Divided by a Common Language? Evaluating Students’ Understanding of the Vocabulary of Assessment and Feedback at a Single UK Higher Education Institution

By Christopher Wiley.

Published by The International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 19, 2014 $US5.00

Recent changes in UK Higher Education have renewed the importance of ensuring that assessment practices are transparent and comprehensible, not least in terms of the criteria by which the evaluation is conducted and the timeliness with which the results of that evaluation are delivered. The policies that underpin assessment and feedback, and the formal documentation to which they give rise, are necessarily robust for reasons of quality assurance and to support the learning experience, and in consequence they are typically loaded with standard terminology whose intended meaning may not be as readily apparent to students as to staff. Much work therefore remains to be undertaken in consulting with students to develop strategies to help negotiate the vocabulary of current practices such that institutional regulatory frameworks are satisfied without sacrificing intelligibility to the purported target audience. This research draws on a series of interviews and other consultations with students conducted at City University London, UK in the 2011–12 academic year with the purpose of reviewing their understanding of the fundamental vocabulary of assessment practice, whether that vocabulary appears within the learning outcomes and assessment criteria, the feedback itself, or the wider context of assessment policy. Ultimately, it explores whether staff and students in Higher Education are presently being divided by a common language, and, in light of the students’ narratives, proposes a series of recommendations by which assessment and feedback practices may be improved. Such recommendations include the provision of papers submitted by previous students for the benefit of current cohorts, a more active engagement of students with the regulatory documentation, a greater use made of dialogic feedback methods, and the need for change to the existing educational culture to facilitate these enhancements.

Keywords: Assessment, Feedback, Vocabulary and Terminology, Assessment Criteria, Specification Documents, Student Consultation, Learner Experiences, Academic Practice, Institutional Policy, UK Higher Education

International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation, Volume 20, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 19, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 703.511KB)).

Dr Christopher Wiley

Senior Lecturer, School of Arts, Learning Development Centre, City University, London, UK

Dr. Christopher Wiley is a senior lecturer in music and director of the BMus Programme at City University London, currently on secondment to the University's Learning Development Centre in a cross-institutional role in the area of assessment and feedback. He has previously conducted educational research on electronic voting systems, the use of social media, and handbooks for postgraduate research degrees. He has presented at conferences on teaching and learning and higher education in London, Canterbury, and Birmingham, as well as contributing to various podcasts and online forums on issues of academic practice. His continuing commitment to teaching has been recognized in awards including University Prizes for Teaching Excellence (2008), Teaching Innovation (2009), and the Student Voice Award (2011).