Close menu


Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Decolonising Assessment Moving from Death by Essay to Reflections, Narratives and Story-Telling

Sohdi, Reece (2024) Decolonising Assessment Moving from Death by Essay to Reflections, Narratives and Story-Telling. In: Assessment in Higher Education Conference 2024, 19-20 Jun 2024, Manchester, United Kingdom. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)


The role of assessment in Higher Education, while integral to knowledge production, is often overlooked in discussions about decolonisation. Assessment plays a critical role in inclusivity and exclusion by formalising recognition of knowledge and proficiency (Tai, et al., 2023). Solely focusing on decolonising curriculum, pedagogy or content is insufficient; unless assessment practices are also addressed, decolonisation halts at the point where students' knowledge is measured (Godsell, 2021).

The traditional assessment landscape in higher education (including current uses of AI) has long been criticised for its inherent biases, hindering the development of inclusive learning communities (Mountford-Zimdars et al, 2015) that extends to ethnicity, but also neurodiversity, gender and socio-economic status of a students. Current research seeks to examine the broader issues of decolonising within higher education but will also make an argument that in order to fully look at the curriculum, we must address how students are tested and are fully involved in their summative assessment - acknowledging that death by essay is not sufficient to measure impact of learning, nor does it address colonial injustices in current examination methods. By exploring the interconnectedness of assessment with social justice and equity we should pave the way for transformative practices that empower students from all backgrounds to make a success in their learning – considering alternative and more traditional methods of learning consolidation.

Assessments should be designed to encourage critical examination of historical narratives, fostering essential critical thinking skills (Waghid, 2023). This approach is fundamental for learning communities aiming to develop students' abilities to question, critically analyse, and challenge existing knowledge, leading to a deeper understanding of social justice issues and historical context in their respective subjects and career paths.

The presentation will include thoughts from students on how they would like to see their curriculum be designed and assessed in a variety of ways that could include:

- Multimodal projects
- Community-based research
- Oral histories and narratives
- Peer-assessment and feedback
- Critical reflection journals
- Digital storytelling
- Simulations and role-playing
- Cultural competency projects

As educators, we should be teaching and assessing controversies instead of established perspectives, providing opportunities for student input, placing topics in historical contexts, seeking student preferences on addressed content, and reassessing and reorganising materials to ensure continued appropriateness (Decolonising SOAS Working Group, 2018). In turn, we should look to move away from essays - that could be replicated by AI - and towards narratives that encourage storytelling, reflections and creative assessment.

Decolonising Assessment Moving from Death by Essay to Reflections, Narratives and Story-Telling.pdf
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (6MB) | Preview

More Information

Depositing User: Reece Sohdi


Item ID: 17847
Official URL:

Users with ORCIDS

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2024 09:34
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2024 09:45


Author: Reece Sohdi

University Divisions

Faculty of Education and Society > School of Education


Education > Higher Education

Actions (login required)

View Item (Repository Staff Only) View Item (Repository Staff Only)