Lecturers’ adaptations to CAA practice


BSRLM Day Conference
9 June 2012
University of Sussex, Brighton


Computer-aided assessment (CAA) has been used for ten years at a university with one of the largest engineering and mathematics student cohorts in the country. This efficient and time-saving tool for assessing students on the mathematical content in these courses allows lecturers to monitor and record the progress of hundreds of students by selecting from a bank of thousands of questions.

Although this would appear to provide a straightforward means of testing large numbers of students, lecturers have developed diverse practices when using CAA with students. For example, some lecturers invigilate students while they do the online test, while others have replaced the online test with a paper equivalent.

Such changes may be explained by the notion of contradictions proposed by Engeström (2000). For example, some lecturers believe that the questions in the online test are too prescriptive and do not test what is desired. To resolve this conflict, these lecturers may replace the online test with a paper test in order to achieve their assessment goals.
This session will examine the findings from questionnaires and interviews conducted with lecturers of first year mathematics modules at this university. By these methods, lecturers explain how and why they use CAA, the issues they have encountered and how they have adapted their practice to counter them. With activity theory providing a framework with which past changes can be explained, possible future changes in practice will also be discussed.