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Influential factors in the design and implementation of electronic assessment at a research-led university

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
  • Peter Alston
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Publication date2017
Number of pages234
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Of the many challenges faced by those in higher education (HE), with the use of technology to support teaching, learning and assessment activities being particularly prominent in recent years. Adopting a critical realist perspective, and drawing upon institutional ethnography and social practice theory, this thesis set out to examine how academic and professional services staff at a pre-1992, research-led university engaged with electronic assessment (e-assessment), and the extent to which the structures and formal policies impacted on design and implementation. Data were collected through a review of institutional documentation and face-to-face interviews with 23 participants, which were then analysed using the Framework method.

The findings suggest that institutional priorities not only have a direct impact on the culture of the institution, but also the visibility and importance of e-assessment. In turn, those who are engaged with e-assessment are actively engaged in workarounds in their practice, as they negotiate institutional structures and formal policies. Whilst external factors have contributed to the visibility and desire for adopting e-assessment, successful engagement by academics is largely dependent on the reliability of the institution’s technological infrastructure and leadership at the local level, to support the operational aspects of delivery and more crucially, the enactment of institutional policies in disciplinary contexts. The findings also indicate that whilst institutional communities of practice are a valuable resource for sharing best practice, there is still a disconnect between academics and professional services staff with regards to what e-assessment entails, as to whether it is a process, a method, or a tool. Future efforts should focus on developing a shared vocabulary and recognition that e-assessment practice exhibits characteristics of the “third space” between academics and professional services staff, encouraging a reflection of the key roles that each plays in the design and implementation of e-assessment.