Assessment and student identity formation; becoming a (dis)abled student through assessment.

When: Wednesday 5 April 2023
Time: 2.00-3.30pm (AEST)
Where: Online and Deakin Downtown, Level 12, Tower 2, 727 Collins Street, Docklands
Cost: This is a free event

In 1977, Derek Rowntree described assessment not simply as a mechanism for evaluating student work, but as an attempt to know a person. Rowntree’s provocative subtitle for his book Assessing Students asks: how shall we know them? In higher education, we indeed know our students precisely through assessment.

This presentation revisits this idea by setting the agenda of understanding assessment from the viewpoint of student identities. While assessment is most commonly introduced as a mechanism for evaluating student learning, the long-term effects of assessment on students’ identities have received less scholarly attention. As students take part in assessment situations in higher education, how are their identities shaped?

The presentation synthesises the findings from a two-year postdoctoral research project on inclusive assessment. Based on empirical studies, policy analyses, conceptual studies, literature reviews and a book (in Finnish), the project sought to understand assessment and feedback from the viewpoints of inclusion, belonging and disability justice. What started as a project trying to understand the social consequences of assessment from the specific viewpoint of students with disabilities ended up as an attempt to conceptualise how assessment transforms all students.

The presentation will introduce the lessons learned about how assessment shapes student identities in relation to their abilities and disabilities. In doing so, assessment provides students with knowledge about their abilities. By participating in assessment practices throughout their studies in higher education, students use this knowledge to shape their professional identities.

Overall, the project aimed to understand the hidden and often unintended social consequences of assessment for student identities. It is argued that student identity formation needs to be considered in assessment design, particularly in the age of AI that asks us to focus assessment on human capabilities.