Learning occurs when students are active and invested
Students should have tasks in which they are active players in determining some key features. Being active involves an emotional and a cognitive engagement. The challenge for teaching and for the designing of tasks is to create situations that capture the interest and enthusiasm of students.
Learning from assessment is always influenced by what the student brings to it
There is no such thing as a foolproof assessment strategy that will produce particular results. Assessment is inherently relational. It depends on the attitudes learners bring to it and how the student perceives both the assessment and the course.
The timing of assessment is as important as the task itself
When the assessment task is best undertaken, and the optimum time for students to receive comments on it, is an important decision. Too soon and students will not have had enough time to prepare, too late and students can’t make direct use of the feedback.
The key issue is exactly when do they need their work returned to make best use of comments. To contribute to longer term learning, students need comments when there is a realistic prospect of them doing something with them.
Spread assessment across a module
Assessment often occurs at the end of a module or semester. While this is appropriate for certifying final achievement, it is inadequate to support learning. Spreading assessment across a semester signals to students that engagement throughout the module is needed for successful completion and that study is not just about intensive work at the very end.
Overloading students can inhibit learning
Authentic activities can be motivating, but students can take a 'surface' approach to the subject if the activities involve a significant increase in complexity and demands This can also occur with the introduction of new and unfamilar forms of assessment. Students need to be introduced to complex and different forms of assessment gently.
Students often adopt a surface or strategic approach to their learning when under pressure. While more time on task is a major contributor to learning, it can shift to overload. This should be carefully considered. It can occur inadvertently when there is little co-ordination between units students are enrolled in.
Realistic assessment tasks involve cues and clues from the context
Set assessments in contexts which provide cues and clues about quality and consequences. A skill students need to develop is to look to the context and positioning of a task to determine what will be involved in completing it well.
For example, considerations such as:
- who is the audience for the outcome (a realistic task always requires one)?
- what would they expect of it?
- are there examples of good work that might be examined for clues to what is appropriate?
- who might be consulted and what questions might be asked of them about the task?
Build student capacity over time
Being competent judges of their own work and that of others is not an outcome that can be achieved easily or is ever complete. It is important that students are helped to build this capacity progressively by guiding them through simpler tasks to more demanding ones.