Accountability and quality policies relating to learning standards, and their implications for assessment in higher education

Jon Yorke

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated] The aim of this study was to analyse accountability and quality policies relating to learning standards, and their implications for assessment in higher education. Whilst primarily focusing on the Australian setting, this research was located within a broader frame of reference that included the United Kingdom (UK), the United States of America (US), and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Across these settings, comparative measures of learning have been seen as a policy ‘solution’ to the problem of ‘proving quality’ in a globalised and increasingly competitive higher education market.
Comparative measures of learning depend on the specification of learning standards. Learning standards attempt to articulate the capabilities expected of graduates, and students’ achievement of these is determined through the practices of assessment carried out within institutions. Quality policy, learning standards and assessment practices all intersect within the broader umbrella of accountability, with relevance to governments, higher education providers, employers, parents, and students.
This study drew on the theoretical frameworks of critical theory and poststructuralism to enable a comprehensive approach to policy analysis. Critical theory facilitated an examination of the way policy processes served to empower or disempower actors, whilst the theoretical lens of poststructuralism focused attention on the complex and dynamic power relationships between actors at all levels.
Within the Australian setting, a ‘policy trajectory’ approach was used to analyse the evolving ‘ensemble’ of quality policy texts relating to learning standards released by the Australian Government between 2009 and 2013. Four policy contexts were examined, comprising: (global to local) influences; policy text production; practices/effects; and emergent or predicted longer term outcomes. These contexts were examined at a national and institutional level. The ‘national’ level comprised the Australian Government and other non-Government national groups within Australia. The ‘institutional’ level spanned four ‘types’ of public and private institution, selected to represent the hierarchy and diversity of the Australian higher education sector.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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