Thursday, February 27, 2014

Here's what I love about Blackboard

Blackboard Students who have "never" accessed the course submitting assessments only available ... via the course.

Builds confidence, doesn't it?

On the bleeding edge - the pain of the innovator

I sense a kindred soul, crying into their pillow (in the wilderness).

Assessment innovation and student experience: a new assessment challenge and call for a multi-perspective approach to assessment research. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 26 Feb 2014 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2014.890170
Abstract: The impact of innovative assessment on student experience in higher education is a neglected research topic. This represents an important gap in the literature-given debate around the marketisation of higher education, international focus on student satisfaction measurement tools and political calls to put students at the heart of higher education in the UK. This paper reports on qualitative findings from a research project examining the impact of assessment preferences and familiarity on student attainment and experience. It argues that innovation is defined by the student, shaped by diverse assessment experiences and preferences, and therefore its impact is difficult to predict. It proposes that future innovations must explore assessment choice mechanisms which allow students to shape their own assessments. Cultural change and staff development will be required to achieve this. To be accepted, assessment for student experience must be viewed as a complementary layer within a complex multi-perspective model of assessment, which also embraces assessment of learning, assessment for learning and assessment for lifelong learning. Further research is required to build a meta-theory of assessment to enhance the synergies between these alternative approaches and minimise the tensions between them.

tl;dr - overcome the innovator's dilemma and student (staff) resistance by involving them in the process of developing and delivering novel assessment formats. Easier said than done with a class of 300.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A damning indictment of peer assessment

"I feel sorry for any future students who have to have their marks determined by other students rather than professionals."
"If you want to pay me to do it fine. But I’m not here to learn how to mark someone else’s stuff. I’m here to do MY work."
"No! No! No! If you are planning to implement it, please do so after I graduate, which should be in 2014. I can’t afford to get poor marks because of such assessment, especially after spending a lot of money to study here."

Michael John Wilson, Ming Ming Diao & Leon Huang , Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education (2014): ‘I’m not here to learn how to mark someone else’s stuff’: an investigation of an online peer-to-peer review workshop tool, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, doi: 10.1080/02602938.2014.881980

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A possible solution to the demonstrator problem

With rising student numbers there is an increasing problem with finding an adequate supply of suitable postgraduate demonstrators for undergraduate practicals. In the USA it is common for students to work as part of their undergraduate experience, and c.v.-enhancing academic roles are valued more highly than flipping burgers or waiting tables, although they are paid at similar rates. In the UK, undergraduate science timetables do not easily allow students to work as demonstrators in labs. But this idea fits neatly into the current HEA preoccupation with students as partners/producers and there is probably funding available to develop this. If this paper is to be believed, it may be a possible solution to the demonstrator problem that we cannot afford to ignore.

Enhancing student learning of research methods through the use of undergraduate teaching assistants. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 2013
Abstract: By using a quasi-experimental design, in this study, we test the effect of undergraduate teaching assistants on student learning. Data were collected from 170 students enrolled in four sections of a quantitative research methods course, two sections without undergraduate teaching assistants and two sections with undergraduate teaching assistants, over two semesters. Results indicate that having undergraduate teaching assistants in the classroom can result in higher student performance. Students in the sections with undergraduate teaching assistants earned higher grades, were more likely to pass the course with a C or higher and performed better on half of the student learning outcomes than students in the sections without an undergraduate teaching assistant. Based on the overwhelmingly positive results on student learning, we would recommend the active use of undergraduate teaching assistants in the classroom, but especially for courses that students find challenging.


Friday, February 07, 2014

Formative feedback

Study and communications skills for the biosciences Yesterday evening I "marked" 20 student reports. Formative feedback only, no marks.

So quick, so easy. And in contrast to ages spent agonizing over marks (and fielding student challenges and complaints about marks) it felt so worthwhile.

I hope the students feel the same way without the safety blanket of a deceitful percentage score.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Group Work

After a month with a horrendous workload (hence the dearth of posts on this site - I've still been posting on the other blogs I run), I know of no better way to get back into blogging than journaling my day to day activity.

Study and communications skills for the biosciences I've been reading Study and communications Skills for the Biosciences, paying particular attention to the section on group work. I've got a vested interest as group working and assessment will form a major component of the new module I am running next year.

Today I ran a formative groupwork exercise on the final year module I am currently teaching. My hope was that the formative nature of this exercise would lowers the stakes/barriers and make group work more acceptable to students.

And the outcome was ... good. The students worked hard at a challenging topic and kept on task. Working in groups definitely helped understanding, particularly for some students who were struggling individually.

My take home message from this session is: successful group working is all about structure. Chunking the topic into pieces interspersed with plenaries also helped too and kept the pace moving along. I don't think I would have seen the same outcome if this had been a summatively assessed task. And did the students appreciate working in this way? I hope so.