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University students’ perceptions of summative assessment : the role of context.

Iannone, P. and Simpson, A. (2017) 'University students’ perceptions of summative assessment : the role of context.', Journal of further and higher education., 41 (6). pp. 785-801.


We report on a mixed-method study that compared students’ perceptions of summative assessment across two distinct disciplines – education and mathematics, at two research-intensive institutions in the UK. The disciplines chosen represent opposing positions in Biglan’s classification of academic disciplines, as well as having very different assessment practices. Results suggest that these education students prefer to be assessed by methods they perceive to discriminate on the basis of academic abilities. Moreover, they perceive the traditional closed-book examination as inadequate to assess the capabilities which are key to being successful in their subject, which fits some but not all of the general findings in the literature. However, comparing these results with those of an identical study with mathematics students, we find that the perceptions of summative assessment are very different. We account for that difference by suggesting that students’ epistemic beliefs play a role in shaping these perceptions and conclude that, in designing summative assessment in higher education, generalised and centralised forces for change need to be tempered by contextual and disciplinary factors.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Journal of Further and Higher Education on 17/05/2016, available online at:
Date accepted:01 October 2015
Date deposited:12 October 2015
Date of first online publication:17 May 2016
Date first made open access:17 May 2017

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