My dual role as University Learning Development Associate in Assessment & Feedback and Senior Lecturer in Music has led me to run several pilot projects in my teaching this academic year (2011-12), exemplifying innovative approaches to the practices surrounding assessment and feedback. Three case studies are given below.
(1) Using wikis in Moodle to track progress on undergraduate dissertations and deliver formative feedback
Last term I set up an wiki template in Moodle to provide each of my final-year undergraduate dissertation students with a resource that both of us could access and periodically update, for the purposes of tracking progress on their dissertations and offering formative feedback on draftwork submitted.
The wiki includes pages for the project’s working title, and a separate page for each of the meetings divided into sections for the date of the meeting, a summary of what was discussed, objectives agreed for next time, and the date of the next meeting (see screenshot, right). It was developed owing to the need to help undergraduate students keep on-track in their dissertation work at a critical time in their programme, and was inspired by the Moodle wiki previously set up for the purposes of recording undergraduate Personal Development Planning (PDP) as well as the University’s use of Research And Progress for postgraduate research students.
One student has engaged with this resource to the extent that he has created several new pages to record his ongoing progress in between supervisory meetings; the nature of the wiki is such that I can review his progress at any time and add suggestions or make revisions as needed. Another student always brings her Wi-Fi enabled laptop with her so that we can make updates to the wiki during our tutorials. Whenever one of us makes and saves a change, the other can instantly see it on their screen, which demonstrates the value of using mobile devices to support student learning – particularly as this student now takes the lead at the end of each supervision in ensuring that the wiki has been fully updated.
This would seem to be a helpful way of time-managing the task of researching and writing a dissertation, not least given that it is a challenging process that final-year undergraduates may be encountering for the first time. It also provides a concise and useful reminder (for supervisor as well as student) of discussions, progress, and objectives set at each meeting, while enabling them to take ownership of their learning. This pilot will be rolled out across the entire module next year and all final-year Music students will be expected to use it; there is also much potential for initiatives of this nature to be extended to other programmes and subject areas.
(2) Curriculum design developed in dialogue with the students: elective assessment components
One innovative assessment model that I have been developing for much of this academic year involves giving students some choice as to how they wish to be assessed. Consultation with senior academic staff within and beyond the University has identified that, while such practices are more logistically complex, it should not be supposed that there is only one way to assess students against a prescribed set of learning outcomes necessarily.
After considering several possible assessment patterns which were discussed with colleagues, I settled on the following model which essentially preserves the 30:70 ratio (standard across the institution) between the minor and major assessment points:
- 1 Written Examination (unseen): 30 marks
- 1 Elective Assessment: 30 marks – the student chooses ONE of the following options:
- Written Coursework
- Oral Presentation
- Musical Performance accompanied by Written Documentation
- 1 Project developed from the above Elective Assessment: 40 marks
The Examination provides a common component for all students, irrespective of the pathway they choose for the Elective Assessment. The other assessments have been specified mindful of parity with existing module assessment patterns. The benefits to students are that the initiative enables them to play to their strengths, and to influence how they wish to be assessed and how they wish their marks to be apportioned. The Elective Assessment also permits an additional opportunity for interim feedback ahead of the final Project.
My consultation with the students as to whether such an innovation would be welcomed was revealing: the graphical result (above right) of a poll conducted anonymously using EVS handsets (clickers) speaks for itself.
The focus group that comprised 12 students in my class were also consulted on several other major points of curriculum design, including the content and schedule of the lectures as well as the manner in which they will be taught, assessed, and feedback delivered. They have decided upon all of the lecture topics themselves via a Doodle poll, and have been invited to write supplementary assessment criteria using a wiki; elements of self- and peer assessment will also be included in the module. Having discussed several different forms of feedback (written, dialogic, telephone, podcast, screencast) at the focus group, 33% of students said that they would prefer written reports, while fully 50% opted for dialogic feedback – an unexpected but welcome result.
(3) Student self-assessment of in-progress writing of a research dissertation
Earlier in the year, one of my senior postgraduate research students submitted a draft of a dissertation chapter to me in the knowledge that while some sections were complete, others would need revision either because she felt that they would benefit from further work or because she had yet to complete the research (largely ethnographic, for which she is entirely dependent on the availability of her study participants) that would enable her to finalize her writing.
Since I nonetheless wanted to give her feedback on her work in progress, I formulated the idea of suggesting to the student that after a couple of weeks she should return to the draft chapter herself to reflect upon her writing, and to embed comments electronically using Microsoft Word to identify sections where she felt that further revision would be necessary and to explain why. I would then overlay my own feedback in a similar manner.
In being able to review draftwork that the student had herself annotated, I found my attention being much more effectively directed towards the parts of the chapter upon which it was most fruitful to focus. I felt that I would have made many of the same comments as the student herself, and this means of reflection also enabled the student to ask further questions of her work that I was then able to respond to, and for us to engage in a form of written dialogic feedback (see screenshot below).
The student likewise reported that she found it very useful to return to her chapter in retrospect, and particularly to document the areas she believed required additional work. This is a model of self-reflective feedback that I am now seeking to adopt for future research students.
Dr Christopher Wiley