Original Research

The nature, purpose and effectiveness of assessment in tertiary mathematics at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)

Kobus Maree, Ina Louw
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 26, No 4 | a144 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v26i4.144 | © 2007 Kobus Maree, Ina Louw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 September 2007 | Published: 22 September 2007

About the author(s)

Kobus Maree, Departement Kurrikulumstudies, Fakulteit Opvoedkunde, Universiteit van Pretoria, South Africa
Ina Louw, Departement Wiskunde en Statistiek, Tshwane Universiteit vir Tegnologie, South Africa

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Despite the fact that mathematics is the cornerstone of scientific literacy, many South African learners do not perform adequately in this subject. Furthermore, adopting an Outcomes-based Education (OBE) approach has not contributed to an improvement of the situation. In fact, even in 2007, OBE has not been implemented at most tertiary training institutions in South Africa. Only a few educators (lecturers) implement OBE in the teaching of mathematics at tertiary training institutions. Lecturers use their discretion to decide whether or not to implement an OBE approach in learning facilitation and assessment. At TUT problem-based teaching (PBL) and problem-oriented learning (POL) were introduced previously in some departments and executed with varying degrees of success. Even though no formal decision had been made at TUT with regard to the acceptance of a specific teaching and learning model at the time of the current study, there was general agreement that OBE would be the teaching and learning model of choice, especially since (from 2009 onwards) all prospective students will have received schooling in an OBE-based teaching and learning environment. (In the majority of departments lecturers are currently being groomed to implement OBE and the current study formed part of this process.) First-year students’ insufficient achievement in mathematics was, however, the main thrust behind this attempt to investigate renewal in mathematics assessment at TUT by means of action research. An important aim of the study was to evaluate the nature of prevailing assessment practices on the different TUT campuses, the main aim being to introduce lecturers to effective strategies and to encourage the implementation of these strategies by means of action research. The overarching working assumption guiding the current research was the belief that suitable assessment would probably enhance the effectiveness of students’ learning (thereby impacting on their performance). The research focused on the following questions:

  • Are tertiary mathematics facilitators adequately trained and prepared to implement outcomes-based assessment strategies at TUT?
  • To what extent are outcomes-based strategies effectively and regularly introduced in the teaching of mathematics at TUT?

Action research was chosen as research strategy because it was deemed suitable to facilitate improvement of current assessment practices. Furthermore, the cyclical nature of action research lent itself ideally to the introduction and handling of different facets of OBE during the different cycles. During the first cycle (questionnaires) information related to assessment practices was obtained. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected through questionnaires, personal interviews, interviews with focus groups, observations, documentation and a reflective diary. This article, however, only focuses on the qualitative data obtained from lecturers. Respondents were exposed to assessment strategies in an attempt to enhance their insight into contemporary assessment practices in an outcomes-based teaching and learning environment and, in doing so, empower them to execute their activities in a more accountable way. The authors report extensively on the findings and make recommendations for improving assessment practices (obviously, at TUT in the first place, but, hopefully, at other tertiary training institutions as well). The main findings were as follows:

  • OBE strategies were not being introduced throughout TUT in the teaching of mathematics.
  • Group work and peer assessments were rare occurrences.
  • Some lecturers were convinced that new assessment methods would lower the standard of teaching.
  • Uncertainty about the merger and the varying teaching conditions at the different campuses tended to inhibit lecturers, making them less willing to undertake assessment renewal.
  • The lecturers cited large class groups, a lack of marking assistance and ignorance about OBE as reasons for failing to undertake assessment renewal.
  • TUT should benefit from reviewing its admission criteria.

n conclusion, it should be said that respondents generally agreed that this research went some way towards preparing them for assessment renewal. Moreover, since TUT recently went through a merger, assessment renewal seems to be an idea whose time has come, a hiatus that deserves the attention of serious researchers and academics alike. The authors realise that this article is not a panacea, not a cure-all; obviously, we do not have all the answers. However, hope is expressed that he study has made a significant contribution to this positive development and has contributed in some way to ongoing debates in the field.


Wiskundeassessering; Outentieke assessering; Ingenieursopleiding; Aksienavorsing; Fokusgroeponderhoude; Kwalitatiewe data-analise; Institusionele samesmelting; Uitkomsgerigte assessering; Kwaliteitsbeheer; Persoonlike onderhoude; Toelatingskriteria


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