Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Value of Assessment.

Back at St Mary's for a Teaching and Learning day looking particularly at assessment, it's pedagogic value and importance to students. At the centre of the day was a really good keynote lecture from Sally Brown of Leeds Met, who is a passionate advocate of using assessment to help design curriculum.

I was particularly interested in her observations that assessment actually shapes student behaviours. That, when intelligently designed, assessment motivates, encourages and guides students into new areas, stretching them to explore the structures they use to participate in tasks. This is a development of the traditional idea that assessment runs parallel, but has little to do with the task itself.

By the same token poorly designed assessment encourages strategic approaches to tasks, where the focus is on understanding the arbitrarily set criteria in order to effectively tick the boxes.

Can we put together tasks that insist on fluent writing, good time management, the ability to take a brainstormed idea through to a completed project? And in so doing can we begin effectively challenge plagiarism, pointless cutting and pasting and procrastination.

Sally challenged the assumption that the job of the University is to impart knowledge, but rather to help students see achievement as incremental. If student's can separate themselves emotionally from the summative assessment grade and begin to see the challenge of learning in a more three dimensional way.

Most of us working in Drama St Mary's have an intuitive, and in the main I would argue effective, approach to assessment. We're involved in formative assessment through feedback, encouragement, correction and suggestion hundreds of time a day - but maybe the time has come to take a more proactive and integrated approach to the summative tasks we set. A small step may be to link assessments across the three year cycle so that rather than closing doors on modules once they're completed, we use the feedback to set forward thinking targets to keep our students looking for future progress ahead.

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