Language background and assessment in the physical sciences

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Journal Article
Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 1999, 24 (1), pp. 53 - 65
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A project was initiated at the University of Technology, Sydney to look at the role of language and gender in assessment of first-year university students in Physics. Research on student learning has shown that assessment, to a large extent, determines the curriculum for students and their approaches to learning. Assessment plays a crucial role in students' interest and motivation in a subject and the quality of their learning outcomes. In this paper, we report on a three-part study. The first involved an analysis of assessment items. The second involved the use of paired questions to investigate the effect of the format of the question. The third involved investigating the effects of including a range of assessment types. The effects of language background were important and were found to interact with gender. Strategies will be discussed for changing assessments in the physical sciences to make them more equitable.
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