Assessment reform with FlexAP and the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences (MSPS)

Activity stream E of the Flexible Academic Programming (FlexAP) project funds assessment reform. Such reform rewards the increased adoption of peer-based and student-centred assessment, involving formative, developmental and continuous approaches that leverage off the affordances of the new LMS, Canvas, and incorporate digital innovations and educational technologies.

One current Stream E FlexAP project is a collaboration between Learning Environments and a team from Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences (MSPS) to develop a formative, feedback-rich and interactive lab report-writing and essay-writing technology that will be embedded in a Canvas page. The technology will allow students to assess two exemplar lab reports/essays (one good and one not so good) against rigorous marking criteria. As each criterion is marked and submitted, students receive immediate feedback on the accuracy of their marking against that of an expert team of assessors. This feedback includes a mark (and the overall percentage value of that criterion) as well as a brief rationale for the expert decision.

The student assessment data can be exported by the student as a PDF, so that the independent marking activity (and any complementary LMS activities) can form the foundation of subsequent classroom-based and active learning tasks. The data and analytics also allow subject teaching staff to identify any overall trends in the student assessment efforts and adapt their teaching accordingly or provide more generalised classroom feedback.

In this case, the assessment activity is a hurdle requirement that is designed to scaffold students' skills towards a final assessment task - the writing and self-assessment of either a lab report or an essay. The assessment activity will be used across the three undergraduate levels, with the marking criteria sheet remaining the same but showing different degrees of complexity and emphasis according to the year level. Finally, it is hoped that the tool and activity could also be used for tutor-training across the MSPS Psychology major since the activity mimics what tutors are required to do when assessing student work.

The overall aim of this project is to develop students' skills in assessing their own work and identifying where it may need improvement. This will allow the students to better target their study towards these areas and take charge of their own learning. In this way, we hope to move closer to what Boud (2000) described as 'sustainable assessment', in which students are prepared for a world beyond university study (e.g. professional employment) by developing over time and through deliberate tasks the capabilities to recognise learning needs and opportunities.

If you would like to discuss assessment reform for your subject, or learn more about this self-assessment activity, please submit a request for support from Learning Environments - we would love to hear from you!

References

Boud, D. (2000). Sustainable Assessment: Rethinking assessment for the learning society. Studies in Continuing Education, 22(2), 151-167.