Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Associate Professor Paul Newhouse

Second Advisor

Dr Jeremy Pagram

Third Advisor

Associate Professor Andrew Jones

Field of Research Code

130207, 130303

Abstract

This research investigated the effects of secondary school teachers’ assessment practices on students’ perceptions of fairness in Croatia. It focused on the extent to which teachers implemented consistent assessment practices and made judgements of student achievements, and how this affected students’ perceptions.

The need for assessment influences its creation and implementation, which in turn influences the outcomes. Teachers’ assessment of students is an ongoing practice in schools in Croatia, both officially and unofficially, and questions about consistent application have persisted. This research was motivated by a confrontation with a disgruntled student and set in motion an examination of teachers’ application of assessment criteria to determine whether the end result was judged to be fair.

The research design was both empirical and quasi-ethnographic in interpreting teachers’ and students’ perceptions to fully understand the context. Student questionnaires, teacher interviews and teacher assessment documents were used to collect data and analyse the case studies, each represented by a teacher and two classrooms of students studying either Biology, Croatian or English. The participants comprised secondary school students from two respective high schools in Split.

Students completed a questionnaire comprised of statements with Likert-scale responses modelled on the Student Perception of Assessment Questionnaire (SPAQ), and open-ended questions based on a questionnaire developed at the Centre for Schooling and Learning Technologies (CSaLT). The SPAQ items were ranked according to five scales. At their interviews, teachers were asked to provide documents illustrating their assessment of students in their subjects. The documents were analysed to assist with interpreting the survey and interview data, and interestingly, not only revealed differences in responses between teachers and subjects, but also differences between the responses of students in two classes who were taught the same subject by the same teacher.

Despite a positive assessment rating by students, the findings showed several inconsistencies compromised the fairness of teacher assessments, particularly in oral examinations, a substantial form of assessment for all subjects in Croatia. This research is the first of its kind and suggests that oral examination should be reviewed, and additional steps taken to improve consistency in teacher application of assessment. In the meantime, for as long as it continues, consistency can and should be enhanced to ensure fairer outcomes for students, since positive learning experiences are known to holistically inculcate enthusiastic and affirmative attitudes towards education.

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