pedagogic processes and teachers work (see Autio, 2017, p. 264; Ndoye & Parker, 2010).
Research question and method: The research question motivating the pilot comparative study is: How should a culture of assessment in a European context be defined? The main research questions for the planned project can be addressed at the university, comparative and national levels: ● What kind of assessment cultures do a specific European and American University possess? ● What are the patterns for a strong assessment cultures? ● How can a national culture and educational policy be filtered from a ‘university assessment culture’? ● How can improving an assessment culture impact learning? As methods and instruments, we are using a literature review, two expert workshops, and a pilot-study applying the translated survey. In our pilot phase we are starting a comparative study between a Norwegian and a US-institution of higher education. The survey has already been validated for use with American universities. The translated version will be used at our home university in Norway. One of the core challenges in the international context is to define what a culture of assessment is. We know that language fixes concepts (Le Metais, 2001, p.201). To address the challenge to establish a working definition for a culture of assessment in the US and in a European context as well, we have been conducting a literature review. For the literature review we used the following questions: • What is the definition of a culture of assessment? • What are factors/elements/indicators of culture of assessment? • How does paper connect culture of assessment to student learning? • Unusual/remarkable findings/statements? • If a research study is conducted: Where & who were the participants? • Are there ideas for further research? • Other key references used as a platform for the papers discussion and theory? The literature review was supported and surrounded by two online-workshops with invited experts in the field of assessment with the faculties from both Universities the last year.
The survey results of both Institutions will be available and will be presented in September. One of the results already acquired through the cross-national discourse is that these assessment cultures differ in respect to institutionalized routines and responsibilities in their higher education institutions. One reason is the less formalized infrastructure and institutionalized discourse of assessment and evaluation in the Norwegian higher education culture. One example is that the very first national conference on assessment and evaluation was conducted in 2017, which then started to disseminate and shape the meaning and use of the concept of an assessment culture in a broader sense. As a research result for the literature review, we expect a clearer picture of the use of the concept; that is, that out of the two distinct national contexts we can better describe the nature of the phenomenon according to the comparative method of Bereday (see Phillips & Schweisfurth, 2014, p.116) As result of the pilot study, we expect to contribute to a tool which is able to grasp and to re-represent an actual culture of assessment at a Norwegian institution of higher education. We are aware that our research will influence the use and understanding of the concept and approach of a culture of assessment, and we hope to contribute to a conceptualization as an educational tool. Suskie wrote that “…assessment is just a tool to bring about better teaching and learning” (Suskie, 2008, p.72).
Autio, T. (2017). Curriculum Theory in Contestation? American Curriculum, European Didaktik, and Chinese Wisdom Traditions as Hybrid Platforms for Educational Leadership. 257-280. Bertemes, J. (2007). Entwicklung der Unterrichts- und Bewertungskultur, dargestellt anhand von zentralen Prüfungen. Gesellschaft für Didaktik der Mathematik. Beiträge zum Mathematikunterricht 2007, 41. https://hds.hebis.de/ubmz/EBSCO/Record?id=edsbas.ftunivdortmund.oai.eldorado.tu.dortmund.de.2003.30958|edsbas Directory of Education (2010). Assessment for learning. Whitepaper. https://www.udir.no/laring-og-trivsel/vurdering/nasjonal-satsing/om-satsingen/ Directory of Education. (2011a). Grunnlagsdokument. Satsingen vurdering for læring. http://www.udir.no/PageFiles/56712/Grunnlagsdokument%20for%20satsingen%20Vurderin g%20for%20l%C3%A6ring.pdf Directory of Education. (2011b). Sammendrag av The power of feedback – artikkel av John Hattie og Helen Timperley, Universitetet i Auckland. https://www.udir.no/PageFiles/35143/Sammendrag%20the%20power%20of%20feedback%20_3_.pdf Directory of Education (2012). Teoretisk bakgrunnsdokument for arbeid med vurdering for læring på ungdomstrinnet. http://www.udir.no/globalassets/upload/ungdomstrinnet/rammeverk/ungdomstrinnet_bakgru nnsdokument_vurdering_for_laring_vedlegg_5.pdf Directory of Education. (2013). Læreplan i norsk. http://www.udir.no/kl06/NOR1-05/Hele/ Directory of Education. (2014). Grunnlagsdokument. Videreføring av satsingen vurdering for læring 2014 – 2017. http://www.udir.no/globalassets/filer/vurdering/vfl/andredokumenter/felles/grunnlagsdokum ent-2014-2017.pdf Directory of Education. (2015). Endringer i regelverket om vurdering. http://www.udir.no/Vurdering/Innhold-vurdering/Endringer-i-regelverket-om-vurdering/ Engh, R. (2011). Vurdering for læring i skolen: På vei mot en bærekraftig utvikling. Kristiansand: Høyskoleforlaget. Engh, Dobson & Høihilder, (2007). Vurdering for læring. Kristiansand: Høyskoleforlaget. Gjøsæter, Åge (2011). Kvalitetssikringssystemer som ledelsesverktøy innenfor høyere utdanning – systemer for styring og kontroll eller for utvikling og forbedring? Uniped, 68-78.https://www.idunn.no/uniped/2011/03/kvalitetssikringssystemer_som_ledelsesverktoey_innenfor_hoeye Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of educational research, 77(1), 81-112. Metais, J. (2001). Approaches to comparing educational systems. In K. Watson (Ed.), Doing comparative education research (pp. 197-209). London, UK: Symposium books. Ndoye, A., & Parker, M. A. (2010). Creating and sustaining a culture of assessment. Planning For higher education, 38(2), 28-39. Phillips & Schweisfurth (2014). Comparative & International Education: An Introduction to Theory, Method & Practice. Rossmann, (1997). Leistungsmessung und Erfolge im öffentlichen Sektor 23, 2, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Uljens, M. & Ylimaki, R. (2017). Eds. - Bridging Educational Leadership, Curriculum Theory and Didaktik. Dordrecht, Springer. Weiner, W. F. (2009, July). Establishing a culture of assessment: Fifteen elements of assessment success. Academe. http://www.aaup.org/article/establishing-culture-assessment#.U7yrTrFnCSo.
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