n Journal of Educational Studies - Unpacking the conundrum of assessment biases in higher education : a critical perspective - research

Volume 16 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1680-7456


The purpose of this study is to unravel the nature of assessment biases in higher education institutions. Its main thesis is that despite the rhetorical claims expressed by many higher education practitioners, that their assessment processes and practices are impartial, assessment biases are almost always inevitable. The study followed a qualitative interpretative approach and utilised a case study as the design genre to unmask the sources of assessment bias in higher education institutions. The target population from which a sample size of 20 higher education practitioners was purposefully and conveniently selected. The data for this study was collected through focus group interviews and the analysis followed a thematic approach. Among the major findings of this study was that common higher education assessment biases are rooted in issues of gender, sex, race, ethnicity, religion and socio-economic backgrounds. The study also revealed that in spite of their rhetorical claims, many higher education practitioners, especially lecturers and administrators are guilty of biased assessment tendencies, which include offensive remarks based on their personal characteristics or specific demographic indices, unfair penalisation, unwitting denigration and inference distortion. The conclusion in this paper is that biased assessment practices have a disparate impact on the victims in that they foster substantial differences in the success rate of separate social groups. Seen in this light, the recommendation was that higher education practitioners need to be extraordinarily attentive to the possibilities of unwitting denigration and unfair penalisation during their assessment practices. They should thus be clearly expunged from higher education.

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