Implementing change in assessment practice through participatory action research: trial through distributive leadership model

Kayo Nakazawa, Helen Muir

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Assessment practice at tertiary education has become a topic of intensive review and discussion internationally. It is widely acknowledged that assessment is crucial for learning and is a main source for directing students' learning practices. With increasing demand to nurture graduate capabilities and generic skills alongside students' major studies, there is a call for improvement in assessment practice to align with these new demands. This paper reports on a trial project conducted at a tertiary institution language department, which was designed to improve assessment practice. The trial took a participatory action research approach with a distributive leadership model. Through a series of analyses, presentations, workshops and round table discussions the whole of the teaching staff was engaged in a process of renewal of assessment practice for the department. The creation of a Statement of Assessment Principles emerged from this process. Based on these principles the staff took on the challenge of reworking assessment tasks for all units to be offered in the coming semester to ensure they aligned with this newly developed statement of principles. Data was collected from the participating staff members through individual and group interviews. This paper discusses the transition experienced of teaching staff members. It examines changes that took place in beliefs and understandings about assessment, their expectations and concerns about the implementation stage and their responses to the concentrated nature of the renewal process that was used in this trial. A future project will follow the implementation and will utilize the experience of the participants to develop a set of guidelines, in an endeavour to ensure this renewed approach to assessment can be sustained through staff and syllabus changes. Future papers may emerge from this stage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-44
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of the Humanities
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Copyright Common Ground and The Authors. Article originally published in International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 10, pp. 37-44. This version archived on behalf of the author and is available for individual, non-commercial use. Permission must be sought from the publisher to republish or reproduce or for any other purpose.


  • assessment practice
  • language education
  • tertiary education
  • participatory action research
  • distributive leadership
  • leadership development


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