Original Article

A traditional versus a constructivist conception of assessment

Published in:
Volume 2, issue 1&2, 2012, pages: 29–38
DOI: 10.2989/RHM.2012.2.1/2.7.1184
Author(s): Wichard ZwaalStenden University of Applied Sciences, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, Hans OttingStenden University of Applied Sciences, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands


This paper reports a study on conceptions of assessment held by students and instructors. The conceptions of assessment are considered to be one of the four interrelated sets of conceptions which together constitute the conception of education.The three other sets are the conceptions of (1) knowledge, (2) learning, and (3) instruction.Conceptions of knowledge were measured using an adapted version of the Epistemic Beliefs Questionnaire (EBQ). Conceptions of learning and instruction were measured with the Teaching and Learning Conceptions Questionnaire (TLCQ) developed by Elliott (2002) 1, and Chan (2004)2. Since no instrument was available to measure conceptions of assessment, an experimental Conceptions of Assessment Scale (CAS) was developed and tested. Students filled out a 32-item forced-choice version, while instructors filled out a 25-item version in a four-point rating format. On all three instruments a dichotomy was created to distinguish subjects with ‘traditional’ conceptions from the ones with more ‘constructivist’ views. Results indicate that students and instructors hold different conceptions of assessment. Students have more traditional conceptions of assessment than instructors. With regard to conceptions of knowledge, students are more traditional than instructors. The conceptions of teaching and learning also show students to be more traditional than instructors. With respect to the congruency of conceptions of education, students seem to be equally (in) consistent as the instructors. An important implication of the present study is to pay more attention to the alignment between the educational philosophy of an institute and the conceptions of education held by its students and instructors.

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