22 SES 06 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
In many countries high stakes assessments are used at the end of secondary school to select students for higher education. These assessments are designed to identify those students who have the knowledge and skills necessary for university study, and allow selection of the best students for competitive programmes of study. However, internationallythere is concern from both students and lecturers that new undergraduates have not been adequately prepared for higher education, and that assessment is part of the problem (Suto, 2012; Jansen and Meer, 2012). Difficulties in transition between school and university can increase the probability that students will drop-out of university (Taylor and Bedford, 2004). Consequently, they are not able to experience the benefits of tertiary education, which is increasingly important in a globalised economy. The overarching purpose of the present study was to investigate whether there is a mismatch between the format and style of summative assessment at school and in the first year of university.
The move from school to university represents an educational transition which is often characterized by the need for students to develop into more independent learners (Ellis, 2008). The role of schools in preparing students to make this transition has long been recognised. Jansen and Meer (2012) compared the school systems in the Netherlands and New Zealand, and noted that features of the school system contributed to students’ perceptions of their preparedness for university study. In Canada, Julien and Barker (2009) found that pressure on teachers for their students to perform well in high-stakes testing led to a strong focus on examination preparation at the expense of other, non-assessed academic skills, suggesting that the form and style of assessment at school may contribute to student preparedness for university. However, universities have also started to recognise their role in facilitating students’ transitions by providing guidance when students start university study, and by introducing innovative forms of assessment which may benefit students from different educational backgrounds. Yorke (2007) argues that a major transitional challenge for students is that of understanding the differences in expectations between school and university, particularly with respect to assessment while developing into autonomous learners. University assessments must therefore balance these opposing demands by providing appropriate levels of written guidance and structuring of student assessments.
Thus far, however, there has been no direct comparison of the form and style of the assessments used at school and in the first year of university. In this study such a comparison was made in three popular subjects: biology, English literature and mathematics. The study had three main aims:
1) To develop a coding framework for assessments which may be used to explore and compare assessment types at school and university internationally.
2) To compare the relative diversity of summative assessment types used at school and university within the UK.
3) To compare the extent to which student responses are structured and scaffolded in school and university assessments.
Jansen, E. W. A., & Meer, J. (2012). Ready for university? A cross-national study of students’ perceived preparedness for university. The Australian Educational Researcher, 39(1), 1-16. doi: 10.1007/s13384-011-0044-6 Julien, H., & Barker, S. (2009). How high-school students find and evaluate scientific information: A basis for information literacy skills development. Library & Information Science Research, 31(1), 12-17. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2008.10.008 Suto, I. (2012). What are the impacts of qualifications for 16 to 19 year olds on higher education? A survey of 633 university lecturers. Cambridge: Cambridge Assessment
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