Transferring Knowledge through Peer-Reviewed Assessment: the Creation of a Community of Practice and the Threats to its Survival

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 34: Higher Education on the Edge

July, 2011, 394 pages
Published by
K. Krause, M. Buckridge, C. Grimmer, & S. Purbrick-Illek
0 908557 85 X

While it is generally accepted in the learning and teaching literature that assessment is the single biggest influence on how students approach their learning, assessment methods within higher education are generally conservative and inflexible. Constrained by policy and accreditation requirements and the need for the explicit articulation of assessment standards for public accountability purposes, assessment tasks can fail to engage students or reflect the tasks students will face in the world of practice.

Innovative assessment design can simultaneously deliver program objectives and active learning through a knowledge transfer process which increases student participation. This social constructivist view highlights that acquiring an understanding of assessment processes, criteria and standards needs active student participation.

Within this context, a peer-assessed, weekly, assessment task was introduced in the first “serious” accounting subject offered as part of an undergraduate degree. The positive outcomes of this assessment innovation was that student failure rates declined 15%, tutorial participation increased fourfold, tutorial engagement increased six-fold and there was a 100% approval rating for the retention of the assessment task.

In contributing to the core conference theme of “seismic” shifts within higher education, in stark contrast to the positive student response, staff-related issues of assessment conservatism and the necessity of meeting increasing research commitments, threatened the assessment task’s survival. These opposing forces to change have the potential to weaken the ability of higher education assessment arrangements to adequately serve either a new generation of students or the sector's community stakeholders.

Keywords: social constructivism, student engagement, assessment conservatism