Unfit for purpose? Rethinking the language of assessment for Widening Participation students

Butcher, John; McPherson, Elaine; Shelton, Isobel; Clarke, Anactoria; Hills, Laura and Hughes, Jonathan (2017). Unfit for purpose? Rethinking the language of assessment for Widening Participation students. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 19(2) pp. 27–46.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5456/WPLL.19.2.27

Abstract

This article explores learning from a scholarship project which sought to identify principles of best inclusive practice in the language of assessment. Our focus was on an Access Programme, aimed at preparing entry-level learners to succeed in HE. Drawing on assessment principles of fairness and equity (QAA, 2012), the project challenged the 'assimilation' required by non-traditional learners in current assessment practices (Hockings 2010, Williams et al, 2014). An iterative mixed methods approach was conducted to elicit student and tutor perceptions and analyse existing documentation. Findings highlighted important pragmatic and conceptual issues around the language of assessment. In practical terms our Programme Assessment Guides are being redesigned and re-written for greater clarity. More fundamentally, we argue the opportunity to re-think the purpose of assessment on Access to embed more inclusive language could offer the sector a holistic approach to retaining students from groups under-represented in HE, and supporting their success.

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