· Deignan, Tim, & Sally Brown (2016). Educator perspectives on the use of alternative assessment methods within taught Masters programmes: An exploratory study using activity theory and Q methodology, Educational Review, 68(4), 379-402. (doi: 10.1080/00131911.2015.1090399)

Abstract: This article reports on an exploratory two-stage sequential mixed methods research study that investigated the views of university educators on the introduction of assessment methods other than essays, exams and dissertations within taught Masters programmes. In the first stage, interviews were conducted internationally with 45 participants and the data analysed using an activity theoretical framework. The article illustrates how interviewees questioned their existing practice and reworked aspects of it, using new assessment methods as tools to transform their teaching and learning processes. The issues emerging from this analysis informed the design of a second study that used Q methodology to interpret five shared viewpoints on assessment methods among a group of UK-based educators. These viewpoints all saw alternative assessment methods as having advantages over traditional methods in, for example, encouraging student motivation and improving equality of opportunity, although training for academic staff in such methods was seen as necessary. Differences between the five viewpoints related to, for example, whether improving assessment methods requires a shift in how learning is viewed, and the importance of institutional support in encouraging assessment innovation. The five viewpoints are compared and contrasted. Tensions within and across assessment related activity systems are also considered, and recommendations made for further research into stakeholder viewpoints and values to improve collaboration across interacting networks.

Tim Deignan <timdeignan@runbox.com> is an independent education consultant located in Otley, West Yorkshire, UK.