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Motivating and engaging students through flexible assessment

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 15:21 authored by Ashley EdwardsAshley Edwards

Assessment dominates students’ attitudes towards learning (Cook 2001), and can cause significant anxiety, which can have negative effects on motivation and engagement in learning activities (Gibbs 1992). Flexible assessment addresses many of these concerns. It is known that students experience a sense of increased ownership and engagement (Caitlin et al 1999) and therefore increased responsibility for their learning when offered involvement in assessment processes (Ackerman et al 1997; Bickham et al 2001). This project explored the implementation of a model of flexible assessment in which students were invited to “play to their strengths” by electing to more heavily weight tasks at which they believed they could perform strongly.

Almost all students agreed that this was an appropriate “power” for students to have: increased ownership and responsibility were positive influences on their desire to put increased effort into assessment tasks, and all students retained the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of stated unit learning outcomes. Not all students elected to adjust their assessment: many did not want the responsibility in case they caused themselves to be disadvantaged by the ‘wrong’ choice, suggesting that the maturity and self-confidence of the learner are important considerations when offering this type of flexibility to students.

This presentation will guide participants through how to design and implement flexible assessment options in their unit, and will provide evidence, in the form of student perceptions of what the perceived benefits and sticking points for students might be. I will consider what is the most appropriate stage in a learner’s development might be to introduce this assessment strategy. An implementation model will be described including design, delivery (including signed learning contracts from students), evaluation and improvement of the innovation. Other evaluation parameters including impacts on final student marks and class grade distributions will also be discussed.


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Teaching Matters




School of Natural Sciences


University of Tasmania

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Teaching Matters

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University of Tasmania

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