Examining Tacit Knowledges in Assessing International Postgraduate Students


  • Claudia Rosenhan Univesity of Edinburgh
  • Farah Akbar University of Edinburgh
  • Takuyah Numajiri University of Edinburgh


postgraduate, assessment, assessment literacy, higher education


The study investigates student and scorer responses to a marking scheme used on a taught postgraduate programme, to examine whether level descriptors enhance students’ and staff assessment literacy. The student cohort was surveyed at two time-points, with a response rate of 62% (N = 99) and 24% (N = 39) respectively. One focus group with four scorers was also conducted. Using exploratory factor analysis, we found that students were confident in their understanding of the descriptors, but also believed that markers draw on tacit knowledges. This concern was confirmed to an extent by the focus group. The findings question the usefulness of descriptors to foster assessment literacy, especially for international students, as they do not mitigate against tacit knowledge. Both data sets were small and therefore not generalizable. The findings are, however, indicative of recurring issues in academic assessment, in which international students struggle to attain the requisite understanding of quality necessary for their development as autonomous learners.






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