Remembering My Hat

28th March 2013

More principles of assessment

I’m thinking a lot about assessment at the moment, especially in relation to K118 (Title TBC) the new module I’m chairing. So this seminar last week was extremely timely and useful. The notes that follow are, as ever, not full sentences and not a full representation of what was said, just the things I was particularly interested in.

(cc) rileyroxx

Releasing creativity in assessment – New models of assessment and tuition project

First of all we were asked to write down two challenges in designing assessment that were particularly occupying our minds at the moment. Mine were:

  • The desire to be creative v. the danger of doing new stuff which is more likely to fail catastrophically and is generally much harder for staff (especically at the OU where everything is done at scale)
  • Getting the minutiae of weightings, substitutions, thresholds, formative/summative, exam v. EMA etc. right, and being aware of the knock-on unintended consequences on everything else of tweaking one variable.

How transparent is your guidance? All visible to students or separate tutor guidance notes to make marking easier for ALs (I’ve worked on modules with both. I’m not sure which is better).

Common problems:

  • Hard for students to see how the assessment links to the Learning Outcomes
  • Narrow range of assessment tasks and repetition across qualifications – students feel they are being asked to do the same thing again and again.
  • Gap between the students and the Module Team / AL understanding of task
  • Not much use of formative assessment
  • Students don’t pay attention to the feedback – they only care about the grade.
  • Limited use of student self-assessment
  • Delays in feedback mean they sometimes get it too late to be useful for the next TMA
  • No feedback on EMA sometimes
  • Difficult to find critical friend reviewers of assessment and difficult to find good practice examples
  • Tensions between the costs and rewards of innovation
  • Progression in assessment within a qualification

Need to reward the student for taking notice of feedback on previous TMA [could do this either with reflective Part B like K101, or with formative then summative on same essay, and probably other ways too]

Assessment should be [fairly uncontentious, hard to achieve]

  • Central to teaching
  • Part of an ongoing conversation between student and AL
  • Support student’s progress
  • Authentic, engaging, exciting
  • Be linked to specific learning outcomes and other outcome criteria

[Interesting argument between participants in the seminar about whether it is all about testing the learning outcomes, or whether it’s about supporting student learning, and whether those are in fact the same thing]

Life crises argument against formative assessment [if you have too few summative assessments, students drop too many marks if they miss a TMA due to life-crisis kind of factors (bereavement, illnesses, divorce etc.)]

Could maybe do optionality of TMAs? Set 6 but they can chose 4? But would have to think AL workload implications though very carefully [Although is that any different from TMAs that give students two options for questions, in terms of AL impact? Possibly not]

Make all of OCAS formative? Then an EMA that tests the whole module. (Science has one S141)

When assessment is content driven and Blocks are quite different, students can find it hard to build on the feedback they are given on TMAs, especially if it’s an end of Block assessment. [This is a danger for K118 but I think it can be avoided with careful planning]

Lot of people keen on peer-assessment and self-evaluation. Start at level 1 but gently – contribute to a wiki for example. [But all the practical advice I get is against]


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