Keynote Speaker: David Boud

Professor David Boud

Assessment for future needs: Emerging directions for assessment change


Over the past fifty years remarkable changes have occurred, not just in assessment practice, but the ways in which we conceptualise assessment. Some of these shifts include: From a focus on simple performance on final examinations, to a diversity of approaches in different modes at different times; from assessment as comparing students to judgement of outcomes against standards. Most importantly, there has been a conceptual shift from the single purpose of certifying students to multiple purposes including aiding learning and building the capacity of students to make their own judgements; and from judging students with respect to each other to judging them against standards and criteria.

What is now commonplace in assessment was, if conceived of at all, once strange and radical. What will scholars in the future notice about assessment today? What will they regard as quaint and old-fashioned and what will they see as having provided the foundations for more effective practice?

While some things are unlikely to change—universities will still have certifying functions, there will be forms of external accountability and assessment will still contribute, for good or bad,  to student learning—there is far more scope for flexibility and change than we normally imagine.

The presentation will consider current practices that, looking back, will be recognised as strange or counterproductive, and consider what will replace them. It will include some or all of the following:

  • Certifying student performance that has been superseded by later performance in the same unit or course.
  • Recording student performance by a grade/mark for each subject/course unit, rather than in terms of learning outcomes that have been met.
  • Over-emphasising a limited range of inauthentic assessment practices and thus learning outcomes (e.g. tests, exams and essays).
  • Believing that the form of assessment is more important than the effects it produces.
  • Expending effort on feedback processes that correct or classify students’ work rather than provide them with the means and opportunities to improve it.
  • Emphasising unilateral assessments in which students are solely judged by others, creating patterns of dependency and lack of confidence in their own judgements.
  • Assessing all students identically when they have different aspirations.
  • Certifying and portraying students in ways that do not recognise the distinctiveness of their achievements.

How rapidly can we move from comfortable and familiar assessment practices that are becoming increasingly indefensible? What is needed to do so?


David Boud is Alfred Deakin Professor and Director of the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning at Deakin University, Melbourne and Emeritus Professor at the University of Technology Sydney. He is also Professor of Work and Learning at Middlesex University. Previously, he has held positions of Head of School, Associate Dean and Dean of the University Graduate School at UTS. He has published extensively on teaching, learning and assessment in higher and professional education. His current work focuses on the areas of assessment for learning in higher education, academic formation and workplace learning. He is one of the most highly cited scholars worldwide in the field of higher education. He has been a pioneer in developing learning-centred approaches to assessment across the disciplines, particularly in building assessment skills for long-term learning (Developing Evaluative Judgement in Higher Education, Routledge 2018), designing new approaches to feedback (Feedback in Higher and Professional Education, Routledge, 2013) and Re-imagining University Assessment in a Digital World (Springer, 2019).

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