HDR Scholarship - Assessment in Higher Education

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Assessment in Higher Education'.

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.

Project aim

This scholarship is for a project that considers assessment and learning in the changing settings of education which are increasingly embracing digital learning. The aim of the project is to provide useful evidence to inform assessment research, practice and policy.

We welcome submissions relating to projects that align to our research program areas as below. Please note that each Doctoral student has at least two supervisors, please contact the named person as below for each topic for more information.

  • Developing evaluative judgement in university courses, with 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, with Professor David Boud: 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?
  • Developing feedback literacy for study, work and life, with Professor Phillip Dawson: ‘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. It’s important not just at university, but in life and work in general. But how can we develop feedback literacy in learners, and how can we help learners deploy their feedback literacy?
  • Assessment security and online assessment, with Professor Phillip Dawson: 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.
  • Learning to work in a digitally-mediated world, with Professor Margaret BearmanWorkplaces are increasingly mediated by big data, analytics and artificial intelligence. This has implications for universities and for learning-on-the-job. How do learners, teachers and institutions navigate a world with new kinds of knowledge practices?
  • Changing feedback and assessment practices, with Professor Margaret BearmanFeedback and assessment practices often tend to revert to what is familiar. This PhD project will consider how contexts and practices can evolve to support new ways of doing. This project could have a digital learning focus, if this is of interest.
  • Feedback and power, with Associate Professor 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 role of trust and relationships in feedback conversations by examining it as a construct across different disciplines and learning environments. The research asks how is trust and power negotiated within feedback conversations and how is this mediated through technology to influence the effects of feedback.
  • Assessment, authenticity and professional identity formation, with Associate Professor 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? Other angles might include what makes for authentic assessment and how to design assessment for inclusion.
  • Inclusion and belonging in higher education, with Associate Professor Rola Ajjawi: 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 in higher education.
  • Inclusive assessment, with Dr Joanna Tai: Assessment in higher education must ensure that a diverse student population can demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes. This project aims to explore student experiences of inclusive assessment, and the affordances and limitations of current and emerging assessment designs, within the context of technology-enabled postsecondary environments.
  • Peer learning in higher education, with Dr Joanna 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
  • Equity in Employability, with Dr Trina Jorre de St Jorre: Students from low socio-economic status backgrounds do not benefit from Higher Education in the same way as their more advantaged peers, and there is growing concern that strategies intended to improve graduate employability can further disadvantage them. This research seeks to understand the factors that support and hinder engagement of students from LSES backgrounds with employment-related activities and eventual graduate outcomes, including the design of learning and assessment, and interactions between students, teachers and employers.
  • Opportunities for differentiation in learning and assessment design, with Dr Trina Jorre de St Jorre: Students need self-knowledge and evaluative judgement to portray their unique achievements and professional identity to different audiences. However, learning and assessment design provides students with limited opportunities to consciously develop or evidence their unique graduate identity, and there is often a gap between what is assessed, and the unique experiences and personal narratives that inform job recruitment decisions. This research will examine alignment between how learning and assessment are designed, experienced and valued.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Monday 15 March 2021


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,600 per annum tax exempt (2021 rate).
  • Plus a top-up stipend of $5,000 per annum.
  • 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 currently residing in Australia
  • 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

Please apply using the expression of interest form


Contact us

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

Dr Helen Walker
Research Manager
Email Helen Walker
+61 3 9244 5448