Publication Details

Lawson, R. J. (2012). The effect of viva assessment on students' approaches to learning and motivation. International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities, 2 (2), 120-132.


Higher education aims to encourage students to achieve a higher level of understanding of their subject matter. In order for students to achieve these higher levels, they have to approach their learning at a deeper level (Prosser and Trigwell, 1999; Barrab and Plucker, 2002), and be motivated to achieve (Deci and Ryan, 1985). One factor that is seen as a major influence on students' intentions is their perception of the assessment of their learning (Gibbs, 2007; Ramsden, 2003; Biggs, 2003; Bransford, Brown and Cocking, 2000). A learner, who perceives that the learning outcome requires demonstration of understanding, application, and critical analysis, will approach their studying in a way that promotes this. Students who perceive the assessment can be achieved through memorising and regurgitation will approach their learning in a different manner. This study was to investigate if, as part of a constructive teaching methodology that allowed for practice, the introduction of a viva voce examination that required a deep approach to learning to achieve would have an influence on the students' approaches to learning and motivation. By emphasising this assessment methodology, first year students were predominantly intrinsically motivated, and maintained their level of deep approach to learning throughout the module, where previous literature had found decreases in deep approaches to learning when assessment took place.