Reimagining Assessment for Learning Faculty Spark - View, reflect and apply
Last updated on 25/02/2020
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Agata Mouasher shares her experience of course design and considers the concept of Assessment for Learning versus Assessment of Learning.
Which is better? Assessment for Learning, as opposed to Assessment of Learning? How do we design courses that satisfy the institutional requirements to quantify results with the idea of continuous lifelong learning?
I redesigned a third-year course in Intercultural Management for a dual-mode offering. I wanted to combine the best of educational design pedagogy, my desire to inspire students to enjoy the journey as opposed to rack up points (assessment For learning vs Assessment OF learning), and finally my commitment to have them leave this course with EXPERIENTIAL learning, that is, being culturally competent (not just culturally aware) with a changed view of themselves and the world around them (in essence this is Perry’s 9 stages of cognitive development and I was aiming for Stage 9).
I wanted to move away from the mindset of ‘what do I need to do to pass?’ where assessment becomes a mere accumulation of points, and for students to see the concept of assessment as a valuable learning milestone.
My approach it to begin with the end in mind, and from there develop methodology and assessment strategies for continuous lifelong learning.
A major redesign of an Assessment Strategy to foster an Assessment FOR Learning approach considered the following:
- The course was delivered in five parts
- Each part was scaffolded in line with timed assessment items
- We moved from 3 assessment items inclusive of an exam, to 3 items without an exam, broken into 8 submission points or ‘learning milestones’
- Introduction of virtual team work consisting 1 on-campus with up to 3 online students for the management analysis task
- Course delivery was in semi-intensive mode: the first 6 modules in 3 weeks, break, and the other 4 modules in 2 weeks
- The idea of Assessment FOR Learning vs Assessment OF Learning was continuously discussed, creating a sense of ownership in students. The aim was to shift students away from a quantitative focus of the course, towards owning and enjoying the learning process, as failure was expected and encouraged as a positive
These changes by deliberate design delivered the following benefits:
- Scaffolded learning aligned with Bloom’s taxonomy and with course learning outcomes
- Assessment was simpler - AT1 got the theory out of the way, AT2 focused on applied learning, AT3 focused on experiential learning
- Weighting of AT2 spread over 9 weeks emphasised experiential application of practical tools and theory to a problem
- Weighting of AT3 over the semester emphasised the reflective focus of this course, and the goal that Cross Cultural Competency is preceded by CC Awareness, but that CC awareness is preceded by one’s own knowledge of self and one’s own ethnocentric boundaries
- Removing the exam took away administrative pressures, and focussed on assessing other items more accurately
- Introduced virtual teamwork simulated a real world situation, and aligned directly with their theory
- Delivered theory in a semi-intensive way fast tracked theory so that they could focus on applying that learning to their Management Analysis task, allowing a focus on the team work aspect
- 'Learning milestones’ were used as an assessment for learning strategy, providing both a feedback and feedforward mechanism - feedback about progress, and feedforward about improvements for the next submission
Such big changes required numerous steps to change students' pre-existing mindsets. To embed these changes we:
- Changed terminology that linked to perceptions of quantitative measures and an approach of ‘what do I need to do to pass this course?” e.g. ‘assessment’ changed to ‘learning milestone’.
- Asked students to view their journey as a staircase. As they progress they reach milestones which allows reflection on their learning to date, and consideration of their next steps.
- Encouraged them to see failure as valuable feedback to improve for the next milestone. e.g. Deep reflection, or teamwork challenges
- Taught the skill + process + context. We focussed on he process of deep reflection, why it's necessary, developed materials to support their practice
- Explained the reasoning for the assessment strategy
- Continuous links were made to the bigger and longer term picture, encouraging ownership of learning
- Engagement was constant, simulating a real-world scenario of project management, including an open door policy with the teaching team
- Constantly read the environment looking for performance risk factors in students and providing the necessary support
This approach produced a number of outcomes:
- Learning was scaffolded and aligned to learning outcomes
- Assessment was simpler, though lengthier
- The focus was on application of tools and knowledge learned - to self, to team, to the problem
- The focus on reflection ensured that all students learned the process of deep reflection
- Problem Based Learning over 9 weeks provided opportunity for numerous points of formative feedback
- I maintained a near 100% attendance for on-campus sessions
- Online attendance was low overall, but remained consistent, fluctuating between 19% & 25%
- Many students accessed content post-session, indicating a 92% viewing statistic
- All students made contact with me directly. At least 60% maintained regular communication with me.
Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive about the course. Students were able to see challenges as opportunities for learning and became empowered by them.
“At the beginning of the course I believed I already had the knowledge of how to operate as a global manager without this course and simply perceived it as something I had to do and a waste of time.
As the course has moved on I have come to understand I had very little knowledge of how to operate in a multicultural environment and have come to see that without this course I would have exited university unprepared and with very little understanding of what my actions meant to others from other cultures who would perceive them differently.
Participation in the virtual teams really drove the fact home as the group I finished up in was the polar opposite of what I expected they were always ready to assist and were always keen to communicate and seemed interested in the group goal as opposed to their own individual agendas.”
“I’ve felt so much pressure to complete this course successfully and achieve high marks … I feel as if I have discovered and reflected on why I am so hard on myself, thanks to this course.
I had managers that were very much hierarchical based and often belittled staff. I sense that this has made me be tougher on myself and eager to please. As a result, this created immense anxiety towards my university work and I was constantly hounding Agata for advice to make sure I was on track.
But after studying people and cultures in this course, I now know that I should be proud of what I’ve achieved regardless. I have done so well and ultimately it’s about what I know and take away from each course – not what mark I got! I am rich with knowledge and power. Tools, knowledge and awareness of myself and others.
I’m already successful just for doing that"
In order to offer flexibility for effective virtual team collaboration and communication, students were offered the full spectrum of Blackboard tools such as Collaborate rooms, email, wikis etc.
They were allowed to use any external tools (Facebook Groups, Google Hangouts, Skype) with the proviso that they managed these tools themselves and included the teaching team for monitoring purposes.
- Learning (as a teaching strategy) should be the ultimate goal - NOT the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Begin with the end in mind
- Work backwards to align with institutional constraints
- A top-down approach is required for this model, that is, adoption of the philosophy and degree-level support and integration e.g. curriculum-mapping, not just ad-hoc course-level design
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Reimagining Assessment for Learning. Retrieved from https://app.secure.griffith.edu.au/exlnt/entry/7188/view(2020).