S. Taylor1, M. Ryan2, J. Pearce3, L. Elphinstone4

1School of Accountancy, QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane (AUSTRALIA)
2School of Cultural and Language Studies in Education, Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane (AUSTRALIA)
3Department of Computing and Information Systems, University of Melbourne, Melbourne (AUSTRALIA)
4QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane (AUSTRALIA)
Internationalisation is of growing significance worldwide, with economic, political and social changes driving an increasingly global knowledge economy. At the heart of this internationalisation process is the significant increase in the global population of students who move to another country to study which more than doubled from the 2.1 million internationally mobile students in 2000, to a figure of 5 million in 2014 and with OECD projected figures of 8 million students by 2025 (University of Oxford, International Trends in Higher Education 2015).

Higher education is therefore becoming a major driver of economic competitiveness and Australian state and federal governments have clearly articulated that education is a major export product. Business schools, and in particular, accounting units, play a major role in the delivery of this product (Institute of Chartered Accountants, Accounting Education at a Crossroad 2010). Maintaining the competitive edge has, however, seen an increase in public accountability of higher education institutions through the mechanism of ranking universities based on the quality of their teaching and learning outcomes. As a result, assessment processes are under scrutiny, creating tensions between standardisation and measurability and the development of creative and reflective learners. These tensions are further highlighted in the context of large undergraduate subjects, learner diversity and time-poor academics and students.

This article reports on a two-phase, cross-institution and cross-discipline project which sought to investigate the capacity of innovative assessment design to provide some measure of relief from these tensions. Underlying both phases of the project is the research supported belief that high level and complex learning is best developed when assessment, combined with effective feedback practices, involves students as partners in these processes. In Phase One, and using a social constructivist view of learning, which emphasises the role of both teacher and learner in the development of complex cognitive understandings, we undertook an iterative process of peer review.

A major learning from the first phase was that, while all students find it difficult to reflect in deep and meaningful ways unless they are provided with appropriate scaffolding, for international students, the cognitive demands are increased as they also try to negotiate the language and cultural nuances of the task. Both the staff observations and the more than six hundred, reflection-based, student survey responses received, highlighted that our initial project had not determined/analysed how students with English as a second language actually responded to and managed the peer review interactions with other students. Also of concern was the growing tension within the peer review process with local students generally unhappy with both the low quality of the drafts they were asked to review and the low quality of the reviews they received from students they perceived as international.

Thus, this paper concludes with an overview of the proposed, Phase Two, validated model (i.e. independently tested by external, partner institutions), designed by the research team to enhance the development of culturally enriched and reflective assessment resources and strategies for use not only in peer review-based assessment tasks, but, rather, across a range of assessment tasks including team/group work.