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Title: Assessment matters : a critical appraisal of assessment practice in higher education with a particular focus on enhancing student understanding of standards and criteria
Author: O'Donovan, Berry Margaret
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 4597
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2018
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Eight publications are presented in this thesis with the first published in 2001 and the last in 2018, all are peer reviewed. This body of work is drawn from a wider contribution to pedagogic research and together the papers constitute a coherent programme of study. The papers trace a research journey developed over seventeen years that focuses on how assessment and feedback are both conceptualised and practised within higher education, with a particular emphasis on how students 'come to know' what is being sought in assessment in terms of academic standards and the attributes of high quality work. The papers are both conceptual and empirical. The research journey is divided into three main phases. The first phase of papers challenge objectivist assumptions of assessment, and thereby how academic standards and attributes of quality can be best shared with learners (papers 1, 2 and 3). These papers focus on improving learner achievement through enhancing their understanding of academic standards and the attributes of quality sought by assessors. The papers challenge the sometimes taken-­‐for-­‐granted assumption that standards and marking criteria can be fully articulated. Secondly, the papers conceptualise the deeply tacit nature of academic standards and marking criteria, and both theorise and empirically investigate how students gain tacit understandings. The second phase of publications (papers 4, 5, 6) contributes to a reconceptualisation of assessment as socially situated and constructed, and gives more emphasis to social, participatory processes and relationships in the sharing of standards and criteria. They are founded on the premise that for students to produce high quality work they must align with, and participate in, the ways of thinking and practising of the academic community in which assessment standards and practices are constructed. The third and final phase of publications (papers 7 and 8) refocuses on the individual, examining students' epistemic beliefs and ways of knowing and how these influence student perspectives on and approaches to assessment and feedback, and in so doing highlight the diversity of individual perspectives and some of the limitations of the culturalist limitations of situated learning approaches. In the final chapter the contribution to knowledge is examined. The body of work contributes to knowledge in four main ways: i) outlining the challenges to prevailing objectivist assumptions of assessment; ii) conceptualising the nature and role of tacit knowledge in developing understandings of assessment criteria and standards; iii) providing a reconceptualisation of the nature of assessment and feedback as socially constructed and situated; iv) outlining the influence of individuals' epistemic assumptions on their perspectives on, and approaches to, assessment and feedback. Contributions to practice are outlined at both at national and institutional level.
Supervisor: Handley, Karen ; Quinton, Sarah Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral