Exploring academic agency and assessment literacy in the context of higher education

Year: 2019

Author: Heck, Deborah, Grainger, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

One of the major criticisms from students of our academic work relates to assessment and students concerns about the subjective nature of the marking guides used by lecturers and tutors. Hence, an aspect of developing socially just pedagogy in higher education (Osman & Hornsby, 2018) is the development of ways to openly examine our assessment practices and consider our interpretations and biases. This research reports on a university-funded Learning and Teaching Grant that aimed to improve assessment literacies for academic staff through developing quality assessment rubrics and enhanced student outcomes using a peer review process. Data related to the construction of assessment rubrics were generated via group interviews using a 10 question framework (Christie et al., 2015) with academics from various disciplines and later following implementation with students. The data were analysed using an ecological agency theory (Emirbayer & Mische, 1998) to explore how our understanding of past, future and present generate assessment practices in higher education. The findings identify that academic assessment literacies develop as academics engage in conversations in the present that draw on their experience of the past to make plans for the future. The way academics talk and think about assessment and rubrics connects with their sense of agency and contributes to the development of socially just pedagogy in higher education. The process evidences the usefulness of the human agency as a framework for the analysis of the dialogue about rubrics and assessment in higher education. Our ongoing research will now explore student data to understand how students experience the rubrics redeveloped following the team conversations.