Dr Maddalena Taras’ research on assessment theory and practice in Higher Education.
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Sunderland
Unit of AssessmentEducation
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Summary of the impact
Taras' assessment research while Higher Education (HE) focused, is
pertinent at all levels. There is considerable evidence that it has impact
on debate, staff development and academic practice in UK universities and
internationally. It covers assessment practices and discourses including
linguistic and cultural influences on perceptions of assessment. Her
original self-assessment model is a paradigm shift linking practice and
theory supporting student learning and inclusion in assessment. An
original theoretical framework for summative, formative and
self-assessment represents a second paradigm shift. Her work has been
widely disseminated through publication in high status journals and at
conference and seminar presentations.
Taras' most significant achievements are in developing and producing
original and innovative theory and practice relating to student learning
and assessment in HE. Her work has been widely disseminated, and has
provoked considerable interest in academic communities within and beyond
the UK. It explores the relationship between assessment and learning
processes with the explicit intention of improving practice in order to
enhance student learning and participation, with a particular focus on
engaging and empowering learners through appropriate self-assessment
Specific contributions include
- The development of an original self-assessment model to support
student learning and inclusion in assessment. Taras developed and
evaluated a specific procedure for using self-assessment, involving
three distinctive features, first, to use summative, graded work for
self-assessment; second, for students to negotiate peer (and tutor)
feedback to help them identify and understand their errors prior to
self-assessment; and third, that students receive their grade only after
they have completed the formative, learning aspect of the self-
assessment exercise. Tutors and students evaluation of this process
reported positive outcomes. (Taras 2001, 2002, 2003)
- The creation of an original theoretical framework explicating a new
relationship between summative, formative and self-assessment. The
argument is that all assessment is summative, in that it involves making
a judgement, and that formative assessment is best understood as
summative assessment plus feedback which is negotiated and used by
learners (Taras 2005).
- Developing a critique of Assessment for Learning (AfL) promoted in
schools and initial teacher training (Black et al 2003) and in England
through the government funded National Strategies initiative (and
increasingly world-wide). Taras questions the definitions of formative
assessment and the underpinning theoretical assumptions, identifying the
contradictions that ensue in practice. She proposes a paradigm shift
based on understanding formative and summative assessment as processes
- A topology of five self-assessment models in HE. These are compared in
terms of their rationales, processes and support for learners. They are
classified in terms of weak and strong forms of self-assessment,
reflecting the degree of involvement of students and tutors in each
model. Taras provides a concise overview of self-assessment approaches,
permitting educators to make informed choices in their professional
practice (Taras 2010).
The value of this body of work is acknowledged by international experts
in the field of student (self) assessment. It is described by a University
of Hong Kong Professor as `a cutting edge example of the interrelationship
between theory and practice'. An Emeritus Professor of Learning
Development (Open University) admires her `probing scholarship' and
`provocative thinking'. A University of Gothenburg Professor reports that
`Dr Taras has established herself as an international authority in her
field of specialisation'. She has co-edited a book on feedback in HE,
which a Visiting Professor, at Lancaster University expects to be `a key
text in the pedagogy of HE'.
The work was conducted over twenty years at the University of Sunderland.
She held a University Teaching Fellowship to disseminate the use of
student self-assessment across the university (1994-1996).
References to the research
1) Taras, M (2001) The use of Tutor Feedback and Student Self-assessment
in Summative Assessment Tasks: towards transparency for students and for
tutors, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 26(6)
2) Taras, M (2002) Using assessment for learning and learning from
assessment, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 27(6)
3) Taras, M (2005) Assessment: Summative and Formative, some theoretical
reflections British Journal of Educational Studies 53(3) 466-478
4) Taras, M. (2009) Summative Assessment: the Missing Link for Formative
Assessment Journal of Further and Higher Education, Feb 33(1),
5) Taras, M (2010) Student Self-assessment: processes and consequences, Teaching
in Higher Education, 15(2) 199-213.
The outputs can be accessed at
Details of the impact
Taras' research outputs have informed her own professional practice in
her teaching and research roles, and have also had considerable impact
within the University of Sunderland, through her University Teaching
fellowship. Her work has had impact on debate and practice in HE and
schools, nationally and internationally.
The main beneficiaries of Taras' work have been academic staff in HEIs in
the UK and overseas, and their students. Her work has also been applied in
a Swedish research study in improving practice in language learning in
Taras' theoretical work and empirical research has been disseminated
through publication in prestigious refereed journals (eg Assessment and
Evaluation in HE, Teaching in HE, the British Journal of Education
Studies, Journal of Further and Higher Education).
- presentations at c40 national and international conferences concerned
with student learning and assessment practices and theories since 2001,
including many invited presentations and keynotes, see:
- Invitations to lead staff development activities at keynotes and
seminars on developing assessment practice at the University of
Sunderland and other universities (eg Buckingham New 2013 (Keynote),
Bolton 2012 (Keynote), Durham 2011, Liverpool Hope 2010,Wolverhampton
Specifically, the impact of her work can be seen in the following
Use of research findings in the conduct of professional work or
practice. Educators have explored and applied aspects of Taras'
work in universities and schools within and beyond the UK.
- Its use in accredited programmes for HE staff (e.g. MA in Academic
Practice at the University of Northumbria; MA Education, PG Cert in
Teaching and Learning in HE, PGCE programmes at the University of
Sunderland; and on university Learning and Development websites (e.g.
Leeds Metropolitan University
- An Assistant professor uses Taras' work in her work as a consultant in
HE in other provinces in Canada as well as in her current institution.
It informs the design of three workshops on course design, peer
assessment and self-assessment. Her work and review of the concepts and
models is cited and used as a key reference in these professional
development workshops, which are offered to approximately 120
instructors and administrators every semester [Source 4].
- Staff at the University of Gothenburg have applied Taras' model of
self-assessment (2001, 2002) in a research project with secondary school
pupils, and report positive outcomes (see https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/19783)
- Staff in UK universities and internationally report applying Taras'
research findings in their professional practice:
- A Professor reports that he and colleagues at the University of the
Highlands and Islands, have implemented delaying coursework grades until
students have digested and considered comments on their work as
recommended by Taras (2001, 2002) [Source 1].
- A Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy (Northumbria University) reports
that she and colleagues on the MA in Academic Practice found Taras' work
valuable in critiquing and developing their assessment practice.
- An Associate Professor of the Teacher Education programme reports that
it has influenced her own practice, in university and school, and that of
her student teachers [Source 3].
- It has influenced the development of formative peer assessment at
Edinburgh Napier University Business Studies degree
- Taras (2005) is used as one of three key texts in two MA modules in
Singapore National Institute of Education. "It is used as a conceptual
anchor for the role of summative assessment in formative assessment: it is
an important conceptual lightbulb for the students" [Source 6].
Development of resources to enhance professional practice.
Taras has made significant contribution in this area. Her work is
frequently used in university staff development activities. Many of her
papers have web links in different languages and countries worldwide,
several have been used in influential national initiatives
- Taras (2002) was one of two key texts in a European-funded project
(2002-04) on Internet- based Assessment
- She was invited in 2009 to become a member of the `Osney Grange Group'
of `leading researchers and writers' to examine feedback practices in
the UK and to propose an Agenda for Change for stakeholders and policy
makers. This group has run change academy style events, produced
resources, and published a book, which Taras is co- edited, section
edited and written a chapter (http://www.brookes.ac.uk/aske/OGG.html)http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415692359/
- The State university of Ponta Grossa, Brazil commissioned an updated
version of Taras (2005) which was published in Portuguese and English by
Praxis Educativa in 2010. It was reprinted in "Didática e Formação de
Professores", edited by Professor Claudio Pinto at the University of
Estadual do Sudoeste da Bahia, Brazil (2012)
Practitioner debate has been informed or stimulated by research
findings. As described above, Taras' work has stimulated debate
amongst HE practitioners. It has challenged hegemonic assumptions
concerning the models of assessment and self-assessment routinely
employed in HE, and has questioned the validity and value of Assessment
for Learning as currently understood and applied in education settings.
In recognition of her impact Taras has been awarded a National Teaching
Fellowship 2013 (HEA).
Sources to corroborate the impact
People contactable to corroborate the impact of Dr Taras' work
- Professor, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
- Associate Professor in Foreign Language Didactics, Norwegian
University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
- Associate Director, Centre for Teaching and Learning, Assistant
Professor, Educational Psychology, University of Alberta, Canada
- Post-doctoral researcher, University of Oulu, Finland
- Associate Professor, National Institute of Education, Singapore
People who have provided a written statement:
- Professor, Open University
- Professor, University of Hong Kong
- Professor, Lancaster University
- Associate Director, Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of
- Associate Professor in Foreign Language Didactics, Norwegian
University of Science and Technology, Trondheim