HDR Scholarship - Assessment and Digital Learning in higher education

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Assessment and/or digital learning in higher education'.


Melbourne Burwood Campus and Deakin Downtown

Research topic

CRADLE’s research program seeks to establish what works to improve learning in higher and professional education. This includes research in areas including, but not limited to, academic security and academic integrity; assessment design (including self/peer, authentic and programmatic); feedback and feedback literacy; developing evaluative judgement; assessment in a digital world; digital identities; inclusion and belonging in a digital world; learning in and for the workplace; representation in and beyond assessment; and quality and standards. Throughout these programs, we use cross-cutting approaches, including innovative methodological and theoretical approaches and knowledge transition. We collaborate with Deakin faculties and divisions, and also work with a range of industry partners and international collaborators.

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. CRADLE has an international network of research students working on assessment and learning with the aims of providing mutual support and interaction and seeking to foster joint supervision internationally. It collaborates with Faculties in integrating doctoral students in programs in cognate areas of the University. Students will be based at CRADLE’s Melbourne CBD location Deakin Downtown 727 Collins Street, Melbourne.

Project aim

The scholarship is available for projects that align with CRADLE’s research themes and our current programs of research. Areas in which applications for PhD are being considered are listed below. Alternative project topics that support CRADLE’s research agenda will be considered. Please note that each doctoral student has at least two supervisors. Please contact the person named for each topic for information about it.

Supervisor Alfred Deakin Professor David Boud:

  • 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?
  • Ensuring feedback influences learning: What strategies and models are effective in enabling feedback processes 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?

Supervisor Professor Phillip Dawson

  • Feedback literacy for effective learning at university and beyond: Feedback literacy’ is the capability to seek out, understand and make use of feedback, as well as making productive use of emotions throughout the process. What frameworks and strategies help learners make the most of feedback across their studies and into their working lives? Using behaviour change techniques from the health and social sciences, this topic expects to develop ways to support students and graduates to seek out and use feedback, and to manage their emotions throughout the feedback process.
  • Assessment security and online assessment: As assessment has rapidly shifted online, many educators have expressed concerns about cheating. A range of assessment designs and technologies have been deployed in response. This project involves an investigation of the effectiveness of those approaches at addressing cheating, as well as their potential harms and benefits.

Supervisor Professor Margaret Bearman

  • Learning and the digitally-mediated workplace: Workplaces are increasingly mediated by big data, analytics and artificial intelligence. This has implications for universities and for learning-on-the-job. How do we navigate a world with new kinds of knowledge practices?
  • Assessment and feedback cultures: Assessment and feedback cultures are often overlooked but have considerable influence on how assessment and feedback shapes learners. This project offers the opportunity to research assessment/feedback as a cultural, social or sociomaterial practice. How might this change what learners, teachers or institutions do? This project could have a digital learning focus, if this is of interest.

Supervisor Professor Rola Ajjawi:

  • Feedback, emotions, and power: 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 emotions and power relationships in feedback conversations by examining it across different disciplines and learning environments. The research asks how are emotions and power negotiated within feedback processes and how is this mediated through technology to influence the effects of feedback.
  • Assessment, authenticity, 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? Other angles might include what makes for authentic assessment and how to design assessment for inclusion.
  • Inclusion and belonging in higher education: Higher education is in the grip of social acceleration, which can lead to alienation in relationships with educational processes being depicted as a technology or instrument, put to work to bring about pre-determined ends, rather than a deep and transformative experience. Relationships of students to space and time and to buildings, objects, interactions, forms of practice – and, therefore, to forms of knowledge – need to be closely examined. This research seeks to explore notions of belonging and social inclusion/exclusion in higher education

Supervisor Dr Joanna Tai:

  • Assessment for inclusion: Assessment in higher education must ensure that a diverse student population can demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes. This project could explore diverse student experiences of assessment, and/or the affordances and limitations of current and emerging assessment designs, within the context of technology-enabled postsecondary environments.
  • Peer learning in higher education: 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 qualitative project could be undertaken in a specific disciplinary or professional context, or in a broader postgraduate education setting.

Supervisor Dr Mollie Dollinger:

  • Co-design in learning and assessment: In a chaotic, diverse, and rapidly evolving higher education context, it is increasingly important to engage with students, industry partners, and other stakeholders in the co-design of learning and assessment practices. This research seeks to understand how to ethically and authentically engage with diverse stakeholders towards greater collaboration, and what benefits, challenges, and considerations arise from a co-create higher education environment. This project could relate to specific marginalised groups within higher education (e.g., students living with disability, first-in-family) or could look more broadly at student and/or industry, community voices.

Important dates

Applications will remain open until a candidate has been appointed


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $30,000 per annum tax exempt (2023 rate)
  • Top-up stipend of $5,000 per annum tax exempt
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate
  • International students only:  Tuition fees offset for the duration of 4 years. Single Overseas Student Health Cover policy for the duration of the student visa.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • 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 research degree entry pathways page for further information.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying in any of these topic areas please contact the relevant Supervisor directly for a discussion relating to your application and proposal. If you are successful you will then be invited to submit a formal application.

Email Alfred Deakin Professor David Boud +61 3 924 43816

Email Professor Phillip Dawson +61 3 924 45259

Email Professor Margaret Bearman +61 3 924 68168

Email Professor Rola Ajjawi +61 3924 43824

Email Dr Joanna Tai +61 924 43780

Email Dr Mollie Dollinger +61 3 924 68170

Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Helen Walker

Dr Helen Walker
Email Dr Helen Walker
+61 3 92445448