Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Associate Professor Paul Newhouse

Second Advisor

Dr. Martin Cooper

Abstract

This study investigated the connections between teachers’ and students’ perceptions of, and attitudes towards, the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to support assessment in senior secondary courses in Western Australia, and the feasibility of such support in various forms. This investigation focused on the main characteristics of these perceptions, and attitudes and their relationships with curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and ICT. The findings provide guidelines for educators in using ICT to support summative performance assessment. My study was part of the main research study undertaken by Edith Cowan University (ECU) and the Curriculum Council of Western Australia (CCWA) and will provides significant clarity into the implementation of ICT support for performance assessment employing practices which characterise practical performance in digital forms. It was in the range of teacher and student perceptions and attitudes that this study added knowledge to the practice of digital forms of assessment.

The overall intent was to design, cultivate and implement the best assessment task possible to measure the practical performance of students in Engineering Studies and Applied Information Technology (AIT). Therefore, it was also necessary to evaluate the feasibility of this task and factors that would affect feasibility such as perceptions and attitudes of particpants. To achieve this the study needed to gather data in various forms from a wide variety of sources that would allow triangluation of data analysis. Qualitative data were gathered from a student survey where a set of measurements scales were constructed. Quantitative data were assembled from observation and discussion with teachers before, during and after schools’ visits, from open-ended items in the student survey section and from teacher interview responses. In addition small groups of students were assembled into discussion forums and responses to a series of questions were recorded and analysed.

A number of critical thresholds had been reached to underpin the relevance and importance of research into aspects of the use of ICT to support summative assessment. Firstly the growth in access to, and improvements, in ICT services has enabled this emergent area of digital assessment or e-assessment (JISC, 2006). However, this growth is not sufficient justification for the investigation and implementation of digital forms of assessment. The research is justified when this growth in ICT is combined with the increasing use of ICT to improve pedagogical practices; the employment of ICT to improve productivity in education; and the need to effectively and efficiently assess the practical performance of students in a large number of contexts. It was likely that the development of techniques to represent student performance in digital forms would assist the addressing of these imperatives. Whether these techniques were successful would depend on a number of influences including the attitudes and perceptions of students and teachers.

When accountability and efficiency are called upon comparisions are often made with non-ICT strategies. These controlled experiment approaches can prove problematic due to ethical and political questions arising with non-ICT groups. The inherent assumptions to computer use in exams contexts are still conducted using pen and paper. In addition their lack of or slow uptake of ICT and the believed that curriculum will remain unchanged despite the introduction of ICT to support. Therefore this study took an ethnographic, rather than experimental approach, but sought to make comparisons between two key stakeholders; teachers and students. In line with the larger study of which this study was a part, data were collected using observation, interview, survey and document analysis. Analysis and interpretation included the application of a feasibility framework and case study comparison. The adoption of the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) or models based upon CBAM as an instrument to analyse data was employed in the case studies. The feasibility framework comprised four interrelated and complex parameters Manageability, Technical, Functional and Pedgogical dimensions is described in chapter eight of this study.

It was evident from the research data, that students’ and teachers’ positive attutudes towards the computer-based performance exams and their beliefs in the value of ICT for assessment and all these intrinsic factors were fundamental to the feasibility of the implementation of digital forms of assessment in both Engineering Studies and AIT. From research data it was evident the application of ICT increasingly permeates students’ and teachers’ work and life, and their attitudes towards interaction with computer systems was a major factor in the success of digital forms of assessments in practical performance tasks. This was the focus and the background for this study.

This study found that students in both the Engineering studies and AIT case studies attempted the assessment tasks with enthusiasm, however the AIT assessments were perceived a little more positively by students and teachers than the Engineering studies assessment. Assessment tasks worked best where the approach was familiar to students. This occurred for almost all cases in AIT, but not for Engineering although approach was relatively similar there were logisitical constraints in organising time to complete the tasks and in some cases technical in running the software on school workstations or accessing online systems through school networks. In a number of schools changes had to be mads to standard operating systems to allow software to run off USB thumb drives, video to be viewed, Flash applications to run within Internet browsers and sound to be recorded. Overall the study found that the benefits of digital forms of assessment implemented outweighted the constraints for both the Engineering studies and AIT course. In particular students’ and teachers’ responses were overwhelmingly postive due to the practical nature of the work in all assessment tasks. Generally they perferred this form of assessment to paper-based assessments.

This study has added to existing knowledge on the implementing of digital forms of assessment, in particular to both the Engineering Studies and AIT, and in general to secondary senior courses in Western Australian (WA) schools.

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