The power of assessment: What (dis)empowers students in their EFL assessment in a Finnish upper secondary school?

Pirjo Pollari

Assessment, Empowerment, Disempowerment, Students' experiences, Upper secondary education


Assessment wields a great deal of power over students. Yet, there is little research on how students, either in general or as individuals, experience assessment. Therefore, this study aimed to explore what disempowers or empowers students in EFL assessment. A total of 146 students from one Finnish upper secondary school answered a questionnaire on assessment and feedback in their EFL studies. The study utilises mixed methods: primarily, the questionnaire data was analysed quantitatively (principal component analysis, step-wise regression analysis), secondarily, qualitative data and analysis were also used. The analyses showed that students reacted to assessment in highly individual ways. While many students appreciated assessment, a significant minority found assessment disempowering. Assessment caused them considerable anxiety and they did not consider assessment methods good and versatile enough. Furthermore, feedback played a role in assessment disempowerment. Therefore, EFL assessment and feedback methods should be more versatile in order to also cater for those students who currently may feel disempowered by assessment.

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