Perceptions and Realities in Assessment Definitions and Uses

Maddalena Taras, Mark S. Davies


Assessment has an ambiguous position in education particularly with regards to learning and teaching. While taking the role of both the carrot and the stick it has an uneasy truce as an unwelcomed necessity and the source of problems for both tutors and learners. It ratifies the existence of institutions and oversees everything we do. We surveyed 51 university lecturers in science to determine their understandings of definitions of assessment and uses to which these are put. The plausibility of finding rational and coherent understandings was questioned, given that recent theoretical models and discourses tend not to be aligned. The results confirmed this belief indicating considerable disparity and inconsistencies. Understanding assessment definitions and uses must be one of the basic requirements of something so central to everything we do, yet this study demonstrates that we are far from being clear about our understandings of assessment and how and why we use it.

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