Abstract: Context: As universities embrace 21st century pedagogies of flipped, hybrid, blended, online and student-led practices, assessment seems to lag. It remains separated from teaching and learning, and consumes a great deal of academic time and energy. Despite innovations in assessment in other sectors of education, engineering education has only relatively recently engaged with authentic and alternative assessment practices and has perhaps confined these to project-based or capstone experiences. End-point, high stakes exams, grades and marks continue to dominate assessment practices with resultant high academic workload and student behaviour skewed towards attainment of marks rather than learning.
The prominent place assessment plays in academic work prompted us to wonder: to what extent have we got it right? What could we be doing better?
Purpose: Our small scale study explored what a group of academics who were committed to and recognised as leaders in quality teaching, thought about assessment and how they might be provoked by new possibilities.
Approach: The study began with a workshop based on three provocations derived from key readings in the assessment space:
1. What if our assessment practices develop and sustain poor student performance? (Wilson and Scalise, 2006)
2. What if our assumptions about assessment are flawed? (Bloxham, 2009)
3. What if analytic (rubric) marking is indeterminate? (Sadler, 2009)
At this workshop, academics discussed their responses to these provocations and articulated their key challenges. From here, key participants took part in semi-structured interviews which were analysed for themes.
Results: Outcomes from the workshop revealed a list of concerns regarding assessment including student motivation, academic workload, plagiarism and students vying for marks rather than focusing on learning. There was also a clearly articulated need for a mindshift from conceptualising assessment as activity separate and distinct from learning and towards an understanding that assessment and learning can be seen as interchangeable terms. Interview data revealed academics grapple with some of the systemic features of assessment which hamper and sometimes punishes student learning. The place of formative assessment in supporting learning was identified as key. Academics articulated the need for much more transformative assessment practices that align more strongly with progressive teaching.
Conclusions: Assessment is often at the forefront of academic work and despite innovations in teaching, remains a largely conservative practice in engineering education. Persistent and enduring challenges of student motivation, plagiarism and focus on marks can distract us from alternatives that might mitigate some of these. One key way in which transformative assessment practice might be ameliorated is to revision it as learning.
To cite this article: Lawson, Justin; Francis, Beata; Jarman, Rob and Hadgraft, Roger. Assessment as learning: A rethink of assessment in engineering education [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 451-457.
[cited 25 May 17].