'Towards meaningful learning: A theory for improved assessment in higher education

Hinett, Karen Victoria (1997) 'Towards meaningful learning: A theory for improved assessment in higher education. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis aims to explore how student learning in higher education may be improved. It builds upon research which links perception of assessment tasks to approaches to learning. The thesis therefore investigates how messages about assessment are conveyed by staff and how students' interpret them. In doing so, it embraces a humanistic approach to learning that stresses the interrelation of context, individual orientation and approach to learning.
The thesis documents the findings of qualitative interviews conducted with staff and students at one UK university. As such, it is a study of perceptions about teaching, learning and assessment in the ethnographic tradition. Data analysis is concerned with representing the values and conceptions of learning held by individuals, therefore by unveiling the social world the thesis identifies with interpretive and naturalistic approaches to education research.
Demands made of assessment by staff, student and government result in a tension between the facilitation of learning and the maintenance of standards. It is argued that this tension results in the use of two separate and discreet discourse; of assessment and learning. Therefore, a case is made for the conceptualisation of a discourse of development conditioned by improved communication about assessment and learning.
Based on empirical research the thesis calls for a deconstruction of existing assessment paradigms in favour of a negotiated learning. This would enable students to acquire skills in critical judgement and decision-making necessary for contribution
to a learning society. It is this theoretical rationale for self assessment which distinguishes it from other research and represents an original contribution to the field of education research.

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