Title page for ETD etd-11132008-120534

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Gossmann, Carol
Email carol.gossmann@up.ac.za
URN etd-11132008-120534
Document Title Comparing academic staff and students' perceptions of the purpose of assessment in higher education
Degree MEd
Department Curriculum Studies
Advisor Name Title
Ms H Barnes Supervisor
  • curriculum reform
  • outcomes-based assessment
  • curriculum alignment
  • assessment as enquiry
  • integrated assessment
  • assessment practice
  • assessment purposes
  • assessment
  • standards model
  • measurement model
Date 2008-09-03
Availability unrestricted

The aim of this study is, firstly, to determine if there is a difference in the perceptions of academic staff members and students concerning the purpose of their actual assessment practices. Secondly, the aim of the study is to identify what the challenges are that may influence the implementation of effective assessment practices.

A case study design, involving the academic staff and students within the Baccalaureus Educationis (BEd) Early Childhood Development, Foundation Phase Programme in the Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, was used. The sample consisted of 30 academic staff members and 114 third-year students who each completed a standardised questionnaire (quantitative data), to get a broader idea of their perceptions and understanding of the purpose of assessment practices. The questionnaire was followed up by face to face interviews (qualitative data) with three staff members and three students in order to validate and supplement the quantitative data.

The method employed to analyse the collected data was a concurrent nested, mixed method design. The quantitative data analyses were done using SPSS computer software to determine the frequencies for both staff and studentsí perceptions. Statistical data analyses were also performed using a non-parametric chi-square technique. The collected qualitative data was first analysed using manifest and content data analysis. Codes had been developed after which the data was further analysed using SPSS computer software to determine the frequencies for both staff and studentsí perceptions.

The standards model which represents assessment reform (enquiry or outcomes-based assessment) and the measurement model (traditional assessment) were used as framework to interpret the collected data.

The results of my study showed that both academic staff and students perceived the main purpose of assessment as developmental or formative. However, the stated importance of the formative purpose of assessment was not evident in the practice of academic staff. For example, academic staff reported that within their assessment practices, assessment either took place at the beginning of the module, sometimes during the module, but mostly at the end of the module. Furthermore, staff reported that within their assessment practices, self- and peer-assessment and feedback were infrequent occurrences and that feedback to students was almost never followed up with actions. Academic staff perceived the biggest challenge for effective assessment practice to be large class sizes, while students perceived the biggest challenge to be the reliability of assessment, including marking reliability and assessor reliability.

I concluded that the standards model of assessment is the desirable model in formal education and especially Higher Education, because it attempts to reflect what has been learned in criterion referenced terms. However, in this study, as well as in the Maclellan study (2001) and LOAP study (Fun, 2005), academic staff declared a commitment to formative purposes of assessment, but students perceived that staff engages in practices that were not in line with the standards model of assessment.

© University of Pretoria 2008

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