If engaging students in assessment is a useful thing to do, why do we see so little evidence of it in practice?
What can we do about it?
by "Engaging students in assessment" I mean in the general sense that Falchikov (2005) uses it, encompassing –
development of self-, and peer-assessment capability
improved understanding of assessment criteria
increased responsibility, learner autonomy, and so on...
My claims for limited takeup are based on conversations about assessment practices with many teachers at UTS over the last 10 years.
I am not aware of any research quantifying the extent of assessment practices of this kind.
Possible explanations, 1
Decisions about assessment are commonly left to the teachers
A common view of assessment is that it follows content, so when "content is king" the focus is on getting the content right...
With little or no overlap in content between courses there is no perceived need to coordinate the nature of assessment activities across courses (except, perhaps, to avoid timing clashes)
Little or no expectations of a collective approach involving colleagues when making choices about assessment
Administrative concerns often constrain possibilities
Availability of markers, time, need for quick turnaround
Concerns about cheating result in certain types of assessment being favoured over other, possibly more authentic, approaches
'Robust', objective assessment (think MCQs) rather than more open, subjective, reflective approaches
focus on summative over formative assessment
Possible explanations, 2
Teachers don't know how to engage students
Limited knowledge of possible assessment practices
Finding space within exisiting structure - in addition to, not instead of
If assessment is primarily about judgement, then only the teacher can do this ...
Departmental cultures & practices might be antipathetic to changes of this nature
Teachers don't know why they should engage their students in assessment
Aren't students already engaged?
If it isn't broken then why does it need fixing?
Fragmented understanding of the crucial role of formative assessment
Another piece in the puzzle
Claims about the knowledge, skills & attributes that an institution makes for its graduates.
The ability to acquire, develop, employ and integrate a range of technical, practical and professional skills, in appropriate and ethical ways within a professional context, autonomously and collaboratively and across a range of disciplinary and professional areas.
The capacity to engage in reflection and learning beyond formal educational contexts that is based on the ability to make effective judgments about one’s own work. The capacity to learn in and from new disciplines to enhance the application of scientific knowledge and skills in professional contexts.
excerpted from UTS:Science GAs
Observations about GAs
GAs go beyond disciplinary knowledge
They encourage a shift in viewpoint towards the student and away from the teacher
Unless they are assessed they are just rhetoric
Challenge of integration when added or retrofitted to existing programs
They may require a developmental approach, with trajectories longer than the standard semester cycle
Developmental approaches need a formative, not just summative, perspective
Graduate attributes are about
developing learner autonomy
the ability to make complex judgements about one's own work
Boud's Sustainable assessment is a useful framework for consideration of these issues
The assessment approaches needed for the development of GAs are ones that engage students in:
taking more responsibility for their learning
dealing with uncertainty, subjectivity, complexity...
One way to approach the challenge of engaging students in assessment
A strategic approach
Taking a whole-of-program view
A wider view of the nature & suitability of assessment activities across a program to ensure that gaps are identified and filled
Ensuring (enforcing?) variation of activities to support developmental trajectories
A shift from summative, towards formative assessment
Requires cooperation between course coordinators
giving up content to allow for development of a GA
When could a strategic approach be taken?
Development of new programs, reaccreditation, in-situ
Leadership - to persuade colleagues of the need
Time and space for teachers to develop understanding of the changes needed
New ideas about assessment take time to take on
A shared agreement of what needs to be done
a program level matrix
duplication, over-assessment, gaps
Buy-in by those being asked to take on changes
Sometimes the opportunity afforded by program reviews is missed because the focus of the review is on getting the content right
What incentives are there for teachers, secure in their subject silos, to engage in change when they are being pressed to lift research outputs?
What chance of success when GAs are seen as 'in addition to' rather than 'instead of' (some) content?
Where does this lead us?
Accreditation processes are growing teeth
Growing interest in seeing evidence that GAs are being acquired
How will this be gathered?
Maturing of assesment vehicles
ePortfolios that support & sustain developmental trajectories greater than a single semester
General acceptance of the worth of GAs
No longer a question of 'Why?', so much as 'How?'
Lots of scope for localised responses
A need to develop teachers' understanding of what it means to engage students in assessment
Small examples to learn with
A need to do something about GAs, now
teachers often struggle to come up with a meaningful way to address, and assess, GAs in their course
Lots of examples in Falchikov 2005
Isolated take-up won't achieve the strategic transformation required but it can prepare the ground for the next accreditation cycle by sowing the seeds of understanding
A local response (Rust, et al. 2003)
Much formative feedback is wasted
can't be applied
Rust - Understanding assessment criteria
Unpacking meaning, discussion
Practice in applying criteria to example work
A significant improvement in the ability to understand and apply assessment criteria
Students developing the ability to make judgements about their own work
engaging in self- and peer- assessment
More complex, subjective task
Students active in doing, not passive in getting
Assessing a GA - Lifelong learning skill
Improved learning outcomes for student
Reduced marking load for teacher because the key work of feedback has already been done