The widespread implementation of remote learning has disrupted well established approaches to assessment at ANU. In Semester One both students and educators needed to adapt quickly to such a drastic change with little time for reflection. With Semester Two coming to a close, educators at ANU were in a position to reflect on the nature and implications of those adaptations. What has changed about assessment since February and what has remained the same? Has this unseating of settled patterns led to positive outcomes in the way we give feedback, test student knowledge, and design courses?
The third session of ANU Lunch Vox: Campus Conversations about Teaching and Learning series explored these questions through the topic “Testing Times: Exploring Assessment”.
Associate Professor Roald Maliangkaij chaired a productive panel discussion featuring ANU academics Professor David Stern from the College of Asia and the Pacific, Associate Professor Krisztina Valter from the College of Health and Medicine, Dr Patrick L’Espoir Decosta from the College of Business and Economics, and Associate Professor Catherine Frieman from the College of Arts and Social Sciences.
Roald opened the day’s discussion by pointing out that, according to the SWiRL survey conducted by ANU, assessment is a critical factor in how students rate the quality of their learning experiences. Getting assessment right is a good indicator of successful adaptation to a remote learning context. At the same time, sound assessment gives both students and the broader community confidence in the quality of education offered by the University.
David’s account of his adjustments to teaching in Semester One provided some key lessons for assessment redesign. When the shift to remote learning required an adjustment to his mid-term assessment, he sought feedback form his students on the format of the redesign. By involving them in the process he not only encouraged them to feel invested in the change but was also able to develop a new mode of assessment that will likely replace the previous format in the future.
Krisztina also discovered that some of the adjustments she made to assessment were unexpectedly beneficial to students. In her undergraduate course in human anatomy she brought in case studies earlier to ground students’ study in practice and made several weighting adjustments to manage student stress. She reported positively on the quality of the work that came from these changes which will now become a permanent adjustment to her course and assessment design.
Patrick’s teaching experience gave him the opportunity to compare the results of the same approach with different cohorts. He emphasised the importance of constantly returning to the learning outcomes and considering the nature of different student groups in the process of designing effective assessments. Like David and Krisztina, he emphasised the need for building student skills towards the chosen assessment type, especially in cases like oral examinations where the type of assessment may not be something they are used to.
Cate concurred with these needs in her account of an assessment type built on unfamiliarity. Starting with the question of ‘What do we want students to be doing?’, her courses in archaeology are built around a system of practical ‘skills passports’ and an assessment type called the ‘Unessay’. An Unessay provides a flexible and practical form of assessment that gives students space to develop contextual and discipline specific skills while engaging with academic literature and making a considered argument.
Audience questions continued the unexpected theme of the conversation, which was that some of the changes made in response to the shift to remote learning were not only positive but will form an integral part of the design of courses in the future. The panel agreed on the importance of ongoing collaboration and exchange with colleagues to share and develop new responses to the challenges of testing times.
If you want to be part of this debate, post your views and respond to ideas in this Padlet. Please feel free to respond to the questions and comments, whether you attended the panel or are exploring it for the first time now.
See upcoming ANU Lunch Vox Session here and catch up in previous session below:
- Lunch Vox #6: In Your Students Shoes: Remote Student Experience
- Lunch Vox #5: Productive Partnerships: Collaboration in Education
- Lunch Vox #4: Promoting Academics: Where does teaching Fit?
- Lunch Vox #3: Testing Times: Exploring Assessment
- Lunch Vox #2: Remote or Isolated: The Student Experience
- Lunch Vox #1: Radical Shifts: Teaching in a time of transition
William Scates Frances is an Education Designer in the Education Design (ED) team – one of three teams within the ANU Centre for Learning and Teaching