University teachers’ conceptions of their current and ideal assessment

Maarten van de Ven

Assessment in higher education with a transformational instead of a reproductive purpose can be a powerful way of supporting student learning. Since university teachers usually design their own assessments, it is important to investigate their conceptions of assessment.

The aim of this study is to increase insights in higher education teachers’ conceptions of assessment. Whereas previous studies focused on teachers’ assessment conceptions in general, this study specifically focuses on the conceptions of intermediate assessment. Intermediate assessment, also known as continuous or frequent assessment, focuses on the assessments that take place during the course period, as opposed to end-of-term assessments.

The current study focuses on teachers’ conceptions of their current and ideal assessment with a focus on intermediate assessment. The following research question guided this research: "What differences in conceptions of intermediate assessment do university teachers display when discussing their current and ideal intermediate assessment?"

Thirteen teachers teaching law, psychology and criminology, reflected on their current and ideal assessment in an attempt to eliminate the influence of practical constraints on assessment practice. Results indicate that the majority of teachers have transformational conceptions of their intermediate assessment practice, and in general, their conceptions of the ideal assessment are even more transformational. This suggests that teachers’ main focus for assessment is on student learning and that a lack of transformational assessments in practice may be mainly caused by external constraints.

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