Academic & Student Affairs

Encourage 'time and effort' on challenging learning tasks

Are your assessments designed to encourage students to work in and out of class throughout the semester or year? 

This is particularly useful in helping first year students’ transition to University level study.  Spreading activities either as discrete pieces of work or building up to make a single piece of work throughout the module brings balance to the student workload and can encourage deep learning.  This approach also provides opportunities for ongoing feedback.  Even if marks are attached to the individual elements (summative assessment) the activities will also be formative assessments, because students should be able to build on the feedback provided for the next or subsequent stages or elements. 

Although a particularly useful approach to use with first year students, this can be extended to students in other years.

Ways to do this:

  • Use QuestionMark to deliver summative assessments with feedback
  • Portfolio of activities that is taken in regularly – the activities could become progressively more challenging
  • Group work activities broken down into smaller tasks
  • Regular lab work to be completed in class
  • Staged final year projects – literature review delivered first

Some Queen’s examples:

HIS1001 History and Historians

CSC2007 Games Programming

HIS1001 History and Historians 

In this course students engage in a discussion forums in QOL  within their tutorial groups in weeks 2 to 7.  Tutors post what the students are required to read and do.  Student posts are 2-300 words in length and they read each others.  These posts then form the basis for the tutorial discussion.  Each postis marked and students get individual marks and feedback in weeks 3 and 6.
In weeks 8 to 11 the students work on a group project in their tutorial groups. 

What the module coordinator says
As the discussion forums progress the marks improve, particularly in terms of writing styles.  Compared to other courses this course has more 2.1 grades and fewer fails.  Staff also comment that they see evidence of this in second year courses - the students are more critical of the sources or authors they use and are more wiling to talk in tutorials.

CSC2007 Games Programming

The assessment activities for this course are broken down into steps or milestones that will make the whole.

  • Weeks 2-5 information about the team and individual and the initial proposal. Feedback is provided on this.
  • Week 6 Exploratory Milestone and again feedback is provided.
  • Week 9 Alpha Milestone and again feedback is provided.
  • Week 11 the final submission.

What the module coordinator says

The module coordinator is emphatic that students will only do well if their effort is spread over the semester.  Students are told that they must start their projects early and that non-engagement by week 6 is will to lead to failure.  This is stressed in the module handbook.  Over the four years that the module has been run in its current format the module coordinator has found that early engagement (by week 3) has increased to 80%.  The module is also challenging for the students because the delivery is based on two assumptions:

1.     That the students can work independently

2.     That students have adequate programming skill from Level 1

The module coordinator takes account of the challenging nature and explains it to the students in the handout ‘Some slightly unpleasant truths ...’

Student views

The students reinforce the module coordinator’s emphasis on starting the project early.  Each cohort is provided with advice from the previous cohort(s).  Their comments speak for themselves!  Equally the students acknowledge the challenges they faced as individuals, but also the gain in confidence in overcoming them.