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Changing assessment: shifting the emphasis to learning and use

D. Boud, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia. (Introduced by Philip Poronnik)

During the past decade the goals and emphasis of student assessment in higher education have been questioned as never before. The certainties about what assessment is for and how it should operate are being challenged. A norm-referenced approach has been displaced by one based on standards. The overwhelming dominance of grading and certification is being replaced by a view that gives at least as much emphasis to learning and how assessment should foster it (Boud & Falchikov, 2007).

A new agenda is emerging that frames assessment not as looking back in terms of knowledge and skills acquired, but as making a contribution to future learning and practice through the calibration of student judgement. The new agenda is based on the following assumptions about assessment processes:

To pursue this agenda in higher education courses, there needs, as well as an emphasis on key concepts, to be a focus on rich, integrated assessment tasks that involve the linking of knowledge across the curriculum in the context of tasks akin to those used in practice. Some of the elements include:

For examples of assessment tasks of different kinds in different disciplines, see the Assessment Futures website:

Boud, D. (2000). Sustainable assessment: rethinking assessment for the learning society. Studies in Continuing Education, 22, 2, 151-167.

Boud, D. & Molloy, E. (Eds) (2013). Feedback in Higher and Professional Education. London: Routledge.

Boud, D. & Falchikov, N. (Eds) (2007). Rethinking Assessment for Higher Education: Learning for the Longer Term. London: Routledge.