This article has been divided into two parts. Part 1 includes Problem & Chosen Solution and Part 2 discusses a short assessment of the outcome.
This academic year we tried something new to get students to engage with assessment material. We set them a treasure hunt to find key information about their assessment. All those who followed the instructions and obtained the correct information were entered into a prize draw for a £15 Amazon voucher. This blog describes how we designed the task, what happened and what we learnt about our own assessment.
What was the identified problem?
Today’s academic spends a considerable amount of time preparing resources for face-to-face teaching and online learning support. In Psychology, we aim to have all assessment guidance available to students from Week 1 of each term so that they can plan their time effectively. However, we often find that students miss key information and struggle to manage their workload and deadlines. This is particularly the case for those transitioning to university who may not have the skills to extract assessment information and the ability to manage that information at a time when they are overwhelmed by the experience of starting university.
Since we began our Psychology degree in 2015 we have gradually been adding to our online learning provision. In doing so we recognized that students are not necessarily the ‘digital natives’ we have been led to believe and so we dedicate a considerable period of their induction to ‘e-learning’. We provide:
- a 20-page booklet on all they need to know for their journey at King’s;
- two 90-minute sessions on how to use these various tools, focusing heavily on our VLE, KEATS.
However, despite our best efforts, students often fail to navigate to VLE effectively – going only to where they are specifically directed and when they are directed. This was hammered home to me when a student asked me at the end of my first lecture if I would keep reminding them about assessment deadlines or whether they were expected to keep track of these themselves. I was slightly horrified at the thought that they would not keep track of them independently – after all, the information was all there and we showed them how to find it in their induction sessions.
What was my solution?
I reflected on this and thought that may be telling them to look was not enough – I needed to guide their search for information and perhaps incentivize it a little. I created a worksheet for them to complete where they had to fill in key details e.g. formative and summative deadlines, the format of coursework and contribution of work to overall module grade. I decided to set some rules for submission:
- They had to submit their answer on the following Monday by 5pm (i.e. this was a time-limited task).
- They had to email it to me with the correct subject for the email (i.e. following good practice in electronic comms).
Like all good learning activities, I had to try this out for myself.
So I started completing the table from the information on KEATS. It took me a little longer than expected so I upped the prize money from £10 to £15. I also got some of it wrong because I could not understand a complex strategy we had on one module. Instinct told me what it was meant to be but that was not what was written down and so I went with what was written down. When I checked this with the module organiser, he amended the details on the assessment brief to make it clearer.
Once I was confident the correct answers were readily available online I announced the competition online via the programme forum. This was a deliberate decision because we also have many students who do not check forums or emails, so I wanted to reinforce the value of doing so. I followed this up with a reminder in the face to face teaching on Friday. And then I waited, hoping to be overwhelmed by over one hundred emails from our new intake (we have ~180).
Please go to Part 2 of the article to find out what were the results.
Written by Dr Eleanor Dommett
Ellie Dommett is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at King’s College where she leads neuroscience and education modules. She is also the TEL-lead for the Digital Transformation Programme and has ten years’ experience teaching online. Her research focuses both on fundamental neuroscience (the neural basis of distractibility) and pedagogy (e.g. use of VLEs and online learning tools).
You can read more of her thoughts on education here: http://www.thoughts-on-education.net/ and follow her on Twitter (@EllieJane1980) for thoughts on education, running and dogs (not necessarily in that order).