Attitudes to assessment in university Science education

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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

This study explores the use of assessment in the science disciplines of the higher education sector. The data are drawn from parallel studies at two Australian universities, namely La Trobe University (Melbourne) and Flinders University (Adelaide). Published documents on subjects (topics) at each university were examined to survey assessment practice. Staff attitudes toward assessment practices were gathered through surveys and interviews. The study shows that the major form of assessment in science disciplines is examination, which is usually administered at the end of the teaching period. Staff reported that examinations were the assessment tool of choice because they avoid collusion, plagiarism and have less impact on staff workloads. Furthermore, staff believe that examinations are an appropriate assessment method particularly where there is an emphasis on acquiring fundamental information and concepts in a discipline. However there is also support for a reduction in the emphasis on examinations and an acknowledgement that examinations often encourage shallow learning and do not represent real world situations. The attitudes of educators will be a key factor in development of sustainable shifts towards more student-centred assessment.

Keywords: assessment, science, educator attitudes