This study demonstrated the enormity of the challenge for assessment programme designers who wish to bring about a change in assessment culture and helps to explain why previous attempts to introduce assessment innovations have not always been straightforward.
The study’s findings should not, however, be so surprising. The dominance of the prevailing paradigm in preventing radical change is very consistent with the literature on organisational change.
The faculty development literature has clearly demonstrated that teacher behaviour is strongly influenced by their underlying beliefs and prior experiences. Short-term courses focussing on developing a recipe of teaching skills have very limited impact, but sustained, long-term interventions have shown promising results. Such interventions can include exposure to alternative beliefs and conceptions about teaching, through discussion with peers and facilitators, followed by a facilitated critical self-analysis of participants’ existing beliefs. Although participatory design approaches can be very helpful, the intervention in our study was very short-term and therefore could not be expected to make much impact. However, longer-term interventions may be helpful. In our study, participants’ prior experiences seemed particularly influential, so exposure to alternative assessment models, perhaps in centres which have successfully implemented programmatic approaches to assessments, may prove helpful.