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Assessment Compact Good Practice Exemplars

Co-developing assessment, research and academic literacies

Co-developing assessment, research and academic literacies

What’s the story?

This is a module that actively engages students in staggered assessment tasks designed to develop their academic and research literacy as well as their assessment literacy. Formative assessment is used to provide early feedback on progress.

Module Information

Faculty: HSS
Department: School of Education
Module name and Code: U75144 Digital Media and Youth Identities
Level: 5
Number of students: approx. 70
Module leader: Michele Paule
Contact details: mpaule@brookes.ac.uk

Aspects of the assessment compact scrutinised in this case study

This case study concerns an intervention concentrating on four Compact clauses:

Clause 2.1 – “Assessment is central to the curriculum, and there should be no distinct boundary between assessment, teaching and learning. All academic staff will therefore be encouraged to regard assessment as a fundamental and integral part of programme design, and one that is intended to shape and develop learning, as much as to judge and measure it.”

Clause 2.3 – “The relationship between learning outcomes and assessment tasks is made explicit. In addition, clear assessment criteria should be provided whenever possible, and always when the assessment contributes to marks, grades, or decisions about progression. Assessment judgments must focus on the achievement of the learning outcomes against the assessment criteria, and this achievement authenticated as the student’s own.”

Clause 2.5 – “students are given supportive, constructive and timely feedback as an essential part of their learning … and have a clear sense of what they need to do to improve, with subsequent opportunities provided to act on the feedback and to put the advice given into practice”

Clause 2.6 – “activities (e.g. marking exercises, self and peer-assessment, etc.) specifically designed to involve students in assessment, to encourage dialogue between students and their tutors, and students and their peers, and to develop their abilities to make their own informed judgments (assessment literacy).”

What aim(s) did you have in changing your assessment approach?

The core aims were in every week’s class to engage students actively in assessment and feedback, mainly as givers and receivers of feedback, and to engage them with and in research.

What change(s) did you actually make?

Each 3 hour session began with an hour’s presentation and was then given over to structured research and presentation activities. The final session included a preparatory workshop for the final assignment.
There are three assignments as follows.

Assignments 1 & 2: Individual Reading Assignment and Group Research Activity. Each week a group of students is selected to undertake extra reading (min. 3 articles) on the following week's topic. Three of these readings are set; additional readings may be found by students. The following week they are assessed on two tasks:

Assignment 1. Produce an individual critical summary of the readings. This is handed in during class. It is marked before the following week's class and feedback is given to individuals, plus cumulative feedback on approaches to critical reading given to the whole class at the end.

Assignment 2. Undertake in-class research.

  • Analyse and present findings: Groups devise a small scale in-class research activity in which they use the rest of the class as research subjects. The focus of the enquiry is built around issues emerging from their reading that week.
  • Groups present their findings to the class, contextualising them within reading and also reflecting on their experience of conducting the research.
  • At the end of the presentation they receive feedback from their classmates about the way in which they conducted the research.

Thus each week students experience both undertaking research and being research subjects. They give and receive peer feedback on these experiences, as well as being assessed according to criteria with which they are familiarised with beforehand.

Assignment 3: is an individual coursework, a choice of case-studies or a research proposal. Various titles are given.
There was a good spread of attainment for this assignment, and many students responded enthusiastically and diligently. The strongest students engage thoughtfully with the reading assignments and used this as a basis for this assignment.

How did you evaluate this intervention?

The evaluation used a mixed methods approach. The module leader gathered and analysed student performance data, responses to a module evaluation survey, and data from in-class focus groups. Volunteer students conducted these using a question schedule prepared by the tutor (the tutor left the room).

What do students say about this intervention?

The first point to note is that the student performance profile is very strong:

Grade A B+ B C/D
Number 15 28 20 4
Percent 22% 41% 29% 6%

The evaluations were overwhelmingly positive. Students commented positively on the:

  • participative nature of the session teaching and structure
  • linking of theory and research through this structure
  • chance to practise/focus on specific critical reading skills through the first assignment
  • timed-assessment element
  • assignment choice
  • development of assessment skills
  • enthusiasm not only of the lecturer but of the groups – these were positive classes. Students enjoyed the atmosphere and found it conducive to active learning.

What has been the impact of this change in assessment?

This module has strong integration of assessment and learning and teaching and students have responded positively. The tasks allow students to engage at a variety of levels and to learn from each other.
For many students, this is a second year module and the teaching and assignments are designed to support their academic skills as well as their understanding of content. More input on the first assignment will be given at the start, using examples from this year.

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