How can we make assessment more flexible and meaningful?

I hate grading, and as a result don’t think enough about the potent and vital role of assessment in learning. I admit it’s a shortcoming.

On the train back to Barcelona from the IN3 offices yesterday, I had a provocative conversation with Juli√† Minguill√≥n about the problem of structuring assignment schedules in virtual courses. Essentially, how might it be possible to make assignment deadlines more flexible for distance students? If deadlines for ongoing assignments are simply extended deeper through to the end of the course, wouldn’t there be a natural tendency on the part of most students to hand in their assignments at the latest possible moment, to the detriment of their learning? My own experience as both student and teacher (as well as the virtual learner data that the UOC has analyzed) confirms this fear…

While we were talking, my mind went immediately to incentives for students to hand in their work earlier than is strictly necessary. Such as bonuses to students who get their work in first… But, are there any meaningful and justifiable reasons to turn admission submission into a race?

So what if we had students submit their work in a forum in which other students could see that work? Students submitting later would be able to build on that work, and perhaps improve on it – indeed, that would be an expectation… But if we expected students who submitted later rounds of assignments to read the work of their forerunners, and to incorporate it, and to cite it, we would see the work of the “original” work identified and rewarded (perhaps with a bonus of some kind), much as innovative work in an academic field is recognized by early publication and citation. This would provide an incentive to publish work ahead of others, yet would still allow those who publish later to do well. Those relative latecomers would, however, be expected to account for, synthesize, criticize and augment the work of those who had published before them.

Is this idea too facile? Is anyone using this model already? This strikes me as an approach to submitting work and grading that might: a) provide for a more ‘open’ model of assignment submission and online publication, and b) more accurately model a real-world economy of sharing ideas via publishing.

I don’t suggest this approach would work in every instance. And as I mentioned at the top of this post, I don’t think near enough about assessment, so surely I’m missing something here…

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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13 Responses to How can we make assessment more flexible and meaningful?

  1. Pingback: It seems I’m always too slow when it comes to grading

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