Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Learning orientated assessment

Mike KeppellProfessor Mike Keppell, Director of the Flexible Learning Institute at Charles Sturt University is in Canberra to deliver some workshops on learning at ANU. This morning it is "Transforming Higher Education through Learning-Orientated Assessment" in the afternoon there is "Blended Learning: The Future of Higher Education".

In the assessment workshop Mike's emphasis was that assessment could be used as part of the learning (formative assessment) , not just at the end to evaluate the student (summative assessment). He also argued for starting with the assessment and making sure it fitted in with what was in the course. In retrospect these ideas look obvious, but when in the details of designing a course when under pressure, there can be a tendency to just tack the assessment on the end.

Some of the terminology sued I found a bit jarring. As an example Mike used "feed-forward" to indicate that assessment should provide the student with useful feedback to help them later in the course, not just for a final mark. But technically speaking the term "feedback" indicates that "feed-forward feedback" is a tautology.

One issue relevant to ANU not discussed so far is the role of research. The ANU is a research university and has emphasised research in learning. This is very different to CSU and other teaching orientated universities. The other issue is undergraduate versus postgraduate education. This is not so much about the formal education the students have but their assumed maturity.

The workshop was very useful for me to come to terms with some of the educational theory which I had found frustrating. One example is the use of a "Rubric" (subjective marking tool). I find these tools wordy and vague.

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