Learning and Teaching in Action: Assessment

Student in language lab


Book Review


David Boud and Nancy Falchikov
Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education, Routledge 2007

Boud and Falchikov say that they have set out to write

“…a book that would look beyond the immediate practices of assessment to consider what assessment would look like if we took seriously the need for it to provide students with a firm foundation for their learning after they had completed their programme of study.”

Like so many statements about assessment, this looks so obvious you wonder why anybody would bother to say it, but it isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection on the ways in which we currently think about assessment design.

This is an edited book and so it is inevitably best viewed as a collection of articles by fellow converts to Boud’s long-maintained battle to get teachers in higher education to embed the idea that assessment has multiple purposes: sometimes you need to assess both content AND process, or the immediate task AND ability to tackle future tasks, or provide both formative feedback AND a summative mark (Boud, 2000). The content of the book ranges from the provision of conceptual support for a new approach to assessment from Ron Barnett to case studies and practical suggestions for assessment design from Peter Kandlbinder and Margaret Kirkwood, but all of the articles engage directly with the issue of thinking about assessment as an integrated part of the learning process and as a preparation for lifelong learning. There is a very useful chapter on emotion and assessment, by Boud and Falchikov, which reviews the current literature and presents the results of a small case study.

I’d recommend this book highly as a review of current thinking about good practice in assessment design, but it’s probably not the book for you if you are looking for some practical ideas for novel assessment tasks – there are some in here but that isn’t the primary aim.


Boud, D (2000), Sustainable Assessment: rethinking assessment for the learning society, Studies in Continuing Education, 22, 151-167.

Rachel Forsyth
Centre for Learning and Teaching

e-mail: r.m.forsyth@mmu.ac.uk

Autumn 2008
ISSN 1477-1241