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How would students prefer to be assessed? Report of a pilot research study

Abbott, S., Robinson, A. & Attenborough, J. (2014). How would students prefer to be assessed? Report of a pilot research study. Learning at City Journal, 4(1), pp. 94-107.


Background- A wide variety of assessment methods are used in the School of Health Sciences, but little is known about how these methods are viewed by students.

Method- Semi-structured interviews with students were used to explore their views of assessment methods, and whether and why they found these enjoyable, anxiety-provoking, fair, and/or rigorous. Interviews were conducted by a student researcher.

Results- Because of implementation problems, only six students were recruited. Diverse assessment methods were mentioned. Unsurprisingly, examinations were experienced as stressful, and assessments requiring demonstration or presentations were stressful for some. Some assessment methods were seen as clearly relevant to the professions for which students were training, particularly on clinical placement; others involved knowledge or skills that would not be used in the future. Students believed that a mixture of assessment methods was fairest, as it catered for diverse preferences and abilities. They placed great value on clarity in assessment questions, and valued being given assessment information early. Assessments should reflect lecture content.

Conclusions- Despite the small sample, the findings deserve careful consideration. The students interviewed were thoughtful and insightful. It is itself an important finding that some students are able and willing to contribute to constructive discussions about assessment, and they should routinely be given a voice in discussions of assessment design throughout the School. Although these preliminary findings need confirmation by further research, there is face validity to the implications of these findings that assessments could be made fairer by:
- the advance provision of clear and comprehensive information about assessment tasks and marking criteria;
- ensuring that course content is adequate preparation for assessment; and
- consistent adherence by markers to the marking criteria.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: assessment; assessment methods; student preferences
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Departments: Professional Services > Learning, Enhancement and Development > Learning at City Journal
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