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University students’ perceptions of summative assessment: the role of context

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-06-10, 14:44 authored by Paola Iannone, Adrian Simpson
We report on a mixed-method study that compared students’ perceptions of summative assessment across two distinct disciplines – education and mathematics, at two research-intensive institutions in the UK. The disciplines chosen represent opposing positions in Biglan’s classification of academic disciplines, as well as having very different assessment practices. Results suggest that these education students prefer to be assessed by methods they perceive to discriminate on the basis of academic abilities. Moreover, they perceive the traditional closed-book examination as inadequate to assess the capabilities which are key to being successful in their subject, which fits some but not all of the general findings in the literature. However, comparing these results with those of an identical study with mathematics students, we find that the perceptions of summative assessment are very different. We account for that difference by suggesting that students’ epistemic beliefs play a role in shaping these perceptions and conclude that, in designing summative assessment in higher education, generalised and centralised forces for change need to be tempered by contextual and disciplinary factors.


We would like to thank the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia for funding the research reported in this paper through the EDU Pump Priming Research Fund, 2014.



  • Science


  • Mathematics Education Centre

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Journal of Further and Higher Education


IANNONE, P. and SIMPSON, A., 2016. University students’ perceptions of summative assessment: the role of context. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 41 (6), pp. 785-801.


© 2016 UCU. Published by Taylor and Francis


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Further and Higher Education on 17 May 2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/0309877X.2016.1177172.




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