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The place of 'surprising results' in research into an assessment design: using portfolios for evidence of individual contribution to group work


Ellis, L and Roehrer, E and Kelder, J-A, The place of 'surprising results' in research into an assessment design: using portfolios for evidence of individual contribution to group work, Proceedings of the International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies (Edulearn 2013), 1-3 July 2013, Barcelona, Spain, pp. 6286- 6291. ISBN 978-84-616-3822-2 (2013) [Refereed Conference Paper]

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This paper reports on the most recent stage of an on going investigation into the ePortfolio learning technology as a tool in assessment design, specifically group work tasks. The research has investigated ePortfolio as a tool to provide students’ with an enhanced learning experience, scaffold individual learning outcomes and ensure transparent and fair allocation of grades to students. ePortfolio technology is an important pedagogical tool in teaching practice, supporting students’ critical self reflection and ability to demonstrate individual learning outcomes.

Analysis of feedback from a 2011 cohort of students indicated students had negative opinions on the inclusion of the ePortfolio (separate software to the Learning Management System) into an undergraduate unit. In 2012, the research project investigated whether student perceptions of ePortfolio software that is embedded within UTAS’s new LMS would be positive in comparison to the 2011 cohort’s experiences of group assessment tasks incorporating ePortfolio software that was separate to and accessed outside LMS. The hypothesis was that the use of an ePortfolio tool, embedded in the familiar LMS system, would reduce students’ cognitive load and result in students perceiving the benefits of increased transparency in individual contributions to group work, even in the case where ePortfolio is a small component of the assessable task.

The research was conducted for students studying the same unit where the issues were identified. However this particular unit was taught in 2012 to offshore students located in Shanghai. The unit was delivered in a modified version to cater for the offshore delivery however in essence it was the same unit, with the same lecturer and the same assessment design. Surprisingly the issues identified previously were not present in the off shore unit.

This caused the researchers to reflect on a key difference between Australian students and those students studying in China. Chinese education is grounded in the teachings of Confucius while Western education is grounded in the teachings of Socrates. In addition Hofstede’s Power Distance dimension identifies that Chinese students are inclined to a collectivism while Western students are more aligned to individualism.

The tentative explanation for the outcome is ‘cultural difference’. Chinese belong to a group culture therefore the premise of the assessment design – that students would value individual marks with transparency and fairness was not true. The initial prompt for our research was (largely western educated) students complaining about inherent unfairness in group marks for group work when individuals contributed differently. In applying the solution to students with a different perspective we discovered that Chinese students off shore demanded to be treated equally within a group regardless of individual contribution. The paper concludes with an overview of the research as it has developed over three years and highlights the benefits of a critically reflective approach to interpreting data that interrogates assumptions when faced with ‘surprising’ results.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Conference Paper
Keywords:ePortfolio, Group Work, Cross Culture, Desire2Learn
Research Division:Information and Computing Sciences
Research Group:Library and information studies
Research Field:Organisation of information and knowledge resources
Objective Division:Information and Communication Services
Objective Group:Information services
Objective Field:Information services not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Ellis, L (Associate Professor Leonie Ellis)
UTAS Author:Roehrer, E (Dr Erin Roehrer)
UTAS Author:Kelder, J-A (Dr Jo-Anne Kelder)
ID Code:85787
Year Published:2013
Deposited By:Information and Communication Technology
Deposited On:2013-08-07
Last Modified:2018-03-28
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