Playing to their strengths: improving student engagement and learning outcomes through flexible assessment
Edwards, A and Botwright Acuna, T, Playing to their strengths: improving student engagement and learning outcomes through flexible assessment, Teaching Matters Conoference: Sharing Practice, 22-23 November 2011, University of Tasmania, Hobart (2011) [Conference Extract]
Playing to their strengths: improving student engagement and learning outcomes through flexible assessment. The University of Tasmania is currently undergoing a shift to a stronger emphasis on student-centred learning, coupled with broad-scale changes to assessment practices (e.g. Criterion-Referenced Assessment as best practice (UTAS Guidelines for Good Assessment Practice, 2007). We seek to continue the momentum for innovation that these changes have created, and explore the benefits of flexible assessment formats. Flexible assessment can be interpreted as students choosing: which tasks to complete (Cook 2001), when to complete them, variable weightings for each task (Wood and Smith 1999), or even crafting their own assessment criteria (Caitlin et al 1999). This project will investigate whether students being able to play to their strengths by choosing from flexible assessment opportunities results in improved learning outcomes for university undergraduates in Science. We will use SETLS, paper surveys, cafe-style discussions, and work sample analysis to examine first the perceptions, the assessment choices and the reflections of students at 1st to 3rd yr level participating in two different degree programs: the highly proscribed Bachelor of Ag. Sci. and the less restrictive BSc. During 2012, flexible assessment strategies perceived by 2nd year students in Sem. 1 as having positive influences on engagement and motivation will be implemented and evaluated in Sem. 2. We believe these new strategies will be sustainable across the UTAS community because they will not involve extra work for staff, but rather a different and more student-centred way of achieving better outcomes for students. Please register your interest in receiving project results or participating in project-related workshops on flexible assessment strategies at the Teaching Matters meeting.