Help clarify good performance (goals, criteria, standards)
Do your students understand the assessment criteria that you use? Do they understand the standards required to achieve a particular grade for each criterion or overall? Do you discuss these with them before they start the task? If you do, are the students able to state these in their own words?
Research has shown that students who engage with assessment criteria and standards are more likely to be able to manage their own learning. For example, Rust et al. (2003) found that by working with students in their first term on assessment, assessment criteria and marking that there was a significant increase in the marks in the final assessment, compared with students who had not taken part in the exercise.
Ways to do this ....
- Model answers
- Marking exercises
- Students generate own criteria and standards and compare to staff criteria
- Students put assessment criteria into their own words
- Examples of work of different standards from a previous year to identify a rank order and why
Some Queen’s examples ...
CSC2007 Games Programming: Project Development
The assessment details (Section 5) for this course identify six Assessment Topics each with an allocation of marks. In Section 6 the Module Convener has set out for each Assessment Topic an assessment overview. This includes a question to the students about the extent to which they have dealt with the topic. This is followed by some more specific questions. Following this, for each assessment topic, the module convener has set out the standard required to achieve a 1st class mark, an upper 2nd class mark etc. Since this is also part of the assessment the module convener has included a table to indicate to the student whether they achieved a high, medium or low mark in the class. Students are encouraged to read this section of the handout very early in the project and to make frequent reference to it.
To support the students with this, the module coordinator takes one or two previous games each week and goes through them with the students applying the assessment criteria – this involves a look at the game with a commentary from the module coordinator indicating what is good/successful/less successful etc. Students then spend about 5 minutes applying the criteria. The aim is to get the students to understand what gets a 1st class mark and what is sufficient to pass.
What the module coordinator says
At first the students tend to be over critical, but they get very good at applying the criteria to their own game.
PAL1004 Reconstructing Past Environments
To encourage the students to engage with assessment criteria they are asked to submit a 250 word essay. This is looked at by the tutor and then distributed around the class for peer marking. The tutor discusses with the students the assessment criteria and what to look for when marking the piece. Students are encouraged to apply this to their own work.
SOC2028 The Family in European Society
In preparation the coursework element, the Module Coordinator presented the challenge that all students should get a 1st class mark. Students hand in a 500-750 word essay outline with an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses. Outlines are then passed around anonymously to other students. Module coordinator talks through the assessment criteria with the students. The students then ‘mark’ the essay outlines and comment on the strengths and weaknesses. These are then returned to the author.
The module coordinator felt that the students were more anxious about what they were doing. There was also some concern about students giving feedback which sent the author in the wrong direction. Students were told that if they received conflicting advice then they should see the module coordinator.
Students commented that this was the first time that they had been guided through the marking process and found it very helpful. Six out of twenty four achieved first class marks.
CRM2006 Crime and Media
The students on this module have to carry out a content or narrative analysis of a crime-related story of their choice. This is a new type of assessment for the students and they had expressed some concerns about what to do and how to do it well. To enable the students to see what a finished piece would look like and work of a particular standard the module coordinator provided students with an anonymised copy of each type that had been marked at a good upper second level (the students were not told this). In groups, students had to decide what was good about each, what was weak and what could have been done better. They were also asked to indicate a grade. There was then a plenary where each group indicated their thoughts and an ensuing discusssion. Students were not allowed to take the examples away.
What the students say:
'Seeing previous examples allowed me to understand exactly what is expected. it gave an example of style, layout, referencing and clearly showed the difference between content and narrative analysis'.
'Gave us a practical example of what we needed to do. The example stuck in my mind more than just talking about it'.
'It was good to view examples as it helped to see what to do and not what to do. It provided an insight into how to go about the assignment'.
'...it gave examples of what could be included as well as what was needed to obtain a good grade'.
CRM3004 Development of Policing
Part of the assessment for this module is a 3500 word essay which accounts for 50% of the module mark. The essay is handed in at the end of November. The tutorial in week 6 provides students with an opportunity to receive feedback on their essay plan. For the tutorial students prepared a 750 word essay plan. In addition they had to answer three self-assessment questions: what are the strengths, what are the weaknesses and what are the possible areas for improvement? In the tutorial the anonymous essay plans were distributed around the class. Each member of the class peer-assessed the work of a colleague using the same three questions: what were the strengths, weaknesses and what could be done better? Students could then compare their own assessments with that from a colleague. There was a general discussion about the exercise and marking guidelines.
What the students say:
'Yes, it flagged up issues that were common across the board and reminded me that I should avoid making these mistakes'.
'Yes as I could see how my own reflections were in fact similar to my marker'.
'Yes, it helped me focus on my weaker areas in essays/assignments'.
Rust, C., Price, M. and O'Donovan, B. (2003) Improving students' learning by developing their understanding of assessment criteria and processes, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 28, 2, 147-164