The students assessment in higher education

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In the recent years, assessment methods used in higher education has considerably increased. New methods of assessment are continuously developed and implemented. Such may include portfolio assessment, peer and self-assessment, simulations and much more (ARUM, 2011). The recent constructivist practices and theories are accompanied by an evolution of the test/evaluation culture to the assessment culture. When trying to understand how students learn, their construction of reality must be taken into account (ARUM, 2011). Experiences of the students have a significant additional value to the outcomes of their learning. This assumption is also applicable to the perception of the students on assessment and evaluation (ARUM, 2011). The study behavior of the students is not only determined by assessment or examination. Instead, their perception concerning assessment also matters. This report, therefore, aims at examining assessment from the point of view of the students.

Research questions

The research questions used in the survey included:

  • How are assessments relevant to what you have learnt?
  • Do the feedbacks help you to improve in the future?
  • Do you get encouraged by the assessments to learn and become successful?

Aims and Objectives

The aim of this survey is to review the perception of students in the higher education on assessment. The student’s perception of the assessment determines how they learn. Reality can be described as an intervening variable which cannot be ignored when examining student’s assessment (KUH, 2015)t. This paper, therefore, this report aims to provide a comprehensive review concerning the student’s perception on assessment.

Literature Review

For the past years, various assessment methods have been introduced in higher education considering the changing theories in the field of education (ARUM, 2011). Students are expected to be active and self-regulated in their learning. The alternative assessment practices are supposed to promote and motivate learners during the learning process (ARUM, 2011). The new assessment modes have improved the conventional evaluation setting which was formerly constituted essay evaluation and multiple-choice examination. Recently, peer and self-assessment, portfolios, simulations and many more methods were introduced in higher education. Scholars have proved that perceptions of the students concerning these methods of assessment are of great importance when it comes to learning (GILBERT, 2001).

Educators who have been actively participating in the evaluation practices have argued that assessment significantly influences the learning of the students (ARUM, 2011). Again, they have also proposed that the student’s nature of learning is associated with their approach to learning. The thought of students concerning studying and learning determines how they handle the evaluation and the assignment tasks. Equally, the experience of the learner in assessment and evaluation also determines how they would approach future learning (KUH, 2015). Therefore, assessment is logically a major determinant of how students approach future learning.

Researchers have confirmed that strategic approach to learning is based on the expected or used assessment procedures (GILBERT, 2001). Since teachers determine the academic success of the students, it is suggested that students find out or figure out what the teacher wants in a particular assessment. By knowing what is expected of them, they will be able to come up with effective studying strategies which will enable them to tackle the tasks given to them. For instance, it was established that most students read notes when expecting an essay exam (GILBERT, 2001). On the other hand, those expecting a multiple choice test do not read notes. It was also reported that the various assessment preferences are related to learning orientations and strategies. It may, therefore, be concluded that the factors that affect the assessment preferences of the students might also influence performance on various types of assessment (ARUM, 2011).

Moreover, the various modes of assessment tend to test different competencies and skills. ARUM, 2011 compared two simulation tests with the measures of students’ performance. He established that the two exams correlated to each other at a very low level. The same was also observed when compared to the measures of performance (FOREST et al, 2002). Again, it was also noted that the perception of the students of the kinds of assessment varied depending on the method and purpose of every assessment. The multidimensional approach to assessment was therefore seen as the most suitable. In other words, students should be given assessments with various methodologies and aims (ARUM, 2011).

In summary, the reviewed surveys indicated that the perception of the students on assessment will strongly determine their approach to learning. The assessments that tend to be inappropriate may encourage poor studying habits (FOREST et al, 2002). Examiners should, therefore, give assessments with utmost clarity to promote the understanding of the learners. Moreover, students need to be given guidance on how to tackle various assignments.


The survey randomly selected 10 full-time undergraduate students from various years of study. They constituted of four white, one Chinese, two Asian and three black students. The students were given questionnaires in which all questions were to be answered. Brief interviews were also conducted to every participant. Data were then analyzed as discussed in the findings.

Discussions and Findings

When students were asked how they met the criteria for their assessment, most of them felt inadequate to sit for their tests. They were not sure of the specific areas that their assessment would cover. Some students acknowledged that there existed some gaps between their actions and the type of learning demanded from them. For example, 30% of the students admitted that they did not have much time to read to meet the criteria of the assessment. 40% of the students complained of the heavy workload which affected their studying and therefore failing to meet the criteria for evaluation. For a long time now, heavy workload has been discovered to be affecting the depth at which most students studied (ARUM, 2011). 30% of the students felt that suppose the amount of work in some courses is reduced, then their depth of studying will increase.

When they were asked the extent to which the information about the assessment was communicated clearly, 50% of them said that the information was clearly given to them at an appropriate time. However, 40% felt that the information was not clear enough. They felt that they should be told even the areas to be covered in the assessment.

When they were asked about the relevance of the assessment to what they had learnt, 60% of the students felt that the assessment is relevant to what they learn in lectures and seminars. However, 40% felt that the learnt material and the assessment did not have much relevance. In fact, among the 40%, 3 percent of them did not see the importance of studying for assessment since they believed that they are unpredictable. Moreover, 50% of the students said that their assessments prompt them to reflect on what they learnt, 40% disagreed while 10% were undecided.

Concerning the feedback, 50% said that the feedback given to them by their lecturers enabled them to improve in their future evaluations, reason being, their teachers always pinpoint the areas with problems that needed to be corrected. However, 30% said that the feedbacks were not useful as such since the corrections are not normally outlined by their teachers.

The students gave various opinions of whether their assessments encouraged them to be successful. These data were analyzed based on the ethnicity of the respondents as illustrated in the figure below;

The analysis indicated that the Black and Chinese students are less likely to be encouraged to be successful by the assessments. The Asians are averagely encouraged while the white students are highly motivated to be successful. This can be related to the experience and satisfaction specifically meeting expectations and teaching quality. The students from the minority ethnic are less likely to be satisfied and hence less motivated. The results show that demographic characteristics and experiences affect how students perceive their assessments.

The interviewees were also asked if their experience matched their expectation during the assessment. The findings indicated that experience does not match expectations for some students (FOREST et al, 2002). This shows the challenges that the undergraduate students undergo as to what they expect the university to be like. However, a big percentage of the students confirmed that their expectations during assessment were met while others showed disappointment as illustrated in the figure below;


In conclusion, when the finding of the study is handled in their entirety, each student has their personal perceptions, beliefs and interpretations concerning what assessments are. Past experiences, the mode and context of assessment makes the learning approach of each student an individual aspect that changes daily. Therefore, the perception of the students on assessment can be regarded as arbitrary. However, most research finding show tendencies and the relationship between the perception of the students and their learning approaches (MIDDAUGH, 2013). The results of this survey indicate that the perception of students on assessment is significant in determining their learning approach. For example, those students who reported that the taught content and the assessment were relevant were motivated to do better in their future evaluations (MIDDAUGH, 2013). Moreover, they also reflected more on whatever they learnt after being assessed. This, however, was not the case with those who felt otherwise.


Consent Form

This survey is aimed at understanding the perception of students on assessment in higher education. The participation will take strictly one hour. The participants are expected to answer all the questions on the questionnaire which will then be followed by a brief oral interview. All responses will be treated as confidential and no responses will be identified from individual participants.

If you have further question concerning this study or wish to raise a complain, contact my supervisor ………………….(fill in the name of your supervisor and his contact details)

Please tick one of the boxes if you agree or not

  • I agree
  • I do not agree

The Ethics Checklist

Please respond to the following questions by cycling the correct answer

Does the study entail any deception of the participants?


Is confidentiality of the participants assured?


Are participants coerced in any way to participate?


Will you fulfill all the promises made to the participant?


Does your study involve any physical or mental stress?


Could publication of your report interfere with the participants’ confidentiality?




  1. What is your gender?
  • Male
  • Female
  • Other (please specify)
  • I prefer not to say
  1. What is your age?
  • 18 – 24
  • 25 – 34
  • 35 – 44
  • 40+
  1. What is your ethnicity?
  • White
  • Mixed/Multiple Ethnic Groups
  • Asian/Asian British
  • Black/African/Caribbean/African British
  • Other ethnic groups
  1. To what extent did you understand how to meet the criteria for your assessment?
  • Completely
  • Mostly
  • Slightly
  • Not at all
  • I don’t know
  1. To what extent was information about the assessment communicated clearly?
  • Completely
  • Mostly
  • Slightly
  • Not at all
  • I don’t know
  1. To what extent are your assessments related to what you learned in lectures/seminars?
  • Completely
  • Mostly
  • Slightly
  • Not at all
  • I don’t know
  1. To what extent does your feedback on your assessment show you how to improve in future assignments?
  • Completely
  • Mostly
  • Slightly
  • I don’t know
  1. To what extend do your assessments prompt you to reflect on your learning?
  • Completely
  • Mostly
  • Slightly
  • I don’t know
  1. To what extent does your assessment motivate you to learn and be successful?
  • Completely
  • Mostly
  • Slightly
  • Not at all
  • I don’t know

Did you like this sample?
  1. ARUM, R., & ROKSA, J. (2011). Academically adrift: limited learning on college campuses. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
  2. BRYMAN, A. (2002) Social Research Methods: Oxford University Press. (BRYMAN, 2002)
  3. FOREST, J. J. F., & KINSER, K. (2002). Higher education in the United States: an encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, Calif, ABC-CLIO.
  4. GILBERT, N. (2001) Researching Social Life: Sage
  5. KUH, G. D. (2015). Using evidence of student learning to improve higher education.
  6. MIDDAUGH, M. F. (2013). Planning and assessment in higher education: demonstrating institutional effectiveness. San Francisco, Calif, Jossey-Bass.
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