Inclusive Assessment and Feedback… World Cafe Style at the CCU

Participants discuss inclusive assessment at the Creative Communities Unit

The Creative Communities Unit consult with current and past students to ensure assessment and feedback are inclusive.

Participants discuss inclusive assessment at the Creative Communities Unit

This morning the Creative Communities Unit held a workshop to help us to understand how our assessment and feedback to students can be more inclusive. Jackie Reynolds has spent since last autumn researching current and past students’ thoughts about the assessment used by the Creative Communities Unit for both short courses and Masters programmes. This morning was an opportunity to discuss the findings so far and to gather further views on the topic.

The event was in a World Cafe style, with lots of food, drink and discussion. Participants were encouraged to move around, discuss and draw or write on the (paper) table clothes to capture ideas and thoughts. Some interesting points came out of the discussion, from how assessment could be more suited to learning styles and to the practical nature of many of the courses, to how some students would prefer more choice of assessment type.

The results of Jackie’s research and the workshop are being compiled and the findings will be included on this blog at a later date. But the morning has got me thinking about how our experiences and traditional perceptions of education can restrict our thinking about assessment and which assessment is best suited to the skills, knowledge and attitudes we are aiming to foster. For example, in community practice or youth work, an important skill is to be able to build positive relationships with people. An essay will test a students ability to discuss the importance of this, analyse a range of author’s views on relationship building and reflect on the skills needed to do this effectively, all of which are important. However, does an essay actually test the ability to build a relationship with a young person or community group? It is feasible that a person could write an excellent essay about relationship building, but not be able to interact with others verbally. Equally, they could be the warmest, most supportive and dynamic person with effective working relationships with a whole range of individuals and groups in the community, but be unable to write an essay. One particular comment struck me. Put simply it said, ‘why do we need to write a set number of words in an essay if the learning outcomes have been met in half the number? Aren’t fewer words better than too many?’ Quite a challenging concept for me as a member of staff with a background in universities where the traditional form of assessment has been an essay at X number of words, give or take 10%.

On the other side of the coin there is the more traditional view of University. How valued would a course be that ‘allowed’ graduates to leave a masters course without ever writing an essay? Would such a course be valued by employers or other higher education institutions? How ready is the world for a new approach to assessment in education, one which fits with its students, not assuming a student should mold themselves to it? Or maybe there is a ‘halfway house’, somewhere we can meet in the middle.

With a new world of technology continually evolving, the number of methods we could use for assessment is increasing. And from this morning’s feedback, at first glance the most preferred methods of assessment include presentations, personal research projects and web based assessments. I am looking forward to hearing the conclusions from Jackie’s research. I think it will challenge us as members of staff, as a Unit and as a University. But I welcome that challenge. I wonder how many prospective students we have lost as a result of the thought of writing a 3000 word essay being too much to bear.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Nic Gratton

Creative Communities Unit