Changes in instructors' assessment thinking related to experimentation with new strategies

Erika G. Offerdahl, Debra Tomanek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Formative assessment has been recognised as a critical element in teaching for conceptual development. A case study research design was employed to: (1) characterise the assessment thinking of three science instructors at a research-based university; and (2) examine the complex relationship between instructor thinking and practice by encouraging experimentation with alternative assessment strategies. Interviews, reflective journals, field notes and course documents were the data sources used to create a single case study that documented the development of these university instructors' assessment thinking during their experimentation with formative assessment strategies. Throughout two semesters of experimentation, the instructors' assessment thinking became more sophisticated; they grew to view the purpose of assessment less as a summative activity used for the assignment of marks and more as a tool for diagnosing student learning. However, more sophisticated thinking was not associated with revisions in teaching practice based on formative assessment data. Further investigations are needed to more completely understand the nature of assessment thinking and how assessment thinking influences assessment practices. Implications for professional development of university-level science instructors include personalised experiences through which instructors can become active participants in gathering evidence of student learning that promotes growth in assessment thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-795
Number of pages15
JournalAssessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • formative assessment
  • higher education
  • science education
  • teacher cognition
  • teacher thinking
  • university faculty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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