Negative Wash-Back of Formative Assessment to Learning in Saudi Higher Education Context

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Muhammad Umer
Dr.Abdul Fattah Somroo
Dr.Amjad Saleem


This article reports the wash-back of formative assessment on what students learn, how they learn and the depth of their learning in Saudi higher education context. Previous research indicates that assessment methods affect different aspects of learning either positively or negatively depending on the nature of assessment tasks. Observations indicate a clear association between Saudi students’ learning and how their learning is assessed; so this research was needed to determine how exactly the correlation looked like—positive or negative. The data in this study were collected from Saudi undergraduates by employing a student survey and semi-structured interviews. The survey included Likert scale items of agreement regarding research assignments, quizzes and midterm examinations administered to 250 English-major students. To validate the survey results, sixteen students from different levels with GPA 3 and above were interviewed. The results showed that formative assessment narrowed down the scope of learning materials. The students mostly adopted surface level learning strategies to prepare for formative assessment tasks. Higher order thinking skills were not tested in any of the formative assessment methods. Therefore, it is suggested that assessments tasks should be subjected to thorough validation and moderation. Sound assessment practices should be put in place and practiced judiciously. To achieve these objectives, sustained institutional and departmental professional backing is a prerequisite.

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