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Assessment, Learning and Teaching: an international perspective SPACE conference Valencia April 08 Sally Brown PVC Assessment, Learning and Teaching Leeds Metropolitan University
In this session we will: • Consider the context of HE internationally nowadays. • Consider the nature of HE students. • Explore current international trends in HE design, delivery and assessment and particularly how this impacts on students.
Leeds Met Vision & Character • Striving to become a world class regional university, with world wide horizons, using all our talents to the full. • The university with the vision for the long run of putting students at the centre of our way of doing things, with graduations as the centre-piece of university life and with student support, inspiration, coaching and encouragement increasingly going beyond boundaries throughout the student experience; • A university of festivals and partnerships creating a culture of celebration which values pioneering relationships with other world-class regional organisations across education, the arts, sport, business and wider community life throughout the north of these islands;
We aim to offer: • A healthy, ethical, environmentally-friendly and sustainable community which values well-being, diversity, taking risks as pace-setters, the efficient and imaginative use of our resources, good governance and professionalism. • Visible and recognised, with the Leeds Met rose widely known as a symbol of engaging and stretching students and communities, with our own learning environments transformed into great settings for education and with our students’ successes and our university reputation as front-runners increasingly appreciated externally.
Our students can • Rub shoulders with, and learning from, champions, where every students matters, is known to staff and has opportunities for inspiration. • In a university with world-wide horizons where an international, multi-cultural ethos is pervasive throughout our scholarship, curriculum, volunteering and community engagement at home and overseas. • And a university whose members, including students, staff, governors, alumni and friends, value belonging to this community & sharing a sense of identity, so that we gather momentum through attracting more and more students and staff with the attitude to make a difference.
We are: • A regional university network of 18 partner FE colleges and their students, sharing the values of widening participation and enhancing progression. • A university of daily 200–word reflections where the curriculum and the wider university is refreshed by running streams of insights, expertise & creativity. • A place where we aim to use all our talents to the full, from world-class research to the whole university staff development festival to encouraging students to deepen participation by valuing extra-curricular activities, such as volunteering, and ensuring that this approach embraces diverse communities.
Here are some of the big issues internationally for me • A changing HE context; • Challenges associated with Technology-Enhanced Learning; • International issues including competition (e.g. European nations teaching programmes in English), global perspectives and GATS; • Mass higher education and associated diversity issues; • The search for effective, fit-for-purpose assessment methods; • Issues around curriculum delivery.
The role of the university in the coming decades • Providing creative, powerful and positive ways of supporting student learning; • Recognising and accrediting student achievement (not necessarily based on HEIs own programmes, diversity in type, scope, timing and methodologies; • Significantly less emphasis on content delivery; • Stronger focus on supporting information literacies.
Some contextual issues for the UK • Central importance of student retention (balanced with maintaining quality) • The unknown impact in the UK of fees generally and variable fees in particular; • New ‘new’ and private universities; • Impacts of the National Student Survey and various league tables; • The Disability Discrimination Act and SENDA; • Our research metrics (the Research Assessment Exercise) now and in the future.
What are students getting like? • More value-conscious; • More litigious? • More diverse; • Blurred distinction between part-time and full-time students; • Demonstrating the impact of different approaches to study in schools; • Having increased expectations of diverse kinds of support.
What kinds of student do we want? • High achievers? • International students? • Those from disadvantaged backgrounds including disabled students? • Students with ‘stickability’/stamina/ resourcefulness ? • Rounded individuals with interests beyond academic study?
Do we have a global Higher Education environment? • Shared concepts of pedagogy?; • Equivalent and mutually accreditable assessment systems?; • Compatible technologies for learning?; • Comparable learning contexts?; • Shared languages for learning?; • Shared concepts of student support?
Contested terms: • Assessment and evaluation; • Compensation; • Faculty/staff; • Internationalising Higher Education; • Inclusive learning; • Transferable/Interpersonal/Core/Key skills
Surprises in the international context • Students studying away from home often find approaches, methods, content and context very different from what they are used to; • Staff with diverse student cohorts are often surprised by student attributes and behaviours; • Institutions are not always well set up to support international students and recognise their achievements.
What do students say? • The following comments are typical of what international students say when they study in the UK and what UK students say when they study abroad. • Which do you think are which? • Do any of these surprises sound familiar to you?
On dealing with unfamiliar assessment formats • “I couldn’t believe it when they told me there was no written exam. At first I thought it was wonderful but now I’m really worried because I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing.” • “I’ve never given an oral presentation before. Back home all our exams were written ones, so it was very nerve-wracking for me to have to stand up in front of everyone, with them all looking at me. It made it really hard for me to concentrate on what I was saying, even though I had done lots of preparation.”
More unfamiliar formats • “In my country, you only really get to do a viva for a post-graduate qualification so it was a shock to me to find that I was expected to do them for my course on my year abroad.” • “Back home exams only last a couple of hours, or three at the most. Here they are six hour marathons, sometimes more. It’s really exhausting.”
On language • “I’ve never been asked to write an essay as long as this before. Back home I was getting on really well with my written English, but what they asked for was usually only around 1,000 words long. This just takes so much time to get it right.” • “I went to my tutor and asked him to proof read my dissertation but he refused to help me. I am paying so much money as an overseas student here and Iexpected them to be more helpful to me.”
On religious issues • “We had two exams in one day, both lasting three hours. I had difficulty concentrating in the second one as I had been fasting since dawn. I didn’t really feel I did my best.” • “It was very uncomfortable for me taking an exam on a Saturday morning”.
On ways of relating to others • “Home students are at such a great advantage over us. They seem to laugh and chat with the teachers in a very familiar way. We feel like outsiders and I think we are disadvantaged when it comes to the tests”. • “The tutor went through the criteria for the presentation with us, emphasising things like body language and eye contact but he didn’t understand that that would be a problem for me to look straight at all the male students”.
On the authoritative role of the tutor • “It was a shock for me to find that I wasn’t going to be marked by the tutor but by other students. How can they possibly be able to do that? The tutors should be doing this because they have the knowledge that we don’t have”. • “In our OSCEs [Objective Structured Clinical Examinations], we had to examine a patient whose comments on my proficiency formed part of the assessment. How can that be right? They know nothing of clinical matters.”
On right answers • “They tell us to read around the topic and give us long book lists to help us prepare for writing essays, but how do you know where to start? I wanted to know which was the best book for me to concentrate on but no one would help me find it. In my country the books we need to study properly are indicated and everyone knows what they are.” • “In the lecture she gave us information about three different approaches to the subject, but she never told us which one was the right one. When I asked her about it, she said it was up to me to decide. How am I supposed to do that? She is the expert! So now I just don’t know what to write in my essay”
On expectations of a supportive relationship • “He told us we could come to his office if there was something we didn’t understand, so I went, but after only half an hour, he said he had to go off to meeting, so I didn’t feel he had really helped me much”.
Surprises about the assessment context • “I can’t imagine anyone back home bringing their families along to watch them presenting university course work, but here they all come along, aunties and cousins and grannies. I felt rather lonely doing mine all on my own” • “He gave me a B- for my essay. Back home I never got less than an A or maybe an A- so I went to see what the problem was, and he more or less brushed me off, saying it was fine. But it’s not fine! It’ll play hell with my Grade Point Average when I go back home”A real problem with US students in the UK
Variations in approaches based on cultural factors (pace Ryan) might centre around: • The extent to which historical texts and previously accumulated knowledge is respected (and how much students are expected to have their own ideas); • how far authority figures, including teachers are respected (or not); • how far it is acceptable to be overtly critical of authoritative texts or figures; • whether a ‘correct’ answer is sought and the extent to which alternative responses are acceptable;
And • issues around avoidance of making mistakes or losing ‘face’; • how far students are expected to speak up or to listen quietly; • how far personal opinions are valued (or whether this implies arrogance); and • the importance of harmony and co-operation within the group over the interests of the individual within it. (Janette Ryan, A Guide to Teaching International Students)
What do UK teachers say international students do that they find surprising? • Students giving generous presents • Answering all my questions with ‘yes’ • Handing in 4,000 words for an essay with a 2,500 word limit • Writing very personal coursework with the main point on page 3 and lots of ‘unnecessary’ background • Repeating verbatim my lecture notes in the coursework
What else? • Coming into my office after I have given the marks to argue loudly that I should give them higher marks – several times • Coming up after the lecture for a 1:1 discussion and seeming to expect me to stay for as long as it takes even though I said ‘Any questions?’ in the lecture • Deferring to my opinion, even when a preference would be appropriate (e.g. Me: ‘which essay will you do as coursework?’ Student: ‘Please, you say’)” Ryan and Carroll, 2005
Trends in current HE design, delivery and assessment • Blended learning (as opposed to e-learning or traditional face-to-face approaches) e.g. video lectures; • Recognition of the centrality of assessment to learning (stop marking, start assessing); • The importance of teams rather than individuals in materials production; • Diversity of formats for the Academic year and Accelerated degree projects.
Some sample innovatory approaches to assessment • Assessment of learning in practice settings e.g. use of PDAs on site in clinical settings; • Use of blogs as an element of reflective practice; • Groups projects to replace final year dissertations; • Exploratory work on computer-based assessment of short answer questions; • Assessment of multiple small tasks to demonstrate achievement of practical competence (the PASS project, Objective Structured Clinical Examinations).
Some developments in curriculum delivery • Communicating with students mobile phones, Podcasting, SMS and other forms of communication; • Increased use of Re-usable learning Objects; • Rethinking the delivery contexts: lecture theatres or what? • A cross-cultural curriculum and other aspects of cultural inclusivity.
What should we consign to the rubbish chute of history (discuss)? • Classrooms containing fixed PCs ? • Electronic whiteboards other than for tiny groups of students? • Death by PowerPoint, linear approaches to use of presentations, the 6-per page handout? • Chalk and blackboards? • Sixty-minute delivery-only lectures?
Delivering content….. • is less like delivering a parcel (the postman model) and more like delivering a baby (the midwife model). • University staff can advise, guide, intervene when things so wrong, but in the end only the student can bring learning into life!! • Content can be gleaned from many sources (e.g. MIT and our UK Open University are putting more and more content into open access areas for example).
My prediction for HE in the next 20 years: The move away from universities being the guardians of content, where everything is about delivery, towards universities having two major functions: • Recognising and accrediting achievement, where ever such learning has taken place (not necessarily in our university but from anywhere) • Supporting student learning and engagement
Useful references: 1 • Biggs J (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University (Buckingham: SRHE & Open University Press)Bowl, M (2003) Non-traditional entrants to higher education ‘they talk about people like me’ Stoke on Trent, UK, Trentham Books • Brown, S. Rust, C & Gibbs, G (1994) Strategies for Diversifying Assessment Oxford Centre for Staff Development. • Boud, D. (1995) Enhancing learning through self-assessment London: Routledge. • Brown, G. with Bull, J. and Pendlebury, M. (1997) Assessing Student Learning in Higher Education London: Routledge. • Brown, S. and Glasner, A. (ed.) (1999) Assessment Matters in Higher Education, Choosing and Using Diverse Approaches, Buckingham: Open University Press. • Brown, S. and Knight, P. (1994) Assessing Learners in Higher Education, London: Kogan Page.
Useful references 2 • Brown, S., Race, P. and Bull, J. (eds.) (1999) Computer Assisted Assessment in Higher Education London: Routledge. • Carroll J and Ryan J (2005) Teaching International students: improving learning for all Routledge SEDA series • Falchikov, N (2004) Improving Assessment through Student Involvement: Practical Solutions for Aiding Learning in Higher and Further Education, London: Routledge. • Gibbs, G (1999) Using assessment strategically to change the way students learn, In Brown S. & Glasner, A. (eds.), Assessment Matters in Higher Education: Choosing and Using Diverse Approaches Buckingham: SRHE/Open University Press. • Kneale, P. E. (1997) The rise of the "strategic student": how can we adapt to cope? in Armstrong, S., Thompson, G. and Brown, S. (eds) Facing up to Radical Changes in Universities and Colleges, 119-139 London: Kogan Page.
Useful references 3 • Knight, P. and Yorke, M. (2003) Assessment, learning and employability Maidenhead, UK: SRHE/Open University Press. • Mentkowski, M. and associates (2000) p.82 Learning that lasts: integrating learning development and performance in college and beyond San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. • Peelo, M and Wareham, T (eds) (2002) Failing Students in higher education Buckingham, UK, SRHE/Open University Press. • Sadler, D R (1989) Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems Instructional Science 18, 119-144. • Sadler, D R (1998) Formative assessment: revisiting the territory Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice 5, 77-84 • Pickford, R. and Brown, S. (2006) Assessing skills and practice London: Routledge.
Useful references 4 • Race, P. (2001) A Briefing on Self, Peer & Group Assessment in LTSN Generic Centre Assessment Series No 9 LTSN York. Race P. (2006) The lecturer’s toolkit (3rd edition) London: Routledge. • Race P (2006) The Lecturers toolkit 3rd edition London Routledge • Race P and Pickford r (2007) Making Teaching work: Teaching smarter in post-compulsory education, London, Sage • Rust, C., Price, M. and O’Donovan, B. (2003). Improving students’ learning by developing their understanding of assessment criteria and processes. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 28 (2), 147-164. • Ryan J (2000)A Guide to Teaching International Students Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development • Yorke, M. (1999) Leaving Early: Undergraduate Non-completion in Higher Education, London: Routledge.