This study draws upon the perspectives of sport and recreation undergraduate students in New Zealand who were involved in the design of their own assessments, and discusses the implication of the teaching and learning environment on this process. In a previous study, student criticism had emerged of current teaching strategies and assessment methods at their institution. The purpose of this current study was to directly address some of these concerns and for lecturers and students to work collaboratively to develop a more learner-centred teaching and learning environment. Students from a second-year sociology of sport paper were invited to design their own exam. A session was facilitated where learning outcomes and exam strategies were addressed. Students were then given the opportunity to create their own exam questions in a student-led classroom environment. Concurrently, students from a third-year sports coaching paper were invited to fully design their own assessments. Student experience was captured through focus group interviews. Self-determination theory (SDT) provided the theoretical lens used to examine the data, with a specific focus on how the basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) of participants were either supported or thwarted. The findings suggest that the second-year students struggled with a perceived lack of teaching direction throughout the process. However, third-year students were extremely positive about the opportunity to have ownership of their learning experience, and analysis revealed an increase in intrinsic motivation to learn. This study highlights the importance of student voice, and encourages a process that allows students to contribute meaningfully toward the design and delivery of their own programmes of study. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for a co-leadership model of students’ learning experience to emerge. Furthermore, it allows for reflection from both staff and students regarding the impact of the learning environment on student motivation to learn.


Self-Determination Theory, SDT, Case Study, Assessment, Education, Learning, Teaching, Student-Centred Learning

Author Bio(s)

Simon Walters is a senior lecturer in the School of Sport and Recreation. His research interests include children's experiences of organised sport; sideline behaviour of coaches and parents; early specialisation in sport; coaching; and more recently his interests have moved into approaches to student-centred learning. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: simon.walters@aut.ac.nz.

Pedro Silva (PhD) is the former Head of the Student Learning Centre at Auckland University of Technology. He recently moved to a position as Director of Faculty Operations in the School of Engineering at the University of Auckland. His research interests include pedagogical approaches and student-centred learning. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: p.silva@auckland.ac.nz.

Jennifer Nikolai (PhD) is a Senior lecturer at Auckland University of Technology. She is a contemporary dance practitioner and researcher engaging with dramaturgical approaches towards the video camera as a method of improvisational inquiry and as a performance tool. Jennifer lectures undergraduate students in the School of Sport and Recreation and is also interested in pedagogical approaches and student-centred learning. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jennifer.nikolai@aut.ac.nz.


The authors wish to acknowledge the Learning, Teaching and Development Fund for the grant that supported this project. The funders had no control over the design and implementation of this study, or of the study's findings. The authors would also like to acknowledge the time given by the students who participated in this study.

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