University College Dublin (IRELAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 6612-6618
ISBN: 978-84-09-45476-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2022.1667
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Empowering students in their curriculum is a growing trend in higher education globally. It aligns with concepts such as, active learning, students-as-partners and more recently with the increasing emphasis on inclusive learning. This movement also embraces the idea of student empowerment in their assessment, it supports students having a stronger voice and more involvement in the design and decisions relevant to their assessment. However, can this be extended to the empowerment of students in the assessment of work-integrated learning (WIL) both on and off the campus? This paper explores this question as part of a wider study on the assessment of WIL. The term 'assessment' in this paper also includes the wider concepts of student feedback and student self-monitoring/regulating.

This study, a nationally-funded Teaching and Learning Research Fellowship in Ireland, set out to explore the consistency and authenticity of assessment in WIL. The research used a participatory action research approach to support inter-stakeholder dialogue and develop meaningful actions for the participants. To achieve this, the researcher facilitated inter-stakeholder dialogue through nine solution-focused workshops. Each workshop involved a range of stakeholders from a particular discipline identifying challenges and solutions to the assessment of both on- and off-campus learning experiences. In all, 120 students, practitioners (including employers) and higher education staff took part in the workshops from nine disciplines across eight different higher education institutions. The study also explored, through structured interviews, the views of seven international expert authors in this field.

The interviews resulted in 374 codes of data and the solution-focused workshops identified 27 key challenges, 308 solutions and 129 actions. Using an established thematic analysis approach, key themes were identified across the full dataset. This paper focuses on the key theme of ‘student empowerment in assessment’. The analysis initially identified some key challenges. ‘Student and staff readiness’ for empowering students was one key challenge, as not all ‘students have the confidence to take the initiative’ . Many also emphasised the lack of student and practitioner training in this area.

Despite these and other challenges, the participants strongly supported the importance of empowering students in the assessment and feedback process. One solution to empowerment was supporting and training students in judging their own performance, linking with the emerging literature on evaluative judgement. To do this, the stakeholders, in particular the students, highlighted there was a need to have a shared understanding of assessment expectations and standards. Self-assessment against a framework and the increased use of learning contracts and/or portfolios were methods identified that would assist in this empowerment. The expert authors suggested solutions, such as, more flexibility in the assessment tasks and student involved in the co-creation of these tasks and/or their criteria. Some solutions to empower students in the feedback process included: ‘ ..ask students how they like feedback..’; ‘peer feedback’; ‘ alternative methods of capturing feedback - video diaries instead of reports’; and ‘create opportunities for genuine dialogue’. The paper explores implications for assessment and feedback policies, practices and future research to support student empowerment.
Empowerment, assessment, feedback, work-integrated learning, solutions.