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Title: Assessment-in-action : a study of lecturers' and students' constructions of BTEC national assessment practice in a college engineering programme area
Author: Carter, Alan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2742 8541
Awarding Body: University of the West of England, Bristol
Current Institution: University of the West of England, Bristol
Date of Award: 2012
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This research examines the nature and form of Edexcel’s BTEC National assessment policy and practice, as found within a small college Engineering Programme Area. The study investigated the salient influences and considerations underpinning both the explicit and implicit lecturer assessment constructs. The backwash effects of these constructs are considered, and how these impact on lecturers’ micro-level classroom practice, and on students’ engagement with assessment. This study also considers the effect assessment has on preparing students for progression from BTEC National programmes. BTEC National qualifications of the 2000s have their origins in the 1970s Technician Education Council’s programmes, founded on the recommendations of the Haslegrave Committee’s Report (Haslegrave, 1969). Although BTEC programmes have evolved over the past four decades, the central tenets of Haslegrave, that of unitised, teacher-assessed, broken-up summative assessment, still underpin BTEC National assessment of the 2000s. Current BTEC units are criterion-referenced, and employ formative assessment as an integral aspect of the educational ethos of the qualification. The research design involved a single site case study of assessment-in-action within a small programme area offering BTEC Nationals in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and in Manufacturing Engineering. This study used an interpretative approach, based on semi-structured interviews with seven lecturers and thirteen students during academic years 2006-2008. Findings suggest BTEC assessment practice relies significantly on the integrity of the lecturers, who construct their assessment practice by accommodating and balancing various external and internal requirements and influences placed upon them. It is through the programme area community of practice that notions of standards evolve, these being significantly influenced by cultural considerations, which impact on all aspects of assessment practice. This study finds an ethical departmental ethos in which all students should pass, and an assessment regime implicitly designed to aid student retention and achievement, but from which emanates a focus on criteria compliance. This tends to produce assessment constructs encouraging instrumental learning, where students’ achievements can be based on incremental improvement of the same assessment through multiple attempts, and where the potential for developing learning is diminished as formative assessment becomes conflated with summative intent. Both the assessment regime and the type of learning implicitly encouraged, has the potential to hamper some students’ preparedness for progression from the BTEC National programmes. Based on the findings of this research, considerations and recommendations are offered, both at the macro level of BTEC policy and at the departmental programme area micro-level of classroom practice, with the intention of enhancing students preparedness for progression from the National programmes. The study concludes that, despite radical changes in technician assessment practice having occurred since instigation of the Haslegrave recommendations, concerns emanating from assessment practice of the 1950s and 60s are still present within modern-day BTEC assessment, a case of plus ça change.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available