Assessment beliefs of higher education staff developers

Maarten van de Ven

With the development of ‘Assessment for Learning’, there appeared its counterpart, commonly called ‘Assessment of Learning’. This dichotomy normally signals, on the one hand, the use of assessment to support learning, and, on the other, to provide a final judgement on work. Assessment for Learning has been increasingly identified with, and considered equivalent to, formative assessment (FA), while summative assessment (SA) is often linked to final assessments for accreditation and/or examinations.

The present article explores how disparate interpretations in the literature have impact on individual understandings of assessment terminology. The research focuses on the assessment literacy, that is, the understandings of assessment terminologies and how they relate to each other, in academic staff developers in the UK. Academic staff developers have been trained and certified to support new higher education lecturers in learning, teaching, and assessment practices, and provide continuing professional development for more experienced staff.

Results of this study shows inconsistent and differing understandings between and within individuals. These staff developers, who are likely to have a good command of general and specific educational literature, made almost no use of it in explaining or evidencing concepts or their practices or positions on assessment. These inconsistencies may reflect the lack of consistency of terminology in the literature. This lack of common understanding has far-reaching implications and needs reconciling to enhance personal and collective assessment literacies, particularly since our respondents have responsibility for training the next generation of academics.

Until there is a framework of understanding that individual definitions can be inserted into, it is unlikely that progress can be made in pursuing academic understandings of the nuances of assessment, how it works, and how decisions are arrived at and used. The authors call for the development of such a framework, perhaps led through active communities of practice that support congruent, rational, and logical interpretations of practice that align with theoretical perspectives of assessment.

More information
Taras, M. & Davies, M.S. (2017). Assessment beliefs of higher education staff d…