Giving students more control over the assessment process is a great way to personalise the learning experience for each student. Subject enrolments often include students from a wide range of disciplines, and differentiated assessment tasks can be developed to cater for this diversity. Questions can be aligned with different discipline areas that ask students to draw on those unique aspects of their experience. Students could also have choice around the type of artefact they may produce, allowing them an opportunity to express and communicate in different forms. Providing students the opportunity to produce assessment items which relate to their chosen field is motivational as well as practical. As described by Bosco and Ferns, such assessment practices nurture graduate employment capabilities (2014, p. 289). Students come away from their studies with artefacts and experience relevant to the workplace.
Providing differentiated assessment opportunities can better reveal how well students are learning specific topics and help change instruction to emphasise students’ abilities to adapt and learn (Schwartz & Arena, 2013). Designing assessments that provide opportunities for choice motivates students to learn the material in a more meaningful way.
The student cohort for online learning courses at CSU is quite diverse in terms of the age, location and experience, and this can be a significant asset to a group of learners. Providing students with a choice between multiple questions, pathways and artefacts allows that diversity to be drawn out and engage their creativity. Allowing students to apply their own discipline knowledge and draw on their own experiences in their assessment makes the task easier to relate to and more authentic.
ETL523 Digital Citizenship in Schools
This subject is in the postgraduate degree Master of Education in Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation (School of Information Studies). The focus of Assignment 1: Digital citizenship Learning Module was to work in a small team and create an authentic online learning module, demonstrating a range of digital and media affordances of the web environment as well as understanding of the needs of schools and institutions at the time. Assignment 2 asked students to be able to articulate and reflect on the role of an information leader, examine their school or institution, provide an overview of the issues and write a report or develop an information policy or set of guidelines that support digital citizenship and digital learning in schools.
For Assignment 1, each diverse team (3-5 students) choose a suitable topic and subtopics and the learning module was collaboratively created using a wiki (Wikispaces). Each student will then choose a multimedia tool or tools and created a personal digital artefact to complement the learning module material.
The Assignment 2 report was typically distributed to leadership within the school/institution and once again propelled this task into a professional realm. In effect it often prevented students from being too critical of what they saw (and were experiencing), encouraging facts and then synthesised discussion and some solutions via a proposed plan of improvement.
You can find out more about this subject in this Case Study.
HRM310 Developing Human Resources
This strategy was deployed to ensure students are motivated by working within an authentic, relevant context. Students are asked to select a business and identify a group which they then develop a needs analysis report for. The needs analysis allows students to apply theories covered within the subject to a real-world setting. Often this setting is the student’s own workplace.
Implementing choice such as this is quite simple. The main consideration for a lecturer is to devise a situation or task for the student which allows them to demonstrate what they are learning while drawing on their own life experiences. In this instance students consider their own workplace as if they are human resource management professionals.
No additional resources to those found within Interact2 are required. With this example students submitted a report through EASTS. It would be fair to assume that other disciplines could follow this widely used approach.
Choice-based assessments are those in which students are given some element of choice, at some point during the entire assessment process, in how they meet defined learning objectives. Allowing choice in assessment and learning will have the impact of increasing student motivation to learn and enhancing the development of skills they may need in professional workplace settings. Digital technologies can make choice-based assessments much more convenient to design and organise.
There are a number of assessment formats to provide greater choice to students in their assessment tasks:
- A common question may be responded to with a specific focus on a student’s context and draw from their personal experience or discipline area.
- The form of the assessment may reflect the discipline of the student and the forms of communication common to that profession. So a ‘writing task’ may be presented as an essay, a report or news article depending on the student’s course of study.
- Students may wish a choice of medium for the assignment. Rather than write a traditional essay students could present their work as a presentation, multimedia artefact or video. This can broaden the student’s range of communication skills and promote a variety of digital literacies.
- Students produce a number of learning artefacts during a session and they are permitted to choose 1-3 of them to be assessed on, explaining why they have chosen these particular artefacts as representative of their learning.
- Assessment through student‐involved methods may be as simple as a project based task, negotiated through a learning contract aligned with learning outcomes for a topic or course.
- Although the use of open digital badges has yet to be validated by compelling evidence, the use of Interact2 Achievements may offer scope for personalisation of learning, especially where learning objectives have been matched with subject content broken into manageable chunks (Strunk & Willis, 2017).
Some of the tools that enable choice within assessment tasks include:
- MS Word, PowerPoint or online versions e.g., Google docs and presentations
- Wikispaces and other Web 2.0 tools such as VoiceThread, PowToons
- Smart Sparrow - Smart Sparrow is an adaptive learning technology that provides the tools to create, deploy, share and analyse lessons that are interactive and adaptive. Smart Sparrow can capture, measure and report nuanced details about student learning, providing individualised feedback to students that lets them know where their strengths and weaknesses lie. This means that teaching staff have the ability to give each student a more personalised learning experience by providing real-time feedback and adaptive pathways that, for example, may specifically target misconceptions. You can sign up for a free Smart Sparrow account and to commence the development process for a Smart Sparrow adaptive lesson, use the DSL Service Request System (SRS).
- Realizeit - A cloud-based platform providing adaptive content authoring to create interactive online tutorials and lessons that are responsive to a student’s achievement. Realizit uses real-time analytics to capture and report on analytics relating to accesses, attempts, activity, progress, duration and achievement. This enables you to see things like who has and hasn’t commenced specific lessons/tutorials, how students are progressing through those lessons, if/where students are “getting stuck” and how they are performing on tests/quizzes. To commence the development process for a Realizeit adaptive lesson, use the DSL Service Request System (SRS).
Bosco, A., & Ferns, S. (2014). Embedding authentic assessment in work-integrated learning curriculum. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education 15(4), 281-290. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1113553&site=ehost-live
Pacharn, P., Bay, D. & Felton, S. (2013). The impact of a flexible assessment system on students’ motivation, performance and attitude, Accounting Education, 22(2), 147-167. doi:10.1080/09639284.2013.765292
Schwartz, D.L., & Arena, D.A. (2013). Measuring what matters most: Choice-based assessments for the digital age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved from https://aaalab.stanford.edu/papers/Measuring_What_Matters_Most.pdf
Stefanou, C. R., Perencevich, K. C., DiCintio, M., & Turner, J. C. (2004). Supporting autonomy in the classroom: Ways teachers encourage student decision making and ownership. Educational Psychologist, 39(2), 97-110. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15326985ep3902_2
Strunk, V. & Willis, J. (2017, February 13). Digital badges and learning analytics provide differentiated assessment opportunities. Educause Review. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/2/digital-badges-and-learning-analytics-provide-differentiated-assessment-opportunities