The impact of assessment on learning achievement

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 33 : Reshaping Higher Education

July, 2010, 654 pages
Published by
M. Devlin, J. Nagy and A. Lichtenberg
0 908557 80 9

In an empirical study, Bryant & Zhang (forthcoming) show that the academic performance of a university subject (unit) could be understood through measuring learning results (operationalised from teaching outcomes). The present investigation demonstrates that assessment is important to learning results, because assessment involves selections that may have unintended effects on a unit. Understanding these effects might lead to an improvement in teaching and learning, which might in turn contribute to reshaping higher education. The assessment tasks considered were examination and essay tasks. These two tasks were frequently encountered in the preliminary pilot on feasibility. Also, significant weightings were attached to these tasks. To enable a comparison between different mixtures of assessment tasks, or different levels of weightings for each task, assessment tasks were classified according to their weighting’s degree of dominance. This strategy allowed for a clear comparison between different task mixes. Essays were distinguished as generally beneficial to learning results whereas examinations were noted as generally non-beneficial to learning results. In summary, there was support for the thesis that the selection of assessment task and weighting can have an unintended impact on learning result, and a suggestion that superior selections can be made in task and weighting.

Keywords: student retention, assessment weightings