Summative assessment in Higher Education: practices in disarray

Knight, Peter T. (2002). Summative assessment in Higher Education: practices in disarray. Studies in Higher Education, 27(3) pp. 275–286.



The article begins with a view of learning and of what its assessment entails, arguing that it is helpful to distinguish between assessment systems primarily intended to provide feedout and those intended to provide feedback. Attention is then concentrated on summative, feedout, or high stakes assessment, which is supposed to be highly reliable. A number of difficulties with current practices are then identified, leading to the claim that high stakes assessment in first degrees is in such disarray that it is difficult to know what grades or classifications mean and risky to treat them as reliable. Two main lines of response are explored. The first treats this as a failure of technique, while the second adds that assessment purposes themselves have fallen into disarray, which requires a reappraisal of curriculum in addition to any technical changes that appear to be expedient.

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