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Assessment in higher education: Reframing traditional understandings and practices Assessment in higher education: Reframing traditional understandings and practices Case Studies: H-P Bakker,
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Assessment in higher education: Reframing traditional understandings and practices Assessment in higher education: Reframing traditional understandings and practices Case Studies: H-P Bakker, N Brouwer, A Buckland, A Chinomona, M De Vos, N Donaldson, N Dukhi, J du Toit, F Ellery, R Fox, C Grant, M Guilfoyle, H Kruuse, S Matthews, B Meistre, S Shackleton, I Siebörger, J Snowball, S Vetter, S Vice and R Western Editors: Sherran Clarence, Lynn Quinn and Jo-Anne Vorster 2015 Assessment in higher education: Reframing traditional understandings and practices CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 02 Centrallity of assessment for directing students learning 02 Rethinking the purposes of assessment: summative, formative and sustainable assessment 03 References 05 CASE STUDIES Developing professional practice through portfolio work Encouraging interactive peer assessment in lectures Participatory goal setting for assessment Using tutorials to align a course and encourage deeper student engagement Critiquing and adapting criterion-referenced assessment grids Encouraging and supporting creativity in written assignments Connecting undergraduate learning with future professional practice The engaging spaces project Shared peer and lecturer essay assignment Role-play and game-play to encourage problem-solving Gestating an MEd thesis Practising professional practice in the classroom Learning contracts to encourage students self-efficacy Encouraging self-reflection through mark negotiation Brainstorming workshops to generate solutions and ideas Student designed and assessed tests Creating feedback loops using tutorials Online peer assessment in a large class Inquiry-led fieldwork project Encouraging deeper reading and comprehension of key texts Creating an exhibition: developing professional skills and practice 46 APPENDICES CHERTL Assessment in higher education Introduction Few lecturers would deny the importance of assessment in higher education. For many though the emphasis is still on the assessment of learning rather than assessment for learning. Not all lecturers have opportunities to think differently or deeply about the potential of assessment to contribute meaningfully to students learning on their courses and beyond their courses. By Lynn Quinn The case studies in this publication provide examples of lecturers who have considered the role of assessment in their courses carefully. All of them have engaged with matters related to assessment as part of the formal courses or qualifications offered by staff of the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) at Rhodes University. In these courses lecturers are encouraged to reflect critically on their current assessment practices, engage with some of the literature and research on assessment in higher education, and then reconceptualise their assessment methods and approaches. These case studies were drawn from the assignments and portfolios that they completed as part of the summative assessment for the courses they attended. The purpose of the case studies is pedagogic and to illustrate a range of assessment practices and principles. For the sake of clarity some of the details have been omitted or slightly changed. Centrality of assessment for directing students learning Students can, with difficulty, escape from the effects of poor teaching, they cannot (by definition if they want to graduate) escape the effects of poor assessment (Boud 1995: 35). Contrary to what many believe, assessment has a greater impact on student learning than teaching; assessment strongly influences how students respond to their studies. Assessment signals to them what their lecturers regard as important and thus what they should pay attention to. It acts as an incentive to study and to study in particular ways. As Boud and Falchikov (2007: 3) point out: Assessment has a powerful effect on what students do and how they do it communicates to them what they can and cannot succeed in doing builds or undermines their confidence - as learners on a course and in the future, in the world. Lecturers often plan the curriculum for a course, then devise the teaching and learning activities, and then the assessment. When students approach a course they first look at how it is assessed, they then decide on the learning activities they need to engage with in order to meet the assessment requirements. Assessment is thus, for most students, a lever which determines how and what they will learn in a course: Priorities for lecturers: The (planned) curriculum Priorities for students: Assessment Teaching Activities Learning Activities Figure 1: Lecturer and student priorities (adapted from Biggs 2003: 3) Assessment Actual Curriculum If, however, a course curriculum is designed in such a way that when students work towards meeting the assessment requirements they are in fact achieving the purposes and outcomes of the course then assessment as a lever has a valid educational purpose. In short, if the planned curriculum and the actual curriculum are the same, then students will engage in the desired learning activities. Biggs concept of constructive alignment is useful for reminding curriculum/course designers of the need for coherence between all the elements of the curriculum (Biggs 1999; Biggs and Tang 2011). The course purpose, outcomes, teaching methods, assessment methods (approaches and criteria) should all be aligned to ensure that the desired learning is achieved. The constructive part refers to constructivist principles of learning - learning which actively engages students in constructing their own understanding of course material. In an aligned system, the assessment methods will be designed in such a way that students will be guided into the kind of learning the lecturer wants in order to meet the course outcomes. Assessment in higher education CHERTL 02 Programme/Qualification Outcomes Courses/Modules Courses/Modules Module/Course Purpose Learning Outcomes Teaching & Learning Activities Assessment Criteria Feedback Figure 2: Curriculum alignment process (adapted from Biggs 1999) Rethinking the purposes of assessment: summative, formative and sustainable assessment For many lecturers, the challenge is to rethink whether and how their current practices are working. Is assessment doing what it exists to do? Research conducted by Boud (2007) shows that in many institutions the dominant discourse is still assessment of learning, that is, assessment is still predominantly related to issues of measurement, certification, quality assurance, and so on. It is about certifying existing knowledge and giving students feedback on current learning. In many contexts assessment thus continues to play a relatively minor role in promoting learning - particularly learning for the longer term. The challenge is for lecturers to think beyond their immediate classroom contexts and to consider whether and how assessment is preparing students for a lifetime of learning and work - what Boud terms sustainable assessment. Sustainable assessment is assessment which focuses not only on content but also on the processes of learning; on how students will continue to learn after the point of assessment; it contributes to the formation of a capable person who can engage in professional work and contribute to society as an informed citizen (Boud 2007: 19 emphasis added). Some of the case studies provide examples of lecturers using assessment in various ways to prepare students for a range of professions and also to become the kind of compassionate, caring, involved citizens of South Africa and the world who can contribute to changing society. For Boud, a key function of sustainable assessment is the development of judgement, which he describes as informing the capacity to evaluate evidence, appraise situations and circumstances astutely, to draw sound conclusions and act in accordance with this analysis (2007: 19). In this argument, assessment becomes a process of informing judgement. In many of the case studies in this volume, part of the reasons for lecturers introducing peer, group and/or self assessment and involving students in designing assessment processes is actively to promote the development of students capacity to make judgements about their own and others work. Being able to do this in a realistic and ethical manner is likely to be important for all graduates in their future professions and workplaces. This publication is most interested in providing examples of formative and sustainable assessment, that is assessment primarily designed to contribute to students learning in a course and beyond. This does not, however, mean that concerns about reliability, measurement, objectivity, standards and integrity are not important. These concerns need to be viewed within an appropriate educational frame which allows concerns about learning to take precedence. Criteria For teachers and students to be able to make both valid and reliable judgements of students work it is useful for them to have criteria against which to make their judgements. The process of designing criteria can contribute to ensuring that there is clear alignment between course purpose and the outcomes that are envisaged for students doing a course. Many of the case studies in this volume demonstrate various ways in which teachers have made explicit the criteria that will be used to assess students work. Making both what is expected of students as well as the standards of achievement as clear as possible at the outset of an assessment event contributes to more transparent and fair assessment for all students. In some cases, students are involved in designing their own assessment criteria. This, and being given opportunities to use criteria to assess peers or their own work, contributes to their deepening understanding of how their work is assessed and what is valued in their discipline. Defining and describing criteria for complex, higher order learning is not easy. Knight (2001) suggests that criteria be regarded as indicators of what is expected rather than as inscribed in stone to be slavishly adhered too. Assessors should also always be open and alert to the unexpected, creative, innovative ways in which students may choose to respond to assessment tasks. It is therefore a good idea to include criteria related to criticality, creativity and innovation to signal to students that this is what is valued in the course and in higher education. Most of the case studies in this publication discuss the role of criteria in assessment both of and for learning. 03 CHERTL Assessment in higher education Feedback One of the basic principles of learning is that learners need feedback. They need to know what they are trying to accomplish, and then they need to know how close they are coming to that goal (Cross 1996: 4). For assessment to be truly formative and to contribute to students learning they must receive high-quality feedback on their work. For feedback to be effective it should: look forward towards improvement and learning be constructive and developmental help students to understand whether and how they have or have not met the criteria for the task focus on both content and on writing induct students into the discipline s ways of thinking, arguing, writing, talking provide information to help students learn to make judgements on their performance be provided soon after the assessment event so that it is relevant and meaningful to the students be given in such a way as to encourage active engagement on the part of the students. Feedback can take many forms depending on the context. It can be given by teachers or tutors to individual students in writing on their tasks, by filling in feedback forms, or through discussions with individuals. General feedback can be provided to students in lectures and tutorials or through written summary documents. In lectures and tutorials feedback can also occur through the asking of questions, eliciting a student response and opening up a space of generative dialogue. Feedback can be provided by different role players: teachers, student tutors and peers. A number of case studies in this volume demonstrate the value for students of both giving and receiving feedback on assessment tasks. Many lecturers complain that students seem to ignore the feedback they are given and are only interested in the mark they have been assigned. It is true that the positive effects of feedback will only be achieved if students pay attention to the feedback they have received. As will be seen from some of the case studies in this volume, feedback is thus often given to students at the draft stage of a writing process. This ensures that students are invested in the feedback as they must engage with it in order to revise their work. It also contributes to helping students to understand that writing is a process. Feedback needs to be aligned with the purpose of the tasks and the assessment criteria so that students can fully understand what they have done well and where they fall short of meeting the criteria. This enables students to judge more accurately their work in terms of the purposes and aims of the course. Feedback provides guidance for students on where and how they need to focus their attention in relation to their learning. Context Lecturers overriding concern for their students should be ensuring that they have access to disciplinary knowledge, to what Wally Morrow (1994) calls epistemological access. As formal access for a more diverse student population has increased, so there has been increased concern about the lack of success of many of the students in higher education. As Scott argues: Genuinely accommodating the diverse intake that is needed for development means ensuring that the education process, in terms of design and teaching [and assessment] practices, is aligned with the students legitimate learning needs, so that they have a reasonable chance of succeeding. Access without success is a hollow achievement, does little or nothing to meet South Africa s social and economic needs, and it may erode public support for the higher education sector (Scott 2009: 10, emphasis added). This does not mean that we should be lowering standards to achieve better pass rates. What it does mean is that curricula, teaching methods and particularly assessment methods and approaches need to be fair for all our students. Assessment needs to be an integral part of curriculum design and students need to be fully aware of and understand what they need to do to succeed. It means that we need both to teach and, in particular, implement formative assessment tasks in ways which inform processes of student learning but also explicitly prepare students for highstakes summative assessment events. This is well illustrated in some of the case studies. The case studies have been drawn from a range of disciplines (and academic levels) across the University. Although the key concepts and principles related to assessment can be applied to all disciplines, there is no one-size-fits-all way of assessing students learning. Each lecturer has to decide what is most important about their discipline for each course, and design assessment approaches and tasks which will best enable them to measure their students learning. Furthermore lecturers should consider ways in which assessment will further develop their students' learning and understanding of disciplinary ways of creating knowledge and representing that knowledge (in written, oral and visual forms). It is hoped that the range of case studies from across the disciplines will give readers new ideas to try out or adapt to their disciplines and contextual circumstances. Conclusion The purpose of putting together these case studies was not necessarily to showcase best practices but rather to share with a broader group of academics a range of assessment practices, approaches and tasks. Our hope is that readers will take from these ideas ways in which to ensure that: they are assessing what is important in their disciplines they are assessing what they think they are assessing they can make valid judgements about students abilities on the strength of assessment results they are finding ways of actively involving their students in assessment processes where possible the assessment tasks and processes are fair assessment takes place throughout a course and not just at the end (time on task) Assessment in higher education CHERTL 04 teaching methods prepare students for assessment tasks assessment allows as many students as possible to succeed and access the knowledge and ways of being of the discipline assessment is varied, innovative and interesting for students assessment is regarded as integral to curriculum planning assessment is not only regarded as a way to measure learning but also contributes to learning students receive constructive, developmental feedback that helps them to make judgements about their learning assessment has positive and motivational affective effects on students (not destructive) assessment is not only about learning on a particular course, but it is also about learning for students futures beyond the university; learning to cope with the supercomplexity of the world (Barnett 2000) reflection on assessment contributes to ongoing improvement of course design and teaching methods. It is important to recognise that assessment is not just an intellectual exercise, but that it has very real effects on the lives of students. As Shepard suggests: Our aim should be to change our cultural practices so that students and teachers look to assessment as a source of insight and help instead of an occasion for meting out rewards and punishments (2000: 10). References Barnett, R. (2000) Realizing the University in an Age of Supercomplexity. Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press. Biggs, J. (1999) What the Student Does: Teaching for Enhanced Learning, Higher Education Research and Development 18(1): Biggs, J. (2003) Aligning Teaching for Constructing Learning. Higher Education Academy. (www.heacademy.ac.uk/aligningteaching-constructing-learning) Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University: What the Student Does. Maidenhead: Oxford University Press and McGraw-Hill. Boud, D. (1995) Assessment and Learning: Contradictory or Complementary? in P. Knight (ed), Assessment for Learning in Higher Education. London: Kogan Page, Boud, D. (2007) Reframing Assessment as if Learning Were Important, in D. Boud and N. Falchikov (eds), Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education: Learning for the Longer Term. London: Routledge, Boud, D. and Falchikov, N. (eds), (2007) Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education: Learning for the Longer Term. London: Routledge. Cross, K. P. (1996) Improving Teaching and Learning through Classroom Assessment and Classroom Research, in G. Gibbs (ed), Improving Student Learning: Using Research to Improve Student Learning. Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff Development, Knight, P. (2001) A Briefing on Key Concepts: Formative and Summative, Criterion and Norm-referenced Assessment, Assessment Series No. 7. LTSN Generic Centre. Morrow, W. (1994) Entitlement and Achievement in Education, Studies in Philosophy and Education 13(1): Scott, I. (2009) First-year Experience as Terrain of Failure or Platform for Development? Critical Choices for Higher Education, in B. Leibowitz, A. van der Merwe and S. Van Schalkwyk (eds), Focus on First-year Success: Perspectives Emerging from South Africa and Beyond. Stellenbosch: SUN PReSS. Shepard, L. (2000) The Role of Assessment in a Learning Culture, Educational Researcher 29(7): CHERTL Assessment in higher education CASE STUDY 1 Developing professional practice through portfolio work In this module, Hans-Peter worked with Honours students studying Strategic Marketing. The assessment tasks he designed aimed to te
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