Assessment and Study Strategies A study among Rwandan Students in Higher Education
Abstract: The aim of this study is to gain understanding of students’ experiences of assessment and the study strategies they adopt in the context of Higher Education in Rwanda. The study is governed by questions on how students conceive their experiences with assessment in their courses, how they determine study strategies, and how they reflect on alternative ways of assessment. The theoretical framework is based on socio-cultural approaches and on earlier research on assessment and theories of learning. The participants were drawn from third year and former geography students in two tertiary institutions. A four panel-wave design guided the data collection: a survey, focus groups, a follow-up questionnaire and individual interviews. The findings show that the majority of the students conceived assessment as course lecturers’ ways of collecting evidence from students to be used as benchmarks for grading, ranking and promotion at course level and for monitoring and controlling both students and teachers. Assessment was usually summative and could be both course-oriented in line with the curriculum and teacher-oriented in line with teachers’ course-notes. Moreover, the findings reveal that students rely heavily on senior students’ information about teachers’ styles of assessing, as a source for adopting study strategies. The participants experienced that learning took place under contextual pressure, which created fear for repetition or even expulsion. However, the students responded to this by adopting a combination of individual work and group work strategies. In contrast to the experienced modes of summative assessment, the participants had visions about formative assessment such as authentic and problem-solving assessment, and self- and peer- assessment, which they suggest could be employed as integral parts of the teaching and learning process. This is discussed in terms of assessment for learning as a cycle of events or as assessment of learning at the end of a course.
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