Instructors: Dr Barney Walsh and Prof Funmi Olonisakin
Module: Leadership and Society, African Leadership Centre, Level 7
Assessment activity: This core module makes use of a variety of presentations, group and individual, across two semesters. This case study focuses on a group video presentation of an interview that students have conducted. Students present the video and an analysis, which is graded in class.
Why did you introduce the assessment?
The African Leadership Centre is a research and teaching unit in SSPP which looks at “how the developing world influences and is influenced by changing global power hierarchies” (Ekaette Ikpe, Senior lecturer).
The Leadership and Society module focuses on leadership issues in the developing world and unstable or post-conflict contexts. The learning outcomes are therefore focused on an understanding of leadership, a grounding of which is required in semester one.
Leadership and Society is a level 7 core module worth 40 credits, which spans two semesters. As such, there are a variety of assessment types employed on the course.
Previously the assessment pattern was:
- 2 essays (45%)
- 1 individual presentation (10%)
- Exam (45%)
There were also a number of formative presentations, both group and individual, but we felt the existing pattern did not reflect the learning outcomes of the module in terms of the reality of the careers and experiences many of our students would be seeking. One core learning outcome was to present findings in a professional manner (the implications being to a range of audiences).
We therefore reduced the focus on written academic essays and changed the pattern to:
- 1 essay (20%)
- 1 individual presentation (20%)
- 2 group presentations (20%)
- Exam (40%)
One of these presentations is a GROUP VIDEO INTERVIEW. Although we had always had the video presentation as a formative assessment, we felt that making it summative in semester one would encourage earlier development of the confidence and group work skills that would be required for later presentations.
We hope that engaging with real people in interviews, our students’ own understanding of leadership will change. This is assessed through their analysis of the interview.
How did you set it up?
Students are divided into groups of 4 or 5. Students choose their own groups. They are required to choose 3 people (from around the College, staff students etc) to interview about the concept of leadership. Suggested questions to ask the interviewees are given to students in an assignment brief:
- How do you define leadership? What does it mean to you?
- Provide one example of a leader that you know
- Why did you choose that particular leader? What makes them a leader?
- Agree within your group, which of the videos will be presented to the rest of the class.
- In your presentation to the class, discuss the following:
- Comment on the respondent’s definition of leadership. What do you think informed their definition of leadership?
- Were you able to determine the situation that informed their thinking about leadership? At what level of analysis was the respondent operating?
- What type of evidence did the respondent employ when responding to your questions?
Students are required to obtain permission (through a College form) from the interviewees.
Each interview is no more than 3-4 minutes. Students record these interviews on their phones. They choose one of these interviews to present and write an analysis of this person’s perspective on leadership together as a group. The groups then present their videos and analyses in class in week 3 and are given feedback.
How did you design the assessment criteria and weighting?
The video presentation is worth 10% of their summative grade. We felt this reflected the effort that students would put into this, but also reduce the worry that students can have about a) group work, and b) presentations in general, by making it less high-stakes. Students are graded on the ANALYSIS rather than the interview itself.
We apply generic college criteria, but this is adapted unofficially to reflect the nature of a presentation: Style/Delivery, Content and Leadership Analysis. Students are informed about the criteria on which they will be judged.
All presentations are marked by two people live on the day. This is possible because of the current numbers of students on the course. Presentations are then moderated and discussed between the two markers. Students are not informed of their grade on the day because of this. Students upload their slides and videos to KEATS or email to us (mp3 or mp4 formats).
Technically, students are given an individual grade. However, we base this on their performance as a group and reduce or increase marks based on the performance of the individual student. Those who perform well are given more marks than those who don’t, or don’t seem to put much effort into the presentation on the day.
How do you give feedback?
Students are given feedback (although not the grade- see above) immediately in class. This is verbal, although some notes are then typed up and provided to the students on Turnitin when they upload their slides to KEATS.
Although peer feedback is not given formally, groups are required to answer questions from the audience of their peers. We could incorporate peer feedback in addition to teacher feedback in future incarnations.
How did you explain this to students?
Students are informed through an assignment brief and discussion in class. We explain how this relates directly to the learning outcomes of the modules and skills for future careers and personal development. Many students are worried about public speaking and we discuss these issues to mitigate against nervousness.
What benefits did you see?
On student learning:
Students are genuinely engaged by this presentation. It provides them an opportunity to build their confidence by working in a team, solving challenges together, and particularly by contacting, requesting interviews and talking to people across the College. Comments from a student illustrate the value of the assessment:
- This was my first time do the video group presentation. First of all, I am very worry about who we should ask to do the interview, because we want a valuable answer(sic). The good thing is all my teammate are very helpful, we sort this out together. Also, I feel that we did very good teamwork, everyone can do something for this assignment. Someone is good at PC/PS so he can help us build a good powerpoint. Someone is good at written (sic), so she can write down everyone’s idea and present to class.
- The assignment was a great way to break the ice among classmates just because we had to collectively figure out who to speak to and engage quite closely to put the presentation together. It was helpful because it was so practical and the lessons from post-presentation debrief resonated quite strongly. Leadership is a difficult thing to study because a lot of the theory is best made meaningful through practical activities/examples. It was good to start the course with an assignment that was practical.
It is also great for highlighting to students what ‘lay peoples’ conceptions of leadership is and how their own expert understanding of this key concept has already developed in the early weeks of the course. The quality of the presentations reflects the effort that students have made. Furthermore , we see a marked improvement in the presentations that they give in Semester two. This is largely, we think, due to the intensive constructive feedback we give as part of this assessment.
On staff workload:
Because the presentations are delivered in class, feedback and grading can be done on the spot, reducing the amount of work required for teachers in typing extensive feedback forms to accompany the grade on KEATS, which are likely to be less useful for students after the presentation has been completed (however, see below).
Because the videos are not assessed on their technical quality, and because the interviewees should be people that students have easy access to, the assessment attempts to be fair and equitable. Technical video editing skills are not required for the assessment, nor is social or economic capital an issue by asking people to interview potential contacts in the leadership world.
We have so far had no requests for PAAs or MCFs, although one student with a severe stammer was given the option of doing his presentation one on one.
What challenges did you encounter and how did you address them?
Because they receive extensive verbal feedback, we do not duplicate work for staff by typing up extensive notes in Turnitin. Some students have therefore complained about their lack of written recorded feedback.
One possible solution to this that we are looking into is having students use their phones to record their feedback, and possibly type it up themselves. Doing this would balance staff workload with eth positive benefits of metacognition and self-directed learning in students when they have to revisit their feedback for following presentation assessments.
Although this hasn’t been a serious issue so far due to the maturity of the cohorts, we have had a small number of students complain informally about group members who are not pulling their weight. We gather feedback informally from students about how their group process is going. One possible solution if this becomes more of an issue is to have feedback forms where student comment on each other’s effort; however, I feel this might reduce the trust and sense of cooperation if students feel they are being asked to spy on each other! This sort of measure might work better in large classes or with less mature students…?
Cohorts do not always gel inside a formal classroom environment, and there are a number of students who are more reticent in class participation. In order to remedy this earlier in the semester, we put on a “Leadership Weekend Workshop” using experienced practitioners from the ALC network where students participated in leadership scenarios and team games. Feedback from this has been overwhelmingly positive. All 14 students who filled in a post-event questionnaire stated that it should be an integral part of the course. Examples of student comments:
- I think being outside a formal class environment was important for us to speak to and even meet classmates whom we otherwise would not have engaged with.
- Everybody talked, even some people who never expressed their vision of leadership or their opinion (in class).
- It was extremely special to see how inclusively everyone was learning and those who never spoke up for enthusiastically participating. I always felt more efforts needed to be made in the past to engage those who weren’t participating, but today I have no feedback except thankfulness for the way this day was arranged for us and so well integrated.
The Semester One workshop worked so well that we did another in Semester Two which focused more on career choices and how students can make use of their leadership MSc qualification after they graduate. We are looking to make these workshops a flagship part of the course from 2020, depending on school funding.
What advice would you give to colleagues who are thinking of trying this type of presentation format?
Trust students to make a good job of doing something a bit different! They are all tech-savvy enough these days to have no problem using their phones and making nice videos etc; and then they also come up with really good academic analysis to go along with it. I think it makes a big difference to the entire student experience not just doing the normal essay/exam assessment with maybe one standard group or individual presentation. They do reward you and their colleagues with good work as a result.