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Re-engineering Assessment Practices [REAP] in Higher Education David Nicol, Project Director, REAP Deputy-Director (Research & Development in e-learning)

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Presentation on theme: "Re-engineering Assessment Practices [REAP] in Higher Education David Nicol, Project Director, REAP Deputy-Director (Research & Development in e-learning)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Re-engineering Assessment Practices [REAP] in Higher Education David Nicol, Project Director, REAP Deputy-Director (Research & Development in e-learning) Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement (CAPLE), University of Strathclyde Jenny Booth, Learning Technology Adviser, REAP. (www.reap.ac.uk)www.reap.ac.uk CAA Conference, Loughborough, 4th July 2006

2 Plan What is the REAP project? Case study – assessment redesign in first year class Pedagogical focus Promoting transformational change in assessment at institutional level

3 SFC Transformation programme Re-engineering Assessment Practices [REAP] project is one of the six funded E-learning transformational projects New approaches to teaching/ learning Embedding and substitution Measurable benefits to institution/sector Partnerships with other HEIs/FEIs

4 Rationale for the REAP proposal  Assessment – key driver of student learning  Assessment is a major cost in HE: economies of scale limited  Assessment influences a wide range of organisational, pedagogical and business processes in HE

5 The REAP Project 3 HEIs (Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian Business School, Glasgow University) Focus is on large 1 st year classes Assessment for learner self-regulation Range of technologies: online tests, simulations, discussion boards, e-voting, e-portfolios, peer/feedack software, admin systems, VLEs, offline-online Learning quality and efficiencies Outputs: re-design case studies: advice/tools to support strategic change in institution (transformation), sharing

6 Case Example Two recent literature reviews on assessment (synthesis) Case study of first year assessment redesign (drawn from REAP project) Analysis of a case study in relation to assessment principles Discuss issues

7 First Year: The academic experience What is important? Coping with transition Understanding what is required Engagement with academic programmes Support and feedback Experiences of success Agents of own learning Belief in self (ability) and motivation Social dynamics of learning (belonging) Mantz Yorke (UK) and Vincent Tinto’s (US) research

8 Gibbs and Simpson (2004) Literature review: Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C (2004) Conditions under which assessment supports students learning, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, See: Formative Assessment in Science Teaching (FAST) project at:

9 Gibbs and Simpson (2004) Assessment tasks [Conditions 1-4] 1.Capture enough study time (in and out of class) 2.Are spread out evenly across timeline of study 3.Lead to productive activity (deep vs surface) 4.Communicate clear and high expectations

10 Gibbs and Simpson (2004) Feedback [Conditions 5-11] 5. Is sufficient (in frequency; detail) 6. Is provided quickly enough to be useful 7. Focuses on learning rather than on marks 8. Is linked to assessment criteria/expected outcomes 9. Makes sense to students 10. Is received by students and attended to 11. Is acted upon, to improve work and/or learning

11 Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006) Literature review: Nicol, D. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 34 (1), See: Student Enhanced Learning through Effective Feedback [SENLEF] project funded by HE Academy REAP project:

12 Research on Assessment in HE Teaching/learning paradigm Transmission Assessment paradigm Transmission [teacher-centred] Constructivist [student-centred]

13 Some key research findings Students are always engaged in self-assessment/self- regulation of their own learning (Black & Wiliam, 2005). Logically entailed by constructivist ideas (Winne, 2005) The act of using teacher feedback implies that self- assessment must be present (Sadler, 1983, Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick, 2006) Feedback in HE is being significantly reduced so how are students still learning? The question is: how can we scaffold students learning so they become better at self-regulation? (Lajoie, 2005)

14 Scaffolding self regulation: 7 principles of good feedback 1. Clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, standards). 2. Facilitate reflection and self-assessment in learning 3. Deliver high quality feedback to students: feedback that enables students to monitor and self-correct 4. Encourage peer and tutor dialogue around learning 5. Encourage positive motivational beliefs & self esteem through assessment 6. Provide opportunities to close the feedback loop 7. Use feedback information to shape teaching Source: Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006) Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education

15 Re-engineering Assessment Practices [REAP] Psychology Case Study Context: 560 first year students Mixture of psychology majors (130) and those taking psychology only for one year (430) 6 topic areas, 48 lectures, 4 tutorials, 12 practicals Assessment; 2 x MCQs (25%), tutorial attendance (4%), taking part in experiment (5%), essay exam (66%)

16 Psychology Case Study Problems identified with the course: Students got no practice in writing skills but required in the exam No feedback except on MCQs (percent correct) Didn’t want to increase staff workload Wanted to improve overall exam marks And standard of entrant to second year

17 Stage 1: Question 1: moderate difficulty (50 words) Individual response – post it –discuss answer in groups (of 6) Timed release: model answer to self-evaluate their response Stage 2: Question 2: difficult (100 words) Group response – discuss (online) – agree – post response Model answer released for stage 2 Stage 3: Question 3: complex (300 word essay) Group response – discuss (online) – agree – post Model answer released for stage 3 Psychology re-design

18 Psychology Task 1: Define and describe structural encoding, phonological encoding and semantic encoding. Provide an example of each construct. (50 words, individual) Task 2: Describe the serial position effect and its two separate components. Discuss the specific structural components of memory that are responsible. (100 word, group response) Task 3: Summarise the ‘stage theory’ of memory. To what extent does it provide an adequate theory of memory? (300 word, group response)

19 Psychology re-design: key features Writing tasks related to current lecture delivery (on human memory). 78 volunteers – induction task Question of increasing difficulty and length of answer (50 words, 100 words and 300 words) Moving from individual to group responses. ‘Scaffolding’ through peer discussion Cognitive growth thro conflict resolution Comparing work against model answers Use of assignment/ discussion tools in (WebCT)

20 Planned developments Replace half the lectures with discussion tasks Tasks will become progressively more demanding within and across topics as the year progresses. Participation will be compulsory and monitored Model answers selected from students reponses Once a final group response has been agreed each student will submit a copy to VLE (WebCT) Purpose is to check on participation rates and ensure that all students have at least ‘had sight’ of the group response. Source: Jim Baxter, Psychology, Strathclyde University

21 The seven feedback principles Standard format and model answers provide progressive clarification of expectations (clear goals, principle 1) Students encouraged to self-assess against model answer (self-assessment, principle 2) Online peer discussion aimed at reaching consensus about response (dialogue, principle 4) Staged complexity and focus on learning rather marks (motivation, principle 5) Repeated cycle of topics and tasks (closing gap, principle 6) Tutors can monitor progress and adapt (shaping teaching, principle 7)

22 Gibbs & Simpson’s four assessment conditions The individual and group responses require regular study out of class (assessments capture sufficient study time, condition 1) Tasks are distributed across topics and weeks (are spread out evenly, condition 2) The staged questions require progressively deeper levels of understanding (productive/ deep learning, condition 3) There are explicit goals and a progressive increase in challenge (communicates clear and high expectations, condition 4)

23 What can we learn from this case study? Use of a simple technology (discussion board) Considerable thought gone into the pedagogical design [which is transferable]. Supported by robust assessment/learning principles Coordinated approach within the department Evaluation showed a lot of supportive socialisation during induction task Intention to compare year on year examination performance.

24 Bigger Picture In the early years there is a need to balance opportunities for self-regulation within organised academic structures and activities. Transformation requires whole course redesign Design for and evaluation of pedagogical effectiveness. Transformational change = institutional strategic level - economic models for first year teaching, (full economic), cost to change, management of change and its evaluation (benchmarking e-learning).

25 Questions and discussion

26 The context of use of online MCQ tests P1. Students construct MCQs (creating criteria) P2. Open book scenario with MCQs or confidence ratings in MCQs (self-correction/ reflection) P3. Results of tests discussed in tutorials (enhanced teacher feedback) P4. Unique MCQs per student with sharing (peer dialogue) P5.Repeated opportunities to take MCQ tests leading to final summative test (motivating) P6. Students repeating MCQs (closing loop) P7. MCQs before lecture (just in time teaching)

27 Other relevant papers Nicol, D (accepted for publication), Laying the foundation for lifelong learning: cases studies of technology supported assessment processes in large first year classes, British Journal of Educational Technology. Nicol, D. & Milligan, C. (2006), Rethinking technology-supported assessment in relation to the seven principles of good feedback practice. In C. Bryan and K. Clegg, Innovations in Assessment, Routledge.


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