QQI Insight on Assessment: Learner Perspectives


QQI has published a new Insight focused on learner views and experiences of assessment. The report reflects the perspectives of learners from the further education and training (FET) and higher education (HE) sectors expressed during focus group sessions conducted by QQI. It identifies twelve key findings, many of which reflected common preoccupations across tertiary education but with some notable differences between the experiences of FET and HE learners.

This report follows a previous QQI Insight on Assessment, distilling the perspectives of staff working in FET, HE and Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies. A number of areas of intersection (e.g. on diversifying approaches to assessment; issues related to student workload and over-assessment; and the relevance of assessment for the world of work) can be observed among the issues identified by both sets of stakeholders.

The report has been welcomed by learner representative and advocacy organisations, including AONTAS, USI and AHEAD.

Aisling Meyler, Research Officer at AONTAS, commented:

"AONTAS welcomes the QQI Assessment - Learner Perspectives Insight as it showcases learner voice in action. It is crucial that the perspectives and experiences of those engaging in QQI assessment can influence and have an impact on the way assessments are carried out for their own benefit and for the benefit of their peers in the future.

Research from the National FET Learner Forum highlight the challenges learners face with regards to multiple assignment deadlines occurring in a short space of time. Learners would like assessment deadlines to be spread out more evenly so as to minimise academic pressure. Learners who engage in work experience faced the greatest difficulty with assessment deadlines being so close together, which seemed to be happening as they returned to the centre after completing their work experience. While feedback structures received higher levels of satisfaction levels in the survey, learners from focus groups indicated that they would like more frequent feedback from their tutors on how they are performing in assessments and would like feedback structures implemented consistently across the centres. Additionally, learners specified a preference for a variety of assessment methods, including practical and written examinations in addition to continuous assessment."

Welcoming the publication, Bryan O’Mahony, Vice President & Academic Affairs Officer of the Union of Students in Ireland, noted in particular that:

“The transition from 2nd to tertiary education can be a drastic change for students and they absolutely needed to be supported through this process. It brings forward a whole new way of learning and being assessed that will lead to the retraining of how their brain works academically and now includes critical thinking.

A lack of a clear plan of assignments and cross communication between lecturers leads to assessment overload on students with multiple assignments with the same due date. Also leaving the due date close to the exam season leads to students making a choice between end of year exams and assignments rather than being able to sufficient time to study for their exam.

When looking at CA as a form of assessment, it is more reflective of the working world that students will be entering. CA can be assessed in a variety of ways and allows the student to be creative. Having feedback allows the student to adapt and learn in the real time provided due dates are spread out. Exam halls are outdated and aren’t reflective of the working world that their course is meant to be preparing them for. Feedback can be very beneficial provided that it is timely before the next assignment and informative with reasoning so that it can be useful."

Dara Ryder, CEO of AHEAD, stated:

"QQIs new Insight featuring learner perspectives on assessment makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of how learners feel about the way they are assessed in FET and higher education. The specific inclusion of learners across both sectors, and QQIs approach of partnering with organisations like AHEAD to include diverse learners in the sample, ensure that the findings paint a rich and vivid picture of the learner experience.

This Insight helps us to reflect on whether we communicate effectively with learners on what is being assessed and why they are being assessed in one way over another, and if we sufficiently prepare our learners to succeed in assessment. They challenge us to consider whether our assessments are fair for all learners, whether we over-assess them, and whether due consideration is given across modules to their assessment loads through the semester.

I’ve never been more sure in my professional life that good assessment design is central to providing a platform for all learners to succeed, and this publication will help many along the path to improvement.”