HDR Scholarship - Assessment in higher education

A PhD scholarship is available in Deakin University's Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE), School of Education, Portfolio of the Deputy Vice Chancellor Education. The PhD student will work with researchers in the centre on the topic of ‘Assessment in higher education’. The successful student will be based at CRADLE’s Melbourne CBD location at Deakin Downtown (727 Collins Street, Melbourne).

Research topic

The successful scholarship applicant will work on a project that aligns with one or more CRADLE's research program areas.

Project aim

    The aim of the project is to provide useful evidence to inform assessment research, practice and policy, with a particular emphasis on approaches that work at a large scale.

    CRADLE is specifically interested in the research projects as below:

    • Developing evaluative judgement in university courses (Supervisor Professor David Boud): How can learners develop the ability to make judgements about their own learning? How can it be fostered in different contexts? How does it develop over time?
    • Ensuring feedback influences learning (Supervisor Professor David Boud): What strategies and models are effective in enabling comments made by teachers and others to have a positive impact on student’s subsequent work? What types of feedback processes can be effectively incorporated across programs? How can students influence the kinds of feedback most useful for their own learning?
    • Designing assessment to prevent and detect contract cheating (Supervisor Associate Professor Phillip Dawson): Contract cheating occurs when students pay someone else to do their assignment. Many recommendations have been made about designing assessment that helps prevent or detect contract cheating, however there is very little evidence about what actually works. This project aims to develop and test assessment designs that resist contract cheating.
    • How and why do students cheat? A digital ethnography (Supervisor Associate Professor Phillip Dawson): Cheating is increasingly conducted online, and entire online communities have emerged which focus on cheating. The academic integrity research literature has made very minimal engagement with these communities. This project involves hanging out in online places where students talk about cheating, to understand how and why students cheat.
    • Data, feedback and online education (Supervisor Associate Professor Margaret Bearman):  During feedback processes, a learner makes sense of all kinds of data about their performance. How do learners and teachers engage with, make sense of, or respond to different types of feedback data in online environments?
    • Building evaluative judgement through simulation (Supervisor Associate Professor Margaret Bearman): Students often have theoretical knowledge but struggle to apply this in workplaces. This PhD project investigates how simulation can be used to build evaluative judgement, which is the key capability to judge the work of self and others. This project is particularly suitable for clinical education and other forms of work-based learning.
    • Tracing the materials of assessment (Supervisor Associate Professor Margaret Bearman): It can be difficult to change assessment practices. This PhD project will trace assessment materials from inception to final use, in the process illuminating the complex teaching and learning interactions which underpin assessment design, delivery and use.
    • Feedback and the educational alliance (Supervisor Dr Rola Ajjawi): The relational aspects of feedback are increasingly coming to be recognised as crucial in how learners make sense of and incorporate feedback. This research seeks to extend understandings of the educational alliance by examining it as a construct across different disciplines and learning environments. The research asks what judgements do students make about the credibility, interest and intent of their educators and how do these judgements influence their current and future feedback behaviours.
    • Assessment and professional identity formation (Supervisor Dr Rola Ajjawi): Taking part in assessment not only drives students’ learning of knowledge, skills and attitudes, but it also shapes their professional identity. This occurs as students take part in authentic practices of the community, engage with standard and criteria and receive feedback on their work. This research asks: How do assessment practices influence students’ professional identity formation?
    • Student engagement and effective feedback (Supervisor Dr Jo Tai): Student engagement is thought to be important for successful teaching and learning. This project focuses on the nexus of student engagement and effective feedback in higher education. A key component of effective feedback is agentic students. Student agency may be developed through improving student engagement. Theoretical models of engagement outline a multi-faceted holistic conceptualisation, yet little empirical work has been conducted on how this plays out in practice. Fostering engagement may also be increasingly important as modes of learning are evolving to include online, asynchronous and distance environments, where opportunities for feedback are different.
    • Peer learning in higher education (Supervisor Dr Jo Tai): The benefits of peer learning for knowledge and skills are well described. There are emerging descriptions of peer learning contributing to desirable graduate learning outcomes such as evaluative judgement. This project seeks to explore and characterise the situations in which peer learning, including but not limited to peer assessments, feedback, and discussion, contribute to students’ learning. This project can be undertaken in a specific disciplinary context or in a broader postgraduate education setting.

Value and duration


  • A main stipend of $27,082 per annum tax exempt (2018 rate)
  • Plus a top up stipend of $5,000 per year for three years ($15,000 in total) will be awarded by CRADLE
  • A relocation allowance from $500 to $1,500 awarded to students who are moving from interstate or overseas in order to study at Deakin
  • For international students only: Tuition fee and overseas health coverage for the duration of four years.

Stipend Duration

  • 3 Years

Important dates

Opening date


Closing date


Eligibility criteria

This scholarship is open to international and domestic candidates.

Applicants must meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements, be enrolling full time and hold an Honours degree (First Class) or an equivalent standard Master's degree with a substantial research component. Please refer to the entry pathways to higher degrees by research for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include: Applicants must show high research potential, a demonstrated ability for independent study and be equipped by their previous studies to undertake qualitative or quantitative research in the social sciences relevant to assessment and learning.

How to apply

If you are interested in this project, please email CRADLE for further information. In your email please include your area of interest, an indication of the preparation you have done that equips you for doctoral research (e.g. training, courses, experiences) and anything that demonstrates your research potential (e.g. theses, publications or other relevant documentation). Please refer to the how to apply for a research degree page for application information.

Further information

If you wish to discuss your research interests and project proposal before applying, please contact the CRADLE Team via email or phone +61 3 9244 5448.