All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE), AISHE-C 2008: Encouraging Student Engagement

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Academics' and students' perceptions of assessment purposes and practices
Anne Carpenter

Last modified: 2009-01-22


The research literature has identified that effective use of assessment promotes effective learning (Biggs,2004; Boud, 2000;Sadler, 1989). Evidence indicates that assessment for learning - formative - rather than assessment of learning - summative - has the greater potential to improve learning and raise standards. Assessment for learning calls for deep changes both in teachers' perceptions of their own role in relation to their students and in their classroom practices (Black & William, 1998). In particular, it suggests a move to a student-centred pedagogical approach, placing the student in a more active role in the learning, teaching and assessment cycle, thus creating a partnership between student and teacher. Central to the concept of partnership is academic and learner understandings and perceptions of assessment.

This paper reports on an exploratory study of both students' and academics' experiences and perceptions of assessment practices in one higher education institute. The study used an
on - line survey to investigate students and staff perceptions of the purpose of assessment, format, content, marking and feedback practices.

Analysis of the data shows there were significant differences in the experiences and perceptions between the two groups. The paper delineates the differing 'constructs' and experiences of assessment from the learners' and academics' perspective. The findings suggest that while academics indicate a commitment to the formative assessment they do not frequently engage in assessment practices that support the realization of such a view. In addition students have a limited understanding of assessment and their formative practices are not well developed. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for student learning and assessment in higher education.