How do we assess for “success”? Challenging assumptions of success in the pursuit of inclusive assessment

Sarah O'Shea, Janine Delahunty

    Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    This chapter considers the contested concept of academic “success”, particularly the varied and diffuse ways that being successful was understood and articulated by a diverse group of students who were all first in their family to attend university. Drawing on a national Australian study, the chapter explores how these students, from a range of backgrounds and multiple equity factors, articulated what success at university meant to them at a personal and embodied level. Their definitions were illuminating, challenging many taken-for-granted assumptions, and revealing non-normative notions of “success”. Themes emphasised achieving personal goals, satisfaction, and learning/applying knowledge as significant measures of success, with an element of resistance to the assumption that academic grades alone were markers of achievement. For these participants, success was contextualised and informed by wider social and economic factors, rather than simply attributed to the meritocratic skill set of the learner. Based on these findings, the chapter considers the implications for designing university assessment that responds to diverse and alternative notions of success and provides practical suggestions and recommendations for those who wish to “assess for success”.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAssessment for inclusion in Higher Education
    Subtitle of host publicationPromoting equity and social justice in assessment
    EditorsRola Ajjawi, Joanna Tai, David Boud, Trina Jorre de St Jorre
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Number of pages11
    ISBN (Electronic)9781003293101
    ISBN (Print)9781032275031
    Publication statusPublished - 2023


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