Quality enhancement workshop using assessment to motivate learning glasgow 5 february 2004
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Quality Enhancement WorkshopUsing Assessment to Motivate LearningGlasgow5 February 2004

REPOSITIONING ASSESSMENT TO ENHANCE LEARNING OUTCOMES Craig McInnisProfessor and DirectorCentre for the Study of Higher EducationThe University of Melbournec.mcinnis@unimelb.edu.auwww.cshe.unimelb.edu.au

• Inherent systemic, staff and student conservatism about assessment —‘Students don’t feel they’ve been properlyassessed unless they have an exam...BUT...’• New patterns of student engagement and expectations. • The effects of larger class sizes on assessment practices and possibilities.• Motivation and engagement

Core principles of effective assessment

Three interrelated objectives for quality in student assessment in higher education

1. Assessment that guides and encourages effective approaches to learning

2. Assessment that validly and reliably measures expected learning outcomes, in particular the higher-order learning that characterises higher education; and

3. Assessment and grading that define and protect academic standards

Well designed assessment should …

  • set clear expectations;

  • establish a reasonable workload (one that does not push students into rote reproductive approaches to study); and

  • provide opportunities for students to self-monitor, rehearse, practise and receive feedback.

What students value in assessment

• Unambiguous expectations

Students study more effectively when they know what they are working towards

  • Authentic tasks

    Students value assessment tasks they perceive to be ‘real’: assessment tasks that present serious challenges, not only for the grades at stake, but also for the nature of the knowledge and skills required.

Providing feedback

  • Feedback is critical to the learning process.

  • Especially in the early stages of a course or subject

  • Consistency between markers is essential and the use of marking guides can help achieve this, as well as provide an outline for students of what is required.

Responding to the Assessment Challenges of Large Classes

Two challenges for large group teaching

1. Avoiding assessment that encourages shallow learning

2. Providing high quality, individual feedback

Challenge 1. Avoiding assessment that encourages shallow learning

  • A focus on efficiency may lead to a tendency towards assessment tasks that merely reward superficial, shallow or reproductive approaches to learning.

  • Growing reliance on exams with multiple-choice and short-answer questions

  • Lowering of the word-length requirements on written assignments

  • Less demanding assessment may significantly diminish the quality of learning in higher education.

Challenge 1: Suggestions for avoiding assessment that encourages shallow learning

  • Awareness of the limitations of particular assessment tasks is crucial in guiding decisions toward compromises that reflect both efficiency and educational effectiveness.

  • The employment of less frequent and where possible, cumulative summative tasks with more formative feedback that guides student efforts on the next task might be useful in some circumstances.

  • The use of carefully designed and managed group work may be helpful in some circumstances

Challenge 2. Suggestions for providing high quality feedback:

  • Online assessment with automatic marking

    • But teaching staff may receive little direct diagnostic information themselves

  • Assess early in the semester to give students time to adapt to feedback

  • Provide students with marking criteria prior to their undertaking the assignment

  • Prepare a list of common/typical problems with explanations/model answers

    • Publish a page with these on the subject homepage

    • Provide copies of audiotapes detailing these

    • Provide brief, general feedback in lectures/tutorials

Challenge 2: Suggestions for providing high quality feedback:

  • Use a standardised feedback sheet that incorporates the stated criteria

  • Where possible and appropriate, use on-line tutors

  • Use on-line products that provide hints/help and feedback

  • Use a website/subject homepage to provide basic assessment information and FAQs

  • Provide written rationale and explanation for high scoring answers on multiple-choice tests

16 INDICATORS OF EFFECTIVE ASSESSMENTIN HIGHER EDUCATION(A checklist for repositioning student assessment)

A checklist for quality in student assessment

1. Assessment is treated by staff and students as an integral component of the entire teaching and learning process.

2. The multiple roles of assessment are recognised. The powerful motivating effect of assessment requirements on students is understood and assessment tasks are designed to foster valued study habits.

3. There is a faculty/departmental policy that guides assessment practices. Subject assessment is integrated into an overall plan for course assessment.

4. There is a clear alignment between expected learning outcomes, what is taught and learnt, and the knowledge and skills assessed.

5. Assessment tasks assess the capacity to analyse and synthesise new information and concepts rather than simply recall information which has been presented.

6. A variety of assessment methods is employed so that the limitations of particular methods are minimised.

7. Assessment tasks are designed to assess relevant generic skills as well as subject-specific knowledge and skills.

8. There is a steady progression in the complexity and demands of assessment requirements in the later years of courses.

9. There is provision for student choice in assessment tasks and weighting at certain times.

10. Student and staff workloads are considered in the scheduling and design of assessment tasks.

11. Excessive assessment is avoided. Assessment tasks are designed to sample student learning.

12. Assessment tasks are weighted to balance the developmental (‘formative’) and judgemental (‘summative’) roles of assessment. Early low-stakes, low-weight assessment is used to provide students with feedback.

13. Grades are calculated and reported on the basis of clearly articulated learning outcomes and criteria for levels of achievement.

14. Students receive explanatory and diagnostic feedback as well as grades.

15. Assessment tasks are checked to ensure there are no inherent biases that may disadvantage particular student groups.

16. Plagiarism is minimised through careful task design, explicit education and appropriate monitoring of academic honesty.

Re-positioning the role of assessment


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