Designing authentic assessment tools for experiential learning

Andrew Kerrigan, Centre for Global Programmes

Abstract

The York Pedagogy is grounded in ‘learning by doing’. While there are demonstrable advantages of an experiential syllabus in terms of increased student engagement and confidence in the surrender value of new knowledge and skills acquired, difficulties are encountered in developing valid, reliable and practical assessment tools to measure student success. The educational programmes delivered by the Centre for Global Programmes are a case in point. Although the Centre’s core business has been English Language and Academic Study ‘taster’ programmes for short-course students of York’s international partners, programme designers at the Centre have recently developed components on what have been termed ‘21st-Century Skills’. Moreover, since these programmes are non-credit bearing, CGP course designers have had a greater freedom to push the limits of experiential learning and authentic assessment. In this paper, I share with my York colleagues the results of these experiments as they pertain to recently run components on key 21st-Century Skills. The paper will begin with a definition of twenty-first century skills and an argument that competency in these skillsets can only be developed through experiential learning. It will then proceed via two case studies describing the main problems and solutions involved in designing and assessing an ‘Employability Skills’ and ‘Creativity’ syllabus for a Japanese University. Finally, student and tutor feedback on these components will be presented as part of a conclusion aimed at eliciting colleague’s wider evaluation of these small-scale experiments, particularly in terms of the York pedagogy.

Chair’s Summary

In this workshop, Andrew Kerrigan from the Centre for Global Programmes (CGP) described their approach to pedagogy within the short courses taught in the CGP.

Andrew began by setting the context and introducing us to the way the CGP works, as they are under a slightly different remit to other programmes at the university. Andrew explained that the CGP programmes are bespoke non-credit bearing short courses taken by international students who are visiting the University. The courses are designed specifically for the incoming cohort, with a typical objective to support the students in further developing their business language and academic skills while simultaneously experiencing and learning about British culture.

Teaching staff in CGP have a background in English language teaching. This approach is highly student-centred and uses inductive learning, aims to appeal to a range of learning styles, has high surrender value and a focus on using task-based learning. These core teaching methods are used to support students in developing their English language skills while also learning about intercultural competence, creativity, critical thinking skills and employability.

Andrew explained that through the courses, the students are developing their twenty-first century skills, which are defined by the HEA (2017) as a set of literacies (literacy, numeracy, citizenship, digital, and media), competencies (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration) and character qualities (curiosity, initiative, persistence, resilience, adaptability, leadership) that are believed to be critically important to success in the modern world. What clearly emerged from the session, for me, was that these are the sorts of skills we want all of our graduates to possess, but other programmes don’t necessarily have an explicit focus on teaching those as the primary learning objective.

Andrew then presented some case studies, talking about the approach to teaching on different CGP modules.

The first module had a focus on intercultural studies with 25 UGs from CUHK and 25 York students. This module was focused around teaching around cultural anthropology, role plays and thought experiments to explore cross-cultural miscommunications and critical incidents, readings seminars and field work.

Another case study discussed an Employability skills component in a course taken by 20 undergraduates from Tohoku University in Japan. The syllabus focused on leadership, decision-making, interviews, etc. The task-teach-task framework was introduced as an effective tool used in the teaching of this course. The module was assessed with an interview task focused on recruiting an intern for the CGP.

The interview task was particularly poignant as an assessment mechanism and, although time consuming, is perhaps something other degrees may wish to incorporate in their modules. It is hard to engage some students with the opportunities offered by the careers service (e.g. practice interviews), but developing strong interview skills are crucial for improving employability prospects, so using interviews as an assessment is likely to be beneficial.

This really fascinating session introduced the delegates to a different way of thinking around developing bespoke modules with a skills-based focused and certainly left many in the room wondering how we can incorporate more of that sort of skills-based learning within our own teaching practice.

The session culminated in an interesting discussion about the practicalities of running some of these types of teaching and assessment approaches. This discussion considered the issue of low interest by York students in these non-credit bearing courses, despite the obvious potential benefits for their education, and some of the different exercises used for teaching creativity skills.

Further Workshop Materials