The only ray of light from this meeting (apart from the cake) was revisiting some of our unresolved issues around curriculum design and assessment. The Biological Sciences staff present universally agreed that we over-assess our students compared with other disciplines and other institutions, and we indulged in the routine ritual scourging.
I've written about over-assessment here before (New balance, More with less). I want to assess less and teach more, but it's not that simple (read the links). What do students want? The great thing about the Friendfeed network we have developed is instant informal feedback, so I asked them, including a PollDaddy poll in the discussion. Outcome?
The idea of rolling back assessment load is not universally popular with this group of engaged and vocal students. And that means that attempts to reduce assessment will be pressurized from above and below by:
- Senior managers who want a constant stream of measurable deliverables (impact factors, student marks, yada yada yada) so that they can "manage" their staff.
- Students who want constant reassurance of their "progress" and return on investment in tuition fees.
And if we really want to spend more time teaching, we need to reclaim the lost summer term we have abandoned in recent years.