On the same page: Science students' assessment literacy


  • Nirmani Wijenayake Gamachchige The University of New South Wales
  • Kate Jackson The University of New South Wales
  • Siobhán S. Wills The University of New South Wales


assessment literacy, assessment purpose, tertiary education


Assessment and feedback are key concerns for tertiary students, as evidenced by university and national student experience surveys (QILT, 2020).

Understanding student literacy around assessment and feedback is an important consideration in assessment design (Carless, 2015), especially after the pandemic changed assessment practices and expectations.

At the University of New South Wales (UNSW), we were approached by the student representative council, concerned about an incongruence between student and instructor’s understanding of assessment terms and performance expectations.

Current assessment literacy research supports a cohort-based approach to understanding students' assessment literacy (Deeley & Bovill, 2017; Richards & Pilcher, 2014). Our aim was to investigate students' understanding of common assessment terms and the purpose of assessment by surveying students from the Faculty of Science. The survey will be supplemented with focus groups for a more in-depth discussion around the purpose of assessment and feedback at university.

This project aims to develop an assessment lexicon, as well as recommendations for capturing the assessment literacy of a cohort. Our end goal is to work directly with students to develop new assessment tasks for science courses based on the findings from the survey and the focus groups.

Here, we can present preliminary findings on student assessment literacy in science at UNSW.


Carless, D. (2015). Excellence in university assessment : learning from award-winning practice. Routledge.

Deeley, S. J., & Bovill, C. (2017). Staff student partnership in assessment: enhancing assessment literacy through democratic practices. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(3), 463-477.

Richards, K., & Pilcher, N. (2014). Contextualising higher education assessment task words with an ‘anti-glossary’ approach. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 27(5), 604-625.

QILT. (2020). Student Experience Survey. Social Research Centre. https://www.qilt.edu.au/surveys/student-experience-survey-(ses)#report

Author Biographies

Nirmani Wijenayake Gamachchige, The University of New South Wales

School of Physics

Kate Jackson, The University of New South Wales

School of Physics

Siobhán S. Wills, The University of New South Wales

School of Chemistry