Publication 426

Scaife J. A. & Wellington J. J. (2011) Varying perspectives and practices in formative and diagnostic assessment: A case study. Journal of Education for Teaching 36(2): 137–151.
A constructivist perspective on education emphasizes the value of diagnostic and formative assessment, informing teachers and learners about where learners are starting from. In comparison with the school sector, these forms of assessment have received relatively little attention in higher education. This article reports on an in-depth study of assessment across one university, exploring views and practices in each of the five faculties. Our data indicate that: there is very little common understanding of the terms often used to describe forms of assessment in policy documents and other literature; students, contrary to popular belief, do value assessment that carries no marks, although a form of “deferred instrumentalism” may be at work here; staff are sometimes engaging in formative and diagnostic assessment without explicitly recognizing it; and students in this case study do value assessment that relates to and will be valuable for life after University. The article concludes by suggesting frameworks and terminology for future discussion and issues for staff development.
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