Teaching, assessment of learning, technology and other entanglements

How could the assessment methods evolve? Self- and peer-assessment was mentioned as a potential area of development. Also, a more profound, complex understanding of learning could result in development of more meaningful assessment practices. As Woodhouse & Wood (2020) argue in their paper on developing doctoral students’ critical writing skills, peer assessment opened up a dialogic space for sustained engagement and learning. The students were involved in peer assessment and review activities or writing, editing and publishing a student-led journal over a sustained period. During that time, their ability to write critically developed, while the sense of feeling ‘at home ‘with academia was enhanced.

We, therefore, take such insights from the literature and our own experiences as a challenge for the OLIVE community and continue the pedagogical conversations that complement our understanding and help to generate change in our institutions.  

Food for thought:  

The following are terms from the literature on assessment. How are these different types of assessment and their effects visible in your current practice? What new would you like to bring in?  

Assessment types  

Diagnostic: when planning a course and we need to get a clearer picture of the students’ previous knowledge of the topics/phenomena etc. taught during the course 

Formative: takes place throughout the teaching of a course, the implementation of a project etc.  

Summative: takes place at the end of a course 

Objective: usually closed item, in the form of multiple-choice questions etc.  

Authentic: uses methods and techniques that are close to real-life situations, e.g., a debate, a group discussion, an experiment etc. 

Norm-referenced: how the performance of an individual compares to performance of a group of peers (e.g., a class of students within a school, across a nation etc.)  

Criterion-referenced: compares a person’s knowledge or skills against a predetermined standard, learning goal, performance level, or other criterion. With criterion-referenced tests, each person’s performance is compared directly to the standard, without considering how other students perform on the test. 

Performance-based: Students can create, perform, and/or provide a critical response. Examples include dance, recital, dramatic enactment. There may be prose or poetry interpretation. 

Backwash effect: Backwash effect is usually defined as the impact of assessment on learning and teaching. Backwash effect is positive if the assessment results in favourable changes in learning and teaching strategies; and it is negative if the changes are undesired and discourage students from adopting a deep approach to learning. Harmful backwash takes place when the contents and format of the test are not congruent to the objectives of the course or when certain skills are tested with, for example, a multiple-choice item format that results in the idea of giving a lot of practice in this type of test instead of practicing the skill itself. 

Wash-forward effect: how assessment influences the students’ future learning. F. ex., providing students with personalised feedback, directly linked to their performance, has positive washforward, because it means we can guide their future learning, highlighting the areas they need to work on to improve their language skills and giving them suggestions on how to succeed in academia. 

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