PhD Scholarship – Assessment in higher education

Two PhD scholarships are available in Deakin University’s Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE). The PhD student/s will work with researchers in the centre on the topic of ‘Assessment in higher education’. The successful student/s will be based at CRADLE’s Melbourne CBD location at Deakin Downtown (727 Collins Street, Melbourne).

Project aim

The potential projects aim 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 interested in potential projects that align with one or more areas of our research program. We would particularly be interested in research around upcoming research projects for the Centre:

* Developing evaluative judgement in university courses: 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? – with Professor David Boud

* Ensuring feedback influences learning: 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? – with Professor David Boud

* Designing assessment to prevent and detect contract cheating: 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 - with Associate Professor Phillip Dawson

* How and why do students cheat? A digital ethnography: 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 – with Associate Professor Phillip Dawson

* Feedback and the educational alliance: 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 – with Dr Rola Ajjawi

* Assessment and professional identity formation: 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? – with Dr Rola Ajjawi

* From simulation to practice: This PhD project investigates how feedback and debriefing impact clinical learning. The research will explore how learners transfer lessons learnt in simulation to clinical environments – with Associate Professor Margaret Bearman

* Tracing the materials of assessment: This PhD project situates assessment within a sociomaterial perspective, using Actor-Network-Theory. The study 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 – with Associate Professor Margaret Bearman

* MOOCs: between two worlds: This PhD project looks at the role of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) at spanning higher education and the community. What are the new ways in which communities choose to participate in higher education and what is the impact of this learning on individuals? It offers scope for the candidate to consider a case study in-depth (for example in public health or information technology) or to consider the broader policy implications. – with Associate Professor Margaret Bearman

* What is student engagement in higher education?: Student engagement is important for successful teaching and learning and as a proxy for student achievement. Fostering engagement may be increasingly important as modes of learning are evolving to include online, asynchronous and distance environments.  This project will explore the gap between espoused, holistic models of student engagement and enacted, behaviourist approaches to student engagement. This project may be approached from the student or educator perspective, or a combination of both – with Dr Jo Tai

* Learning through peer assessment: benefits and pitfalls: The benefits of peer learning for knowledge retention are well known. However, while peer assessment is also frequently used, the learning benefits of assessing others are less well described. It is thought that evaluative judgement may be developed through the closer interaction with assessment functions, including feedback. This project will investigate how peer assessment may contribute to students’ learning in a specific context – with Dr Jo Tai

Value and duration


  • A stipend of $26,682 per annum tax exempt (2017 rate)
  • A relocation allowance up to $1,500 (2017 rate) if applicable
  • Paid sick, maternity and parental leave
  • Plus a top up stipend of $15,000 ($5,000 per year for three years) will be awarded by CRADLE



Important dates

closing date

30 April 2017

Eligibility criteria

  • Applicants must meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements, be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (First Class) or a master's degree with a substantial research component in a related field. Please refer to the entry pathways to higher degrees by research for further information.
  • Applicants must have applied for or be currently enrolled in a higher degree by research with at least 12 months full-time or equivalent candidature remaining.
  • While applicants do not need to hold a particular disciplinary degree, they 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.
  • Applications are open to domestic candidates only (Australian Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Resident, New Zealand Citizenship).

How to apply

Please refer to the how to apply for a research degree page for application information.

Further information


Students will be based at CRADLE’s Melbourne CBD location Deakin Downtown 727 Collins Street, Melbourne.

Doctoral Program

The Centre links with other initiatives in the Faculty of the Arts and Education and will build key components of a doctoral program in its specialist area. Over time it will develop an international network of research students working on assessment and learning to provide mutual support and interaction and seek to foster joint supervision internationally. It collaborates with Faculties in integrating doctoral students in programs in cognate areas of the University.


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).