The Literature-Based Essay as an Instrument for Assessing Undergraduates - Potent or Problematic

Year: 1995

Author: Smith, David, Brooker, Ross

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Drawing upon data derived from a previous study of assessment practices undertaken by the authors within an education faculty at a Queensland University, this study focuses on uses and misuses of literature-based essays in assessing undergraduate students. It is argued that academics too frequently display an inadequate grasp of both the potential value and the problems associated with essay-type assessment. Essays are seldom used in a way that makes them an integral part of the students' learning experiences and the difficulties faced by students in their interpretation of the assessment task are frequently underestimated.

Based on the findings of their earlier study and a review of relevant literature, the authors propose a number of suggestions for using literature-based essays more effectively in assessing undergraduates.

Emphasis is placed on academics viewing such assessment tasks as an opportunity to initiate productive dialogue with students, to enhance students' metacognitive processes and to promote higher level cognitive skills. Literature-based essays are also seen as a powerful vehicle for encouraging self-evaluation. Specific exemplars of literature-based assessment tasks are evaluated in terms of the suggested assessment procedures.