The impact of Advanced level GNVQ assessment policy on further education students' autonomy and motivation
Policy goals for lifelong learning prioritise a need to motivate people to participate in purposeful learning and to become autonomous lifelong learners. As the latest of a series of initiatives in the vocational curriculum, Advanced GNVQs adopted a controversial assessment model to achieve these aims. The implementation of the model in the further education (FE) sector has taken place at a time of protracted restructuring in colleges. This study evaluates the effects of Advanced level GNVQ policy on students' autonomy and motivation. It focuses on the 'policy trajectory' created by the interplay between macro, meso and micro-level factors. The research developed and tested a theoretical typology to connect types of motivation and autonomy to formative assessment practices through three layers of analysis: (a) the structural and ideological context of policy for lifelong learning; (b) the particular policy debates and processes that surrounded the GNVQ assessment model and (c) the social processes of assessment within two GNVQ courses in two FE colleges. By combining these three layers, the thesis set out to relate to a tradition of policy scholarship and to contribute to the sociological study of the political, cultural, social and pedagogic roles that assessment systems play in the UK. The study draws upon a wide range of data collection techniques, including interviews with policy-makers, teachers and students, participant observation in colleges, documentary analysis and questionnaires. It adopts multiple perspectives for analysing data to raise issuesa bout assessmenpt olicy and practice in four broad areas.F irst, policy development for GNVQs shows that extreme ad hocery, chaos and controversy continue to beset assessment policy in the UK, particularly over what 'standards' of assessment mean. This, together with the speed of development, lack of funding and turf wars between different constituencies has created an 'assessment regime' where new forms of regulation, pedagogy and organisational practices shape meanings associated with 'autonomy' and 'motivation'. Second, this regime affects teachers' and students' values and beliefs about vocational education and their formative assessmenpt ractices. The study argues that a combination of mechanisms for regulating teachers' assessmenpt ractices, resource pressuresa nd student expectations about acceptable engagement with learning create and shape students' 'assessment careers'. In this respect, the study contributes evidence to a growing body of work on the social and cultural processes and effects of assessment and to research which explores learners' identities and 'learning careers'. Third, the study highlights barriers to improving formative assessmentin postcompulsory education but offers recommendations to various interested constituencies that might contribute to this goal. Last, the study offers tentative suggestionsa bout how current assessmenpt olicy and pedagogy' might relate to specific ideological trends associated with 'risk consciousness'.