Assessment as a locus for engagement: priorities and practicalities
This paper considers how assessment can productively act as a locus for engagement. It focuses on the important case being made by diverse global assessment experts who argue that we would do well to rethink assessment such that learning, rather than quality assurance and measurement, becomes the main priority of assessment design in higher education settings. New discourses of assessment have emerged internationally to capture this important conceptual shift. These are briefly indicated and linked to key design features and indicative practices whereby assessment and feedback environments can be enhanced to promote and foster learner engagement. The paper highlights the importance of incorporating assessment for learning (AfL) approaches which are authentic to the ways of thinking and practising of the subject- community within a given field of study. It proposes that advancing the assessment and feedback
literacy and capabilities of assessees through authentic assessment and dialogic approaches are vital, but these need to be embedded in the disciplinary content and inherently viewed as pedagogic practices, rather than piecemeal approaches or bolt-on additions to the extant curriculum. It puts forward suggestions for effective implementation, but concludes that the development of staff assessment literacy, underpinned by academics’ familiarity with new assessment discourses, is a fundamental prerequisite for effective AfL environments. This is highlighted as one of the key contextual challenges that must be acknowledged and addressed if AfL is to be scaled up meaningfully as a locus of learner engagement.
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