Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Dissecting the assessment treadmill

We over assess students because it is difficult to motivate them to engage without frequent deadlines. But what are the the true effects of frequent assessment? This new paper describes a well conducted study of frequent assessment on Dutch Engineering students (n=219). Using principal component analysis the authors identified and analyzed four elements of assessment:

  • Value - how much value students attribute to frequent assessments: assessment is popular with students (= "value for money"?)
  • Formative function - no evidence that frequent testing had any formative value!
  • Positive effects and Negative effects - no strong cohort wide evidence for either of these (although they may affect individuals).

Summary: Assessment is popular with students but has no demonstrable educational value!

Students’ perception of frequent assessments and its relation to motivation and grades in a statistics course: a pilot study. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 03 Jul 2016 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2016.1204532
This pilot study measures university students’ perceptions of graded frequent assessments in an obligatory statistics course using a novel questionnaire. Relations between perceptions of frequent assessments, intrinsic motivation and grades were also investigated. A factor analysis of the questionnaire revealed four factors, which were labelled value, formative function, positive effects and negative effects. The results showed that most students valued graded frequent assessments as a study motivator. A modest number of students experienced positive or negative effects from assessments and grades received. Less than half of the students used the results of frequent assessments in their learning process. The perception of negative effects (lower self-confidence and more stress) negatively mediated the relation between grades and intrinsic motivation. It is argued that communication with students regarding the purpose and benefits of frequent assessments could mitigate these negative effects.

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