The Virtual Law Placement - from concept to trial Tina Cockburn Melinda Shirley Caroline Cottman ATN Assessment Conference 2008
VLP - Aim
The VLP unit aims to:
provide a real world learning experience through application and supervised placement in a legal workplace environment.
enable greater knowledge and understanding of the dynamic relationship between academic knowledge and its practical application to legal issues that arise in a workplace.
give the opportunity to identify and practice graduate capabilities relevant to the workplace environment.
What? - The resources used in this project and the collaborative learning tools
How? - The visual organiser, instructions, assessment tasks – application, workplace project , discussion forum and eportfolio
What happened? - How were the assessment tasks received by students? How effective were criteria as basis for marking?
What next? – Challenges and review
LMS – Unit Blackboard site
Sharepoint – to replicate the legal firm environment
Collaborative tools – discussion forums
Student emails, skype, MSN
Career modules – interviews, using eportfolio,
Unit Visual organiser
Focus student effort – in 4 phases
Provide Unit schedule – pacing guide
Cluster resources for workplace supervisors
Each workplace – virtual replication of authentic workplace
Stream assessment tasks/discussion around themes
TIMELINE AND SCHEDULE OF WORK :
Assessment of work practice components
Application / Interim report
Reflective assessment and theory
Online discussion & summary
Marking undertaken by academic staff and workplace supervisor
Project outline & interim report 15% - Team mark - workplace supervisor
Completed project 40% -
Team 10%/ Individual marks 30% - workplace supervisor
Reflective and collaborative
Online discussion forum entries & Executive summary – including leading discussion 15% - Individual mark - academic
Three Student eportfolio entries 20% Individual mark - academic
Assessing discussion posts
Posts – How many?
Depth of ideas – analysis of topics,
Ability to make connections, see complexities
Weave the ideas of others, integration
Leaders role – giving focus,
Communication ability shown in post –
CRA provided, FAQs, guidelines and reminders
Academic reflections: online discussion forum
Executive summary of two discussion threads plus a self audit document
939 posts from a cohort of 20 students.
General approach to assessment will be adopted again - the self audit document avoids the need to count entries
Not necessary to assess all contributions – students select two discussion threads to be assessed.
To recognise the workload involved, and to make this more transparent to students, it is proposed to increase the weighting of the online discussion forum entries to 20% (from 15%).
Academic reflections: online discussion forum (cont…)
Utility of CRA: marks for number of contributions (to encourage participation) AND quality of contributions
Number of contributions (marked out of 5)
Quality of contributions (marked out of 10)
Marker reflections: Allocation of marks worked well - will allocate specific marks to criteria (4, 3 and 3 marks for A, B and C respectively)
Allocation for number of contributions ensures participation – leader roster enabled all students to meet the minimum requirements & assisted time management. Will provide exemplars for next offer.
Minor amendments to CRA necessary only – able to discern between student submissions using the criteria and CRA.
Themes of student comments
Building essence of team
Drawing on each other and acknowledging differences
Significance of teamwork and initiative
Need to know expectations
Student comments – discussion
Opportunity to learn new contemporary skills;
Enjoyed online postings, nominated and individual topics – great way to interact with others & understand the level of education and experience they have;
Depth of discussion forum posts and variety of topics – able to post anything of interest, and enlightening to read others thoughts.
Forum discussions were great – allowed unlimited discussion to a detailed extent, learn a lot form others views and information posts.
Everyone had to be organised – coordinating everyone’s availability and sometimes people at different ability levels.
Leader role -
Student comments – discussion cont.
Discussion forum difficult as there was not enough guidance as to what to expect – some write academic essay, others comment to stir.
Students at different year levels, and therefore varied legal knowledge
High expectations for discussion posts, at times when other assessments due
Minimum posts each week were too much with other reading & responding, just keep to roster
Academic reflections: e-portfolio entries
Three e-portfolio entries - describe & reflect on experiences during placement, plus complete online eportfolio module,
Detailed CRA, instruction sheet and guidelines were provided in advance, reminder emails closer to the due date.
Marker Reflections: Most understood what was required, some difficulty with the nature of reflection
choose better in terms of experiences,
focus on development of relevant employability skills rather than focusing on describing specific tasks,
use of STARL/STARP frameworks, for more structured approach to reflection,
offer exemplars of e-portfolio entries & give students an opportunity to be provided with formative feedback prior to submission of the assessable entries.
Academic reflections: Assessing the e-portfolio entries (cont…)
Utility of CRA: Each e-portfolio entry was marked out of 5 and marks were allocated as follows:
Description of experience (1 mark)
Reflections upon experience (3 marks)
Presentation in e-portfolio (1 mark)
Marker reflections: Criteria appropriate as key performance indicators, detailed descriptors too verbose- summarised and refined before being meaningfully applied.
Guidelines and instructions need to highlight the significance of reflection and preparing an action plan for the future.
Exemplars of e-portfolio entries will be provided. Opportunity for formative feedback will be provided. Reduce assessable entries to two, mark out of 10 rather than 5 to enable increased scope for discernment in marking.
Student comments - eportfolio
Documenting your significant experiences and things worth reflecting on in eportfolio
Job applications helpful, and eportfolio – I will use this more to my advantage even after graduation
Stimulated further thinking, valuable process
Proposed revisions to Assessment
Application - change to formative assessment - feedback to be provided by Careers and Employment and employers
Project – increase team weighting to 15% - individual to 20%
Proposed revisions to Assessment (cont…)
Online discussion forum entries and Executive Summary
Proposed change: 20% (was 15%)
Student e-portfolio entries
Proposed change: 2 entries to be assessed, 1 entry will be formative and submitted earlier, with feedback from eportfolio team.
Considerations for marking
Reduce the turnaround time for allocation of marks and formal feedback,
Aim to be more discerning in their allocation of marks. Guidelines and marking instructions provided to workplace supervisors to be revised.
Students will be provided with exemplars of project outlines and reports. Guidelines and instructions to students will be revised.
Challenges for the future
Training workplace supervisors to assess
not as discerning as academic markers – marks generally higher
Balance between weighting of workplace project assessment and online discussion forum and eportfolio reflection (practice vs theory balance)
40% online discussion and eportfolio
60% workplace project
Resource and workload implications - involve QUT Careers and Employment & eportfolio team in formative feedback,
Succession planning: Retention of existing workplace supervisors and increasing capacity to take more students into unit,
Incremental recruiting and training of new supervisors,
Retention of existing academic staff and recruitment and training of additional academic staff team members, including sessional staff.