The impact of assessment on learning

Year: 1994

Author: Kings, Clive B.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Within tertiary education, assessment engages both lecturers and students for a large proportion of their time. Assessments can determine what students learn, whether they learn in a meaningful way, and whether they have jumped the hurdles to successfully complete a tertiary qualification. Since successful graduates and postgraduates have the potential of making positive contributions both to the workforce and to the community, assessment practices must be relevant, of high quality and promote meaningful learning if the workplace is to become more efficient and effective.

Some previous studies by the author would indicate limitations in assessment practices. For example, most assessment is based on written assignments; the range of objectives assessed is extremely small; many objectives are not assessed; self/peer assessment practices are rarely used; and assessment of practical work can often be unfocused. Studies also reveal that impediments to continuous improvement of assessment include a low level of personal skill in assessment planning, staff timetable constraints and workload, and departmental and institutional requirements.

In order to probe these issues a series of case studies was undertaken and analysed. The results show differences in: the relevance of the objectives to the context, discipline and workplace; the nature of the assessment used to promote deep learning; the nature of the criteria for the assessment; the use of criteria to empower students in their own learning; the management of assessment; approaches to continuous improvement; and quality control of assessment practices. These various factors had considerable impact on what is learnt and how it is learnt.