Have you read part one: Three New Ways to Engage Students in the Classroom?

There’s a new season in the air, and we’re not simply talking about the autumn.

As the new academic year begins in earnest, it’s not just teaching methods which are transforming, but also assessment. After all, with students demanding ever more from their education – and preaching to the masses at the front of a lecture theatre proving an outdated form of pedagogy – the options for assessing objectives and outcomes are also changing. No longer do end-of-year exams cut it.

Assessment is important within any arena of learning as it not only provides a measure of a student’s progress, but also acts as a means to engage the student with their own learning. The most successful form of assessment therefore includes the development of disciplinary skills that align with the overall aims of the course or programme (critical evaluation and problem solving, for example) whilst also enhancing vocational competencies (such as communication or team work). Students no longer want to be prepared to simply pass an exam: they need to be equipped with the skills that will help them succeed as employees or entrepreneurs.

“Nothing we do to, or for, our students is more important than our assessment of their work and the feedback we give them on it. The results of our assessment influence students for the rest of their lives and careers – fine if we get it right, but unthinkable if we get it wrong.” – Phil Race

Mixing up assessment methods can result in a more engaged and stimulated student population – and in turn prevent teaching staff from feeling stale or stifled too. Using a range of assessment methods gives students more scope to demonstrate their knowledge and skills across a range of contexts, leading to a more inclusive learning experience and the opportunity for all to excel (rather than favouring those who, for one reason or another, are able to ‘work the system’ when it comes to essays and exams). An additional perk is that it can also ease the strain on a university’s resources, meeting very similar (if not more challenging) learning outcomes whilst simultaneously reducing the burden on staff and facilities. In the words of Phil Race, Senior Academic Staff Development Officer at the University of Leeds, “We need to measure less, but measure it better”.

With this in mind, here are three ways of adding variety to your assessment methods in order to boost innovation but still meet your intended learning outcomes:

Peer and self-assessment

Peer assessment and self-assessment promote a more active style of learning, encouraging students to see education as a participatory activity rather than simply a passive process. By encouraging them to engage closely with assessment criteria and reflect on their own performance –as well as that of their peers – students start to identify their strengths and weaknesses, learn from their previous mistakes, and target their studies accordingly. By being responsible for their own learning objectives, students come to understand assessment itself as a means of education and development – rather than simply a regurgitation exercise – and resultantly foster a deeper engagement with, and better understanding of, your expectations and their own performance.

Technology-Enhanced Assessment (TEA)

The use of technology is becoming increasingly widespread in the classroom; yet, when it comes to evaluation, there is still some disconnect between the methods of teaching and the way students are assessed. Indeed, whilst many students experience blended learning throughout their course, they are only ever appraised by paper-based exams – a traditional, arguably outdated, potentially very disparate (and possibly unfair) means of assessment.

Introducing ‘Technology-Enhanced Assessment’ (TEA) to your module or course can therefore provide a way of aligning learning outcomes and assessment methods whilst simultaneously increasing diversity, efficacy, and clarity of evaluation criteria. Online assessment methods such as multiple choice questions offer a number of benefits that can enhance learning: they can be accessed at a greater range of locations – thus allowing the student to test themselves in an environment in which they feel most comfortable; they enable immediate feedback to be delivered – enabling students to understand and correct errors at a time when they are most receptive; and they reduce the workload of administrators and academics – meaning the time previously given over to marking can be used more productively in helping support and teach students.

Experiential assessment

‘Good’ assessment benefits both students and staff, and one method which particularly motivates and enthuses is experiential assessment – in other words, learning by doing. Experiential (or active) learning and assessment requires students to undertake ‘real-world’ tasks in order to demonstrate knowledge, understanding, and application of skills. If you lecture on business and entrepreneurship, for example, rather than tasking your students with writing a traditional business plan, an experiential assessment might instead see them engaged in role play or a full-blown business simulation. A platform like our Sandpit allows students to design and test their business ideas and pitching skills in a safe, simulated environment – giving you, and them, the opportunity to assess the validity and viability of their invention by evaluating market size, opportunity, financial forecasts, and potential investment.

If you’d like to learn how you can work with Sandpit to improve your teaching and assessment methods, please get in touch today. We’d be delighted to discuss our innovative options with you.