Making learning authentic: ‘real-world’ assessments for Masters level study

Workshop presented by Jude Brereton, Lecturer (T&S) in Audio and Music Technology, Deparment of Electronics. 30 January 2017.

Jude presented in her workshop the assessment method developed for her Masters students which can be adapted and implemented with any students, from any discipline, as it can be tailor-made and used in most modules, thus ensuring its relevancy, authenticity and meaningfulness.

When Jude devised the new assessment, she reflected on the experience of her alumni to help future students build a portfolio – making them aware of how important it is to develop their employability skills -, that they would be able to show to prospective employers, something that in her own words, would ‘survive beyond the programme’. Jude developed the assessment for a brand new MSc in Audio Music Technology taking into account the module learning outcomes and programme level learning outcomes as well as other essential criteria needed to design the new 180-credit Masters course.

She wanted students to be highly motivated in their learning and while working on their assessments, being able to both see the benefits and enjoy the process, incorporating active learning and Problem Based Learning (PBL), widely used in the Department of Electronics. Assessment tasks had to be real, not ‘pretend’ real, but actually authentic, and challenging for Masters level students. It is important to note that although the term ‘authentic’ means real, also carries the connotation of meaningful, and what is meaningful for one person might not be the same for another and so on. Therefore, when designing ‘authentic’ assessment it must be diverse and inclusive – appealing to the broad spectrum of learners, their interests and personalities.

Recently, Jude was told by an international employer that a degree was not considered essential for his company, as long as a candidate could demonstrate the appropriate professional attitude, ability, innovative thinking and could do the things that they would be expected to do at the workplace – someone with the desirable transferable skills. The employer added that for them the most important requirement was to be able to programme. Furthermore, the ideal candidate would be someone with cross-discipline skills, who could appreciate the final product, being able to work and develop the different layers of the task/job: someone who could do and understand both software and hardware; who could do programming and was able to appreciate music – in Jude’s field – aesthetically; who could do Maths but also would know how to reflect and write about the job and the process; someone who knows all the technical words but at the same time is able to communicate and engage with the general public. As Jude has put it, the future is ‘hybrid’: in this day and age, mastering one thing is not good enough; her advice to students is to do as much as you can – variety and quality – and to make sure you can show it.

In the workshop Jude also showed how she uses Google Docs to share and follow group work and provide individual feedback to each group.

Zepke’s and Leach’s article titled Improving student engagement: Ten proposals for action (2010) clearly resonates behind Jude’s assessment model – follow the hyperlink to access it.

Click here to view Jude Brereton’s presentation

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L&T Session B2: Is there evidence for the filpped classroom in STEM teaching

Mike Dodds, Department of Computer Science

AbstractPresentation | Recording

The flipped classroom (or flipping) is a new educational technique which seeks to invert the traditional model of in-classroom lectures and out-of-class homework. Instead, it advocates in-class interactive group learning, and out-of-class instruction via videos or podcasts. Intuitively, this moves classroom time away from mere dissemination of information, and allows teachers to focus on solving student problems and eLT Event Talk 84.jpgnabling learning. This connects with the increasing evidence that problem-based learning is an effective teaching technique.

The intuition for flipping seems compelling, reflected in attention in the non-academic media. However, flipping is not trivial to apply. Applying it means restructuring the entire course to focus on group learning, while also recording supporting instructional material. Given the up-front costs, it is important to know whether flipping is truly effective before applying it in practice.

Mike presented the evidence that flipping is effective in improving student learning outcomes in STEM subjects, and also examined some of the pitfalls and opportunities flipping presents.

Within Computer Science, the example Mike referred to has been written up as a Case Study on Flipped Approaches where you can view the approach used by Dr Louis Rose with a third-year module.

For me there were two key discussion points: first on the time and workload of running a flipped learning course; second on how the structure of a flipped course can ensure student engagement. The two are intrinsically related.

Recording good video captures is something that will require practice, new technical skills and careful planning. As we discussed in the session, if you can break down the course content into short (5-10 minute) recordings, you are both thinking more carefully about the key learning points students should take away, and creating resources that are better adapted to students learning online. Short videos should not include tangential information, but deliver new knowledge in a succinct way. For each video, explicitly state what students should learn as a result. This enables students to judge for themselves whether they understood the new concepts. The risks of longer videos is that they try to convey too many points, and aside from that it can be difficult to watch a longer video without succumbing to other online distractions.

With shorter videos, clustered around specific topics, as an instructor you can include activities that relate to those videos requiring students to demonstrate their understanding through evaluation, collaboration and application. This can be in the form of a online quiz, or more aligned to the discipline practices, as shown in Computer Science where students had to take their understanding from video-lectures and apply to a programming task. There is a clear and designed-in link between the student work outside the face-to-face contact time and what they can achieve through activity and interaction in class.

If you are interested in the ideas presented by Mike Dodds, then please do watch the recordings from our recent ELDT Webinars and blog posts with further case studies and references on Flipped Learning Design and Flipped Learning Technical.

Matt Cornock (ELDT), Workshop Chair

L&T Session C5: Making a drama out of learning!

Sinead McCotter, Senior Lecturer HRM (Teaching and Scholarship), The York Management School

Abstract | Presentation | Recording

This workshop was a revelation and the highlight of the conference! Difficult and sensitive conversations are part of every organisation whether associated with HR, student support, career development or discussion of poor assessment/performance scores. Whilst websites provide factual support, this doesn’t come close to preparing the individual for the encounter in terms of the way in which he or she manages the interaction and becomes effective in the role. Role-play is widely used as an educational technique. It is however often viewed with anxiety by participants, in part because of the lack of clear structure and unpredictability of the encounter.

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The use here of a group of actors under the direction of the audience provides great insight into the dynamics of the interaction, allowing the students to pause, consider, discuss and rewind the encounter, developing a deep and complete appreciation of key challenges. This active learning process is hugely engaging and effective, allowing students to become immersed in the process from a position of safety, without worrying about how they are perceived.

Launched in 2009 Flying Cloud is a successful collective of international artists expert in transferring skills learnt on the professional stage into a commercial and educational context. Their performance was perfect. Overstated at times for effect, their awareness of the learning outcomes of the session and deep knowledge of content were reflected in the ways in which they effortlessly responded to audience requests to modify their behaviour in terms of, for example, body posture, organisation of space, and tone of voice. Note that this was only the briefest of insights into the first part of a far more extensive delivery which culminates in students working in role-playing pairs to put newly developed skills into practice.

This workshop builds a strong case for the inclusion of dramatic arts in HR management, but it also demonstrates the potential of this format to address many other facets of university life such as career development meetings, interview readiness, effective personal and project supervision, mental health first aid training, staff CPD activities associated with management of teams and negotiation of both HR and research goals. It’s clearly a labour intensive exercise in terms of preparing and facilitating the sessions, but the benefits are both clear and significant. Unfortunately for ethical reasons the video of the session cannot be released, but please consider how this might be applied to your practice.

Phil Lightfoot, Physics, University of York 

L&T Session C1: Making learning authentic: ‘real world’ assessments for masters level study

Jude Brereton,  Department of Electronics

AbstractPresentation | Recording

This workshop reported  on recent “real-world” assessment tasks incorporated into a new masters level programme in Audio and Music Technology.

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‘Real-world’ tasks are those which exist outside the ‘walls’ of the University campus e.g. they have their own life beyond the confines of the classroom and assessment submission.

Four different types of ‘real-world’ tasks were presented:

  • a research blog
  • a data-gathering exercise made available to the wider research community
  • a science communication event for school students
  • a self-promotion video

The student work and staff input for each of these assessments was described, alongside feedback from students who have successfully graduated from this programme. In particular student feedback on what they themselves thought they learnt from each activity and whether the activities had a life beyond graduation. The benefits of using authentic assessments in widening participation and embedding employability into programmes was evaluated.

Workshop participants were invited to explore the use of ‘real-world’ assessments in their own programmes.

Jude’s session allowed participants to consider the link between the discipline and the application of it beyond the course and institution. Within the session we explored a design process that first considers the learning outcomes you wish students to achieve, then generate ideas for different scenarios of involving people outside the institution to bridge the theory-practice gap. Take one of these scenarios further by identifying any constraints/risks and how these can be mitigated to still allow students a realistic practice-based experience meeting the learning outcomes.

What emerged were some very creative responses from participants, in many cases drawing upon the research expertise of the lecturer to identify where the theory-practice opportunities exist. In terms of employability, students through doing such forms of ‘real-world’ assessment have an experience they can refer to in their job applications and personal development plans.

The types of ‘real-world’ assessment demonstrated encouraged students to produce public-facing outputs, via videos and blogs. The E-Learning Development Team can support you in devising these activities and delivering training to enable students to create their own videos. See a similar approach in our Case Study provided by Sara Perry, Archaeology.

Matt Cornock (ELDT), Workshop Chair

L&T Session B3: From building research skills to professional development: using blogging in humanities teaching

Emily Bowles, Department of English and Related Literature

AbstractPresentation | Recording

This workshop introduced the potential of blogging: not only to support existing learning outcomes and course-specific skills, but also to extend modules further and incorporate careers skills at the programme level, adding value for Humanities students that will assist them in the most common areas of graduate employment.

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Although blogging forms part of some degree programmes, such as the Computer Science ‘Skills, Knowledge & Independent Learning’ module, it has much more to offer Humanities teaching in helping students develop key academic skills and skills for the workplace than has been recognised. This year, as a PGWT for ‘Global Literatures’ in the English Department, Emily had developed a blog for which students produce all content, improving their independent research, referencing, close reading and confidence with the material. Students were also exposed to basic principles of digital marketing, including how to write effectively for Search Engine Optimisation and for a non-specialist audience.

This workshop discussed the challenges and benefits of blogging in practice, including student feedback, and introduced delegates to methods of incorporating social media into degree programmes more easily as both formative and summative assessment.


Innovating Pedagogy 2014: OU Report

innovatingPedagogyIts getting to that time of year when we start to see the “hot or not” lists… The annual “Innovating Pedagogy” report has been published by the Open University. The 3rd such report of its kind, explores “new forms of teaching, learning and assessment, to guide educators and policy makers”. Some of these new forms may seem rather familiar, particularly to those who have attended FORUM workshops and conferences over the last couple of years which have been clearly ahead of their time (Flipped classroom, Bring your own devices and Threshold Concepts), where as others may be completely new or at least a new spin on an established pedagogy or approach (Bricolage, Massive Open Social Learning).