Wednesday, September 02, 2009

New balance

Balance Last year when I was designing our PLE module, I was fairly obsessed with feedback. This was part of the damage resulting from NSS-driven league tables. The net result was that the assessment load (for staff and students) was too high and not aligned with the perceived value of this key skills (non-core) module. In addition, now that we know that feedback doesn't work, in tweaking the module for the second run through this year, I've decided to be obsessed with overassessment. So I'm considering my options for this year:

1. Make the module non-assessed (but credit-bearing). To qualify for credit, students will have to complete some sort of activity (possibly the present assessments, but with a reduced schedule?). The problem with this is that we know from the data we collected last year that only somewhere in the region of 1% of students will engage as this is a non-core module. Does that matter?

2. Switch to terminal assessment. Treating the in-course assessments as formative would work well for the numeracy part of the model (see One simple idea), but how would I design a terminal assessment for the PLE component - portfolio-based?

3. Leave things essentially as they are but tweak the assessment frequency downwards to reduce the load.

On balance, I think I favour (2), which also has the merit of introducing the ePortfolio concept so that this is less strange when we move onto PDP ePortfolios in Semester 2, but I'd really welcome your input. Have you ever tried backing away from assessment? I'm hopeful that a move towards a more portfolio-based assessment strategy could overcome some of the limitations of a VLE in terms of the subtlety of interaction between assessor and student.

The models described by Helen Barrett at this site are very helpful. In order to balance feedback versus assessment load, I'm thinking about the following workflow:
  1. Students create a blog, selecting their own privacy controls (public, or limited to self + assessors).
  2. Students report url of wordpress site via a Google Form.
  3. At least once per week, students blog about their activity relating to assessed tasks scheduled that week. To facilitate assessment, entries must be tagged with assigned tags relevant to each task (e.g. delicious, GoogleReader, etc).
  4. Feedback will be given by comments on the blog posts (facilitated by scanning RSS subscriptions).
  5. At the end of term, students submit (via the blog) a reflective terminal report linked to evidence of activity (artifacts) which will be assessed in accordance with set criteria.
  6. Evidence of engagement with feedback will be one of the assessment criteria.