Friday, 19 February 2016

MAF#1: Introduction to Managing the Assessment and Feedback process

Welcome to the MAF blog – and to MAF itself. We look forward to exploring assessment and feedback with you…
This module asks you to investigate the theory and practice of Assessment and Feedback – and to relate that to your own practice. It is intended to help staff develop their current practice in ways that are helpful to them and to their students and to make assessment part of the learning dialogue: wrestling with assessment of, for and as learning. Each week there will be some preliminary reading and/or viewing to do before the class – which will be explored practically and dialogically in the session itself. This opportunity to work with others across the disciplines is what people value most about the course itself – and we can see already that this is a lively group with much to offer (see also arguments for a ‘flipped’ approach:
Group presentation (40%): explore an aspect of assessment that intrigues you and produce a multimodal presentation or resource (5mins) that presents an issue, argument and/or ‘case’ to the class – with short critical commentary.
Individual project (60%): develop a sustained argument about a specific aspect of assessment related to your own context and perhaps extending an issue that arose in exploring the group project. Typically presented as a formal essay, we are open to creative interpretations of that genre.
Tip: Re-visit the module Learning Outcomes – and the notes you made when we discussed these in class. List the ways that YOU might be able to demonstrate that you have met each of the LOs.

Bring your own context
We started with a brief free write and longer discussion on what we like about our current assessment and feedback processes, what areas of curiosity and concern we have – and what we hope to gain from the module itself.
What we like
Thoughtful and transparent assessment design was valued: where the assessment is clearly relevant to the LOs; where it is weighted and balanced well across criteria; and where students can clearly see, ‘This is what they are looking for.’
Some liked tried and tested ‘safe’ or known methods of assessment – the essay and the exam – others argued that the ‘not safe is best’ – where the outcomes of the assessment are not fixed in advance – but the participants can argue or make a good case. The analysis of a Case Study was cited here: where the students are not led to a given answer – but must interrogate a case study and come up with their own diagnosis or draw their own conclusions.
There was an argument offered for a diversity of assessment instruments across a course: presentations, short tests (including online) and course work – so that all participants would have an opportunity to showcase their learning or harness their own preferred learning strategies.
A few offered arguments for what might be called the emergent graduate identity approach (Len Holmes: – where thought is given to the ‘skills’, capabilities and capacities required of the graduate – and the course is worked backwards from there. Examples cited were the Montessori course where participants have to produce lessons plans, group presentations and give peer feedback – and the prospective Science teacher set many small stakes assignments – that could lead, say, to the planning and leading of a trip to the science museum.
This connected with arguments around developing self-assessment and the students’ ability to evaluate their own work; possibly enhanced where the learning and teaching clearly feeds forward into the assessment – and where the students make their learning conscious: in blogs and by illustrating the session and/or their learning in some way (this paper explores blogging to learn – in the context of two LondonMet modules – available from Investigations – or this link to Academia Edu:
Finally – it was argued that re-designing the assessment could provoke positive change in the learning and teaching processes.
How do we know that a particular assessment instrument is valid and fair? And – how on earth do we know what students are ‘making’ of the feedback? Here again there was discussion of the use of assignment change to provoke positive change in pedagogic practice – and the invitation to re-investigate assessments alternative to the essay – that involve the equivalent rigour, critical engagement and endeavour.
What we want MAF to do
Overall it seems that most people want to use the module to investigate what constitutes successful assessment – defined as tasks that that help students both to learn what they need to – and that help them transition to the next level of study. A bonus would be the opportunity to explore the assessment tools in WebLearn – and to work out how to make a good case for assessment change that would convince a line manager.

TMD: Cheating: friend, foe or scapegoat
Our getting to know you activity was a Topic Mediated Dialogue (TMD) session – where we investigated teaching, learning and assessment through the lens of ‘cheating’. After paired discussions, participants had to draw a representation of their partner – and use that to introduce them to the class.
NB: TMDs can be structured around any topic with which you want to engage - we also use the same TMD prompts to get students to explore their own thoughts on ‘cheating’:

Thank you!
Thank you for an engaged and engaging first session – we have already touched on key aspects of assessment and feedback that the rest of the course will explore in ever greater depth… We are looking forward to taking this MAF journey with you.

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