Following on from this week’s resource on flexible learning we turn our attention here to flexible assessment and introduce two recent articles that have looked at it in different contexts. The first, Examining increased flexibility in assessment formats, explores opportunities for giving students more control over the assessment process. The authors look at how such opportunities can be aligned to considerations of ensuring validity and reliability in assessment practice and note the benefits of adopting more flexibility. They suggest that, while there may be considerable resistance to giving students more ‘control’ of their assessments, the development of autonomous learners is reflective of a maturing university teaching environment. As such, they challenge the sector to consider how curriculum design and review can be used to adopt more flexible assessment formats and contribute to the literature in this area.
In the second paper, The Impact of a Flexible Assessment System on Students’ Motivation, Performance and Attitude, the authors appear to have taken up this challenge. They describe how they developed an approach that enabled students to determine the weights allocated to each course component and to re-allocate those weights in response to achieved scores. Their new approach is compared to more traditional approaches to give context, and they look particularly at how giving students more control over their assessments can influence motivation and grades. Their findings show that the adoption of such an approach early on in term had little impact, but that a flexible system that allows for a re-allocation of weightings did have a positive impact on grades and, as students themselves reported, on motivation and attitudes.
Flexible learning and flexible assessment may be seen by some university teachers as inferior to current forms of teaching and learning practice. I would argue that instead we should see these challenges to traditional practice as opportunities to re-frame the nature of university teaching and learning as they firmly locate the learner at the heart of the institution and position learning as a shared endeavour. As universities continue to widen their student base both socio-economically and geographically we need to ensure that teaching and learning practices keep pace with the wide range of styles that students and educators bring to institutions and maintain learning as a rigorous and authentic experience.
Irwin, Brian and Hepplestone, Stuart (2012), Examining increased flexibility in assessment formats, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, vol. 37, no. 7, pp. 773-785
Pacharn, Parunchana, Bay, Darlene and Felton, Sandra (2013), The Impact of a Flexible Assessment System on Students’ Motivation, Performance and Attitude, Accounting Education: An International Journal, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 147-167
With thanks to Jane Pritchard, on whose text this post is based.