some thoughts on assessment

Alan, Adesola and I attended a conference in Berlin this week about curriculum in art and design.  One of the more challenging questions for me was about assessment.  A lot of the questions sent to me by email have been about the assessments for the module, how much, where to put information etc.

Assessment is a complex beast.  On one level, assessment can be about demonstration.  it is the way we ensure that the learning outcomes have been met by the learner.  It should allow a number of different ways to demonstrate your learning.  This leads to the grade you receive and eventually to your qualification.

On another level, assessment can be about application.  This is the ability apply the knowledge and skills you have drawn upon and apply them to a different situation.  Things written about in text books or floating around in cyberspace on blogs or in articles can sometimes appear distant from our circumstances or even a little 2-D.  Assessment can give you the opportunity to make that 2-D seem more real and practical.  And of course, at the centre of work based learning is the idea that we learn by doing.

The question for me is ‘how important is assessment to you as the student?’  Without regular classes and readings, and with the idea that your learning occurs in the places where you work and practice, what proportion of your time is spent thinking about or completing assessments? Does the learning stop or continue when you hand in your assessment? Do you learn things that you don’t use in your assessment or do you focus on the learning that supports your assessment?

It would be great to hear your opinion!

I am interested in your thoughts on assessment.

a note about feedback

On the nature of feedback

Feedback is a common aspect of many aspects of professional practice, from performance, through to staff appraisals through to teamwork and project management.  Of course, it is also part of the process of learning as through feedback you can work on improving practice.  There are a number of different perspectives on feedback but for me the best comes from the field of human resources, that sees feedback as a way of continually developing the person (employee) over time, and that feedback is a 2 way process constructed in a dialogue between management and staff.  That continuous development takes the form of learning, support and critical feedback on performance and practice.

In terms of this course specifically, the feedback you get is threefold.  Firstly, there is the process of what is called formative feedback, where through your blog posts you can receive feedback about how to work towards improving your work, suggestions for new ideas and new ways of doing things.  In this process, you may even find that some of the feedback contradicts itself (especially when given by different people).  This is a positive thing as it allows you to construct or develop a strategy for improvement that works for you aims and objectives.  Formative feedback is available from all of the tutors in the form of generic feedback on our blogs and specific feedback to you as individuals.  Keep in mind the aim, continual development and improvement…not perfection!

Secondly, there is peer feedback, which is our case, through comments on the blogs by your peers.  How useful have you found that in re-working your Task D?  Peer feedback is important because they are often people in the same or similar positions to you, perhaps experiencing the same challenges or problems and are sharing their solutions or thought processes with you.

Thirdly, we have summative feedback.  The aim of summative feedback is to draw a line under a process and say ‘now its time to move onto the next step of your continual development’ because there is rarely much to be gained from endless improvement of the one task or process.  Insight, development, innovation often come from where you connect the learning from one thing to another stage of the process, or you broaden your perspectives or you start to see the wood from the trees.  In the case of this course, summative feedback is our way of saying, stop working on tasks A, B and C and move onto D and E, learn from what we suggested in our feedback for the earlier tasks and apply that to tasks D and E.  And what were those key lessons?  Read other blogs, check out the generic feedback that has been coming out through comments and will appear on our blogs over the next week, apply Kolb’s learning cycle from task C to the process of completing task D, how have you improved your writing based on feedback and theorising?  If you read my blog post on Task D, the suggestion to put a paragraph at the top of your submitted work discussing the process you went through to get your work ready for submission will be really valuable.

In summary, see the process of feedback within the context of professional practice as cycle of continuous improvement with the aim that each time you improve, you innovate and develop a little more.  Perfection is a difficult thing to achieve because when you have achieved perfection there is nothing left to innovate, invent or create.

The most difficult part of attaining perfection is finding something to do for an encore.  (Author unknown)

Imperfection clings to a person, and if they wait till they are brushed off entirely, they would spin for ever on their axis, advancing nowhere. (Thomas Carlyle)