BELFAST: Built Environment Law, Flowing Assessment

Tim McLernon

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The formal assessment process acts as an extrinsic motivator of learning in the Built Environment Law curriculum. The old adage “what gets measured gets done” applies. It is widely recognised by teachers in Higher Education (HE) in the U.K. that learning is more enjoyable and meaningful when motivation to learn is intrinsic and accords with Csikszentmihalyi’s [1] ‘flow’ theory; yet the HE system requires formal assessment. Students focus on this assessment for the parameters of their learning. The purpose of the paper is to instigate a dialogue on assessment design for Built Environment Law through an examination of assessment practices, and to report on what works, in terms of promoting student learning whilst satisfying the demands of the HE system. The paper reviews key literature to construct a conceptual framework on why we assess, what we assess, and how to assess. It reports on a longitudinal study of the developing assessment design of an undergraduate Built Environment Law curriculum that focuses on construction contract law and administration, and a postgraduate Built Environment Law curriculum that focuses on legal studies for the construction Project Manager. The paper includes an examination of those factors external to the learning process that impinge on, and shape, assessment design. The prescriptions in the paper are informed by generic findings of data collected from interviews with academics on their constructions of assessment practices, and from focus group interviews with students on their attitudes to assessment. The conclusions highlight those things that create educational difficulties and argue that curriculum design for Built Environment Law, that incorporates only informal assessment with inherent flexibility and freedom, can promote intrinsic motivation to study and promote deeper student learning in this discipline.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of CIB W89 : International Conference in Building Education and Research - Book of Executive Summaries
    EditorsR Haigh, D Amaratunga
    PublisherUniversity of Salford
    ISBN (Print)978-1-905732-36-4 978-1-905732-39-5
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Feb 2008

    Bibliographical note

    Paper presented at BEAR 2008, CIB W89 : International Conference in Building Education and Research, Heritance Kandalama, Sri Lanka 11th - 15th February 2008, and published in; Amaratunga, D. and Haigh, R. (eds.) Proceedings of CIB W89 : International Conference in Building Education and Research, Pp 1163-1175, ISBN 978-1-905732-36-4; and summary paper; published in; Amaratunga, D. and Haigh, R. (eds.) Book of Executive Summaries; ISBN 978-1-905732-39-5.
    Reference text: [1] Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-092043-2
    [2] Debold, H. (2002) Flow with Soul, An Interview with Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in, What is Enlightenment, Issue 21 / Spring-Summer 2002, published by EnlightenmentNext.
    [3] Wikipedia, [accessed on 26th September 2007].
    [4] Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1975). Beyond Boredom and Anxiety. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA. 36. ISBN-10: 0875892612, ISBN-13: 978-0875892610
    [5] Blenkin, G.M. and Kelly, A.V. (Eds) (1992) Assessment in Early Childhood Education, Paul Chapman Publishing
    [6] QAA (2000) Code of Practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education; Section 6: Assessment of students – May 2000, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
    [7] Mutch, A and Brown, G (2001), Assessment: A Guide for Heads of Department, in LTSN Generic Centre Assessment Series, No 2, LTSN, York
    [8] Biggs, J (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Open University Press, Buckingham
    [9] Torrance, H. (ed.) (1994) Evaluating Authentic Assessment: Problems and Possibilities in New Approaches to Assessment, Buckingham, Open University Press.
    [10] Boud, D. (1995) ‘Assessment and Learning: Contradictory or Complementary?’ in Knight, P. (ed.) (1995) Assessment for Learning in Higher Education Seda and Kogan Page, Birmingham.
    [11] Rowntree, D (1987) Assessing Students: How Shall We Know Them? Harper and Row Ltd, London
    [12] Heywood, J. (2000) Assessment in Higher Education, Jessica Kingsley, London and Philadelphia.
    [13] McLernon, T. & Hughes, D., (2005) Roadworks on the Learning Highway: the UK Experience of Assessment, Proceedings of the Annual Conference and Exposition of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), entitled ‘Exploring the World of Engineering Education’, 12th – 15th June 2005, Portland, Oregon, USA.
    [14] McLernon, T., Turner, C., & Leacock, A., ‘FUNdamental Flow’: Curriculum Design, Learning Environment and Teaching Methods for Motivating Engagement; internal teaching and learning seminar; Faculty of Engineering, University of Ulster.


    • assessment
    • flow
    • motivation
    • learning
    • impingements.


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