#ocTEL week 6 activity 6.1 Reading and reflection on assessment practices

This activity was based on a JISC (2010) publication.  I’m basing my reflection on a new undergraduate level 2 module which myself and a colleague are planning at the moment. It is based on an online business game simulation played in groups.  It will have two group assessments, a business plan and a performance presentation, plus a peer assessment and an individual reflection.

  • How does your assessment approach(es) align with the four teaching and learning perspectives (page 11)?

Associative – some of the assessment criteria for the business plan and group presentation are based on this perspective.  There are some skills which students need to develop further on this course, such as budgeting and analysis of reasons for differences between budgeted and actual performance.

Constructivist – the reflection is designed to get students to self-evaluate their individual performance and that of their group.

Social constructivist – we expect students to mediate peer learning through their group decision-making and analysis of information in the game.  This will be formally assessed in the peer assessment.

Situative – the game itself encourages development of discipline-specific practices, as it’s quite realistic (within the confines of a simulation not a real business, of course).  However, our assessments don’t really get at this perspective.

  • How does your assessment approach(es) align with the twelve REAP (Re-Engineering Assessment Practices) principles of effective formative and feedback (page 15)?

Help to clarify what good performance is – I’m currently working on the assessment briefs, which (I hope) will make criteria clear.  I usually give examples of good and poor performance against each criterion in these briefs.  We will also spend time in class briefing the students on this for each assessment.

Encourage time and effort on challenging learning tasks – there is a gradual approach to assessment on the module, with staged deadlines.  We’ve done a lot of thinking about the ‘shape’ of the course, but we shall see…

Deliver high-quality feedback information that helps learners to self-correct – we will try!  

Provide opportunities to act on feedback – for me, this is partly about timing.  For example, on this course, students will receive feedback on their business plans, some of which will be relevant to their performance presentations.  So, we aim to provide the feedback while they still have time to incorporate adaptation in preparing their presentations.

Ensure that summative assessment has a positive impact on learning – this is a big ask!  However, in this module, we’ve had some freedom to aim at this.  With other modules, where exemption restrictions are a limiting factor, it isn’t easy.  For example, the professional bodies tend to assess in traditional lengthy exams, and expect similar assessment methods in order to grant exemptions.  They are (rightly) concerned with ensuring students cover the breadth of the syllabus rather than cherry-picking the areas they will study.  

Encourage interaction and dialogue around learning – we try to do this via seminar sessions and office hours.

Facilitate the development of self-assessment and reflection in learning – we’re aiming to do this explicitly via the reflection task, and via peer assessment.  However, having these elements as formally assessed is something new for me.

Give choice – no, not on this course!  I do think this is important at more advanced levels – for example, final level undergraduate dissertation choice and MSc level.  In my experience as an MA student, giving me some choice helps me to consider links between theory and practice – but this is quite a specific issue for me, given that my MA is in education and is relevant to my job!

Involve learners in decision-making about assessment policy and practice – I don’t know if students are involved formally at faculty level in this.

Support the development of learning groups/learning communities – this is a module with group collaboration.  However, when assessments are individual with personalised feedback, I don’t know whether that has any impact on development of learning communities within our classes.   Would be interesting to find out more about this area!

Encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem – it’s hard to be positive sometimes with very weak pieces of work.  However, I do try to unpack my feedback messages into ‘what you can do differently next time’.  I think that the feed-forward we are planning to give on the business plan assessments will promote some groups to adapt and strive to perform in the game itself.

Provide information to teachers that can help shape their teaching – I find it helpful to review the feedback I have given, and take notes on it so I can consider what I might need to do differently in the following year.  I think team teaching can be a good opportunity to do this, as you have an inbuilt critical friend in your co-teacher.

  • How would you describe your  assessment design from the manager’s, practitioner’s and  learner’s perspectives (pages 17-22)?

Manager – we may prove to be a bit of a headache, as there will be a heavy admin load on having 4 assessments on a 10 credit module. We are not using technology in any special way the first time we run the module, but may look to do so in the future.

Practitioner – we feel this assessment will be richer than a more traditional model, with a variety of techniques.  However, I expect the workload to be high – significantly higher than with traditional methods.

Learner – I hope that the students will appreciate the level of feedback they receive, and the variety of different assessment components.  This module has explicit links to employability skills, which we will emphasise throughout, so we hope to scaffold further development of these areas in our students through the module and its associated assessments.    Time will tell!

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