Assessment: sitting at the feet of students

A good trip this week to Carlisle for Assessment in Higher Education Conference 2011  (I was “helping” with a presentation). I enjoyed all the presentations and identified the buzz phrases as:  “exemplars”, “feed-forward” and “assessment for learning”.

One of the parallel sesions was presented by a canny bunch of students who spoke on feedback – a project they ran at Sheffield Hallam University to encourage students to engage with and identify feedback.  The room was rammed, the chairs ran out and we had academics literally sitting at the feet of their students!

First off some feedback from one of their surveys.  Students hate peer assessment, academics love it.  Why the difference? It seems students value the judgement of academics more, they are bashful about evaluating the work of their peers, and they just don’t like it.  Contrasting with this I had a nice chat with Dr Maarten Tass, from Leicester Uni around his poster on “Critical Partnership Groups” as a way of developing writing skills at Masters Level.  Here some really nice stats showing that student’s levels of discomfort decreased and their writing skills increased as they engaged with assessment criteria and saw that they did have constructive things to say.   This developed over time requiring initial support and exemplars.

So… to the workplace: having spent a decade or so writing reports I realise that it’s normal to ask your peers to read your stuff!  This practice has at least two benefits – it hones your ability to communicate to an external audience and it also give you a chance to find out about the clevers ideas going on in their heads when you read their stuf.   Lets not stop doing these things because its not immediately pleasurable.

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One Response to Assessment: sitting at the feet of students

  1. runtezza says:

    Fascinating post. How do you hear about this sort of event? Assessment (as mentioned in that vodcast by David Boud we had earlier on H800) is something I spend loads of time and worry on and really don’t have much clue about!

    Also what’s the difference between an exemplar and an example? I wonder if student distaste for peer assessment has to do with paying university fees in the expectation the academics do this sort of thing?

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