Are you an inspirational assessor?

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The Share and Inspire series of professional development sessions this week featured Professor Chris Rust from Oxford Brookes University.

Chris began his session by drawing close links between good assessment and its relationship to skills required for workplaces of the future. When developed effectively, assessments ought to strengthen capacity for self critical awareness and a heightened awareness of self-efficacy. Of course these skills should become an explicit focus for teaching, learning and assessment. Meaning that they should feature in learning outcomes associated with specific course content.

If this is the outcome, then the process of realisation is, Rust argues, very firmly based in awareness raising through self and peer student engagement as exemplified in the ASKe Project. Within the project students worked collaboratively to assess assessment papers, they subsequently used the assessment benchmarks to argue why they had assigned particular grades. Three weeks later the students submit their own coursework assignments along with a self assessment sheet. The project noted marked improvements on student assessment achievements.

The formative discussions related to the assessment criteria, might also be applied to an informed peer assessment process, thereby further strengthening knowledge and application of sound assessment practices. For example, there is now scope to use Blackboard to facilitate peer assessment commentary, annotation and feedback. 

Drawing on the work of Hattie and his Visible Learning Project  Rust argues that good quality feedback, used effectively, is one of the most powerful indicators of future student success  However, rather than merely aiming to get the feedback processed more quickly, as many universities tend to do,  it is  the wider consistency of quality feedback and its application which makes the real difference to student learning. 

This quintessential feature of good quality and effective assessment makes it necessary for academic staff to clearly articulate what the aims of the feedback should be in differing contexts. This requires time and expertise in honing how the shared expectations are developed and acted upon through targeted student-to-student and student-to-teacher dialogues. It requires the development of experience and expertise in communities of assessment practice.

Feedback becomes useful especially when there are:

  • Clearly shared student MOTIVES for improvement within assessment to feed forward within modules and courses;
  • OPPORTUNITIES provided for dialogic engagement with peers and teachers
  • MEANS to improve that are clearly identified within the feedback and the time to make suggested improvements  (for example, the explicit mentioning of resources need to improve the learning, which might be a rereading of a particular course chapter or journal article).

In summary then, assessment becomes effective and meaningful when there is ample targeted scope to strengthen the self and peer assessment capacities of students. This is a professional and transferable skill so it ought to be embedded as an explicit learning outcome within course and module documentation. Finally, as the quality of assessment is ultimately a socially defined professional practice dependent upon informed dialogic and intellectually challenging conversations – the learning conversations about assessment need to be ongoing.

So what might this learning mean for you and your practice? Comments welcome below

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2 thoughts on “Are you an inspirational assessor?

  1. Thanks Sean, I also found the session really good. I have long been a believer in self and peer assessment and the session really clarified why it can be as robust as tutor assessment and more importantly is a continuation of the learning process and has a significant impact on outcomes. The self and peer assessment tool in Blackboard is very well suited for this- I will try and do a separate post.

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    • Thanks Moira it would be great to get some samples of work that students have done using the Blackboard tool and illustrations as to how this can be achieved – perhaps we could include this as a lunchtime professional development session within the IoE?

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