Assessing Participation

Another fascinating post from Adrian Miles about his approach to assessment:

I routinely (these days) require all my students to assess their participation. Everyone contributes ideas about what things they think they will have to do to learn through the semester, and I collate these, tidy them up, and this forms the basis of an assessment diary that they complete each week. At the end of semester they use the same form to determine their participation across the semester, and to award themselves their final mark.

The list of things is pretty constant, with interesting variations. For example my third year students in an applied research subject just completed included “getting grubby” as one of their activities, by which they meant they should get their hands dirty in thinking, making, that they should get out of their academic comfort zone.

I have tried in limited ways with some classes to talk about approaches to learning and get students to identify goals for themselves, the class and myself as tutor. But Miles’ approach provides a great, integrated model, particularly the focus on evaluating participation, which as he notes is often merely equated with attendance by both students and teachers.

One of the things that I am finding as I learn to teach in more cohesive and developed ways is that the more I foreground the process of learning and create a conversation about both content areas and learning processes, the more focused responses I get from students.

I was really pleased the other day when one of my students spontaneously wrote a 1000 word addendum to his debate contribution because he felt he had been unable to fully work through his ideas previously. He then noted: “I am really pleased with the quality of work that the assessment process in this course is getting out of me.”

I think this had something to do with his sense of ownership over his work because it had been through several processes: small group development, personal development, tutorial group presentation, debate interaction, group discussion/critique, tutor response. This became a rolling, self-motivating process that drove him to desire some sort of learning conclusion rather than just the conclusion of handing in the assignment. He became more interested in communicating his ideas fully than he did in his final mark.

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