Applying Design Thinking to Develop an Innovative Assessment Design Framework in an Initial Teacher Education Course

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Thomas, Melissah Barnett (2022) Applying Design Thinking to Develop an Innovative Assessment Design Framework in an Initial Teacher Education Course. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


In the last decade there has been a growing interest in improving the nature of assessment to enhance student learning in higher education. At its best, assessment can motivate and influence the student’s direction and approaches to learning. It is widely accepted that assessment should be valid, reliable, and transparent. Despite what is known about quality assessment, the literature suggests that these conceptualisations are not always practised. This thesis seeks to reflect on current Initial Teacher Education assessment practices by integrating student, academic and high-school teacher perceptions. The overall objective of this research was to develop an innovative assessment framework that resolved key issues, including depth of understanding, engagement with assessment, and achieving authentic and sustainable assessment practices. An important consideration was to ensure any optimised assessment did not increase the marking and feedback workload for the academics. Aligning to Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology principles, this thesis adopted design thinking as a qualitative methodological approach in the research inquiry process to explore and develop solutions to the complex assessment issues identified by literature and participants in this research. As proposed by Stanford, design thinking is a structured method of thinking processes used in problem solving, with consultation of end-users to develop prototypes and devise solutions. Under the umbrella of PAR, this research incorporated the design thinking mindset and its structured approaches to investigate perspectives which then enabled creation of assessment frameworks. This research consisted of two phases: Phase One focused on end-users’ perspectives and experience of usual assessment practices that occurred pre-Covid-19, in a face-to-face teaching and learning setting. Semi-structured interview analyses revealed that despite acknowledging and understanding the importance of assessment and feedback processes, end-users were not completely satisfied with their assessment experiences. Students wanted assessment with more clarity and transparency providing them with authentic opportunities. While academics and high-school teachers wanted more student engagement in assessment. Assessment workload constraints affected both students’ and academics’ assessment and feedback experiences. Based on these understandings, the assessment framework was ideated and developed into a scenario-based experience assessment prototype. After this stage, the pandemic pushed teaching, learning, and assessment practices to a digitally supported remote delivery, which meant that the framework adopted in Phase One could not be tested for effectiveness. Phase Two evolved from these social distancing Covid-19 restrictions which caused new problems and challenges in delivering and completing assessment. In light of this, the same design thinking stages and procedures as Phase One were adopted. Analyses discovered academics and teachers experienced tensions between their usual pedagogical practices and the limited social cues available to them in the online environment. It appeared that students did not necessarily know how to collaborate, which was magnified in the online environment. Therefore, a new fit-for-purpose assessment framework prototype was developed for the digital emerging environment to support end-users in facilitating, monitoring, and assessing collaboration. This thesis presents practical assessment alternatives in these universal and situational assessment environments, to equip students with knowledge and skills to excel in future employment settings. The lessons thereby learned from adopting the design thinking approach as a results-driven planning method in this study may assist others in exploring this more novel approach to qualitative research. It is anticipated that the findings of this research will contribute to promoting and sustaining changes to improve teaching, learning, and assessment in higher and teacher education.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3903 Education systems
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3904 Specialist studies in education
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords teacher education, design thinking, COVID-19, assessment, participatory action research methodology
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