Student (non-)engagement with seen examination questions: a case study

Nicola Reimann

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This case study explores students’ perceptions of seen examination questions about topics not covered by the formal curriculum of a final year Economics module and of the associated group support sessions. Eight semi-structured interviews with a total of thirteen students were analysed for this paper; they are part of a larger data set collected for a large UK-wide project investigating teaching-learning environments in undergraduate higher education. Take-up for the seen examination questions was low and the students who did not answer a seen question tended to make workload considerations as well as concerns about group work for assessment purposes responsible for their decision. Some of them still engaged in independent group work, and despite not participating in the group sessions which were part of the formal curriculum, a few students researched a seen question in conjunction with trusted fellow students or on their own. While the students who undertook this type of independent preparation appeared to act very autonomously, the lack of participation in the group sessions was regarded as disappointing by the lecturer. One of the issues associated with the formal preparation process was the absence of detailed guidance and feedback as this would have compromised the summative function of the examination. The students who answered a seen question developed and/or applied independent learning skills and enjoyed the freedom which the seen exam questions provided, but other students were critical of the way in which their lecturers were trying to regulate and control their autonomy. Contrary to expectations, learners taking a strategic approach to the module were not attracted by the seen questions. The uncertainty of an unfamiliar assessment format and the prospect of undertaking unguided independent research and group work were perceived as involving more risks than taking a familiar unseen examination.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007
EventEuropean Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Conference - Budapest
Duration: 1 Aug 2007 → …


ConferenceEuropean Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Conference
Period1/08/07 → …


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