Systems Approaches to
What are the factors which enable and encourage change in assessment, and what are those which inhibit change? The four chapters in Part 1 are concerned to explore the context within which assessment operates in higher education, and each in turn argues for a critical scrutiny of current assessment practices and an awareness of the opportunities for innovation.
In Chapter 1 (Institutional Strategies for Assessment) Sally Brown argues that assessment is an integral part of learning. It is an essential element in the learning process and must not be treated as a bolt-on extra at the end of the teaching and learning process. Moreover, academic staff are in a unique position to influence this element of the higher education process by choosing to develop 'fit for purpose' assessment strategies. Sally Brown then provides us with a menu which enables effective choices to be made. We are not required to innovate, but working through the choices enables active decisions to be made to ensure that assessment is integrated with the learning process, is dynamic, and does satisfy the requirements of all the stakeholders to the educational process.
In Chapter 2 (Innovations in Student Assessment: A System-wide Perspective) Angela Glasner presents a summary of the main forms of assessment in the UK, identified by subject peers. She paints a very general picture of the form which assessment takes across a number of subject areas. While the emphasis varies in different subject areas, there is much commonality of practice, with exams and written coursework essays predominating across most subjects. Not surprisingly, reviewers seem generally to endorse the methods used by their colleagues although in a number of subject areas they are critical of over-reliance on single methods and of poor articulation between the assessment methods and the range of skills increasingly being developed in the curriculum. A number of factors are examined to account for the persistence of traditional methods of assessment and the absence of widespread innovation. There are long traditions to assessment, especially in the older, long-established universities and in the traditional subject areas, traditions often fiercely preserved by the external examiner systems