Solving the mystery about the factors conditioning higher education students' assessment: Finland versus Spain

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to compare the assessment in two subjects of the Business Administration Degree between Finland and Spain and, second, to test whether there are factors such as gender, age, subject, students’ motivation, or preferences that may have an impact on the assessment. Design/methodology/approach – A survey was designed for students enrolled in Statistics and Financial Accounting subjects in the two universities, and multivariate statistical analysis was run. Findings – First, coursework marks are higher than the final examination marks. In both universities and subjects, learning is enhanced by student involvement in coursework activities that are directly related to the learning outcomes. Second, there are differences in assessment by culture, gender, and type of subject. Finnish students are more used to work in teams and apply varied teaching resources than Spanish students. Research limitations/implications – The sample size and the analyses are from two subjects in two universities. More similar studies are needed to generalize the findings. Practical implications – There are several implications for Higher Education. First, university policymakers should design training courses on the good implementation of new assessment processes and criteria in order to align learning objectives and assessment criteria. Second, teachers from different countries should openly discuss their manner of assessment and promote creativity and innovation in their methodologies to assess learning outcomes. Third, students should engage with deeper learning and competence development in subjects. This will contribute to their future employability. Originality/value – Our findings not only question the concept of assessment validity and the compulsory relationship between assessment and learning but also provide suggestions to improve assessment criteria.