Playing to their strengths: empowering students with flexible assessment
Edwards, A, Playing to their strengths: empowering students with flexible assessment, International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 28, (4) pp. 16-27. ISSN 2200-4270 (2020) [Refereed Article]
Assessment strategies play a major role in enhancing motivation and engagement. In this study, I offered second year biology students the opportunity to take increased control over their semester-based assessment by voluntarily adjusting the weightings of individual assessment items. Students self-reported on their levels of engagement and motivation in the unit. Most respondents (96%) agreed it was appropriate that students were able to adjust task weightings. Students reported feeling ownership and responsibility for their learning as positive factors increasing their desire to direct effort into learning opportunities and assessment tasks. Others reported that increased autonomy reduced the stress and anxiety associated with assessment. 47% of students who returned the survey elected to adjust their assessment. The rest did not want the responsibility of making the ‘wrong’ decision, raising the question of the timing of such initiatives: at what stage in their learning journey are students ready to take on that level of responsibility for their own learning? Self-reported reductions in levels of stress and anxiety associated with assessment by student participants suggest that flexible assessment opportunities could be valuable tools in enhancing the effectiveness of engagement strategies in tertiary learning environments, particularly as the nature of those learning environments continues to change.