EDLAB’s Newsletter #1 2017
PREMIUM – An example of a successful project

A big thanks to all who participated in our third Teach-Meet on Thursday the 8th of June! On this early summer afternoon, the EDLAB hosted another successful continuation of the Teach-Meet series. UM staff across the faculties met in an open environment to discuss their experiences with the theme of the event; participation assessment. Five staff members gave a short talk of an extended account of their opinions and experiences, which was followed by short discussion sessions:

#1: Josje Weusten (FASoS): Improving rather than assessing participation

The first talk of the event brought up several problematic aspects of participation assessment, in that it can create a unsafe and competitive learning environment where students participate only for the sake of the assessment. Josje Weusten further suggested that this one-size-fits-all approach might not be constructive in all settings for all types of students, and that it is important to take into consideration the individual differences and needs of the students, bringing in her own experience where for example students studying French Humanist Photography were themselves encouraged to take a photo as part of their assessment. She proposed that improving participation might be achieved through facilitating the discussion in class with online quizzes and individual learning plans, and for the professors to «dare to adapt teaching styles accordingly».

#2: Catalina Goanta (Law): Experimenting with participation assessment methods at the Law Faculty

Coming from the Law Faculty, Catalina Goanta provided a different perspective on the topic matter, as the faculty has traditionally not favored participation assessment for students, and has had experience with various measures of assessing participation. An example of this is using participation as a carrot for students to receive an additional bonus point in a course. Goanta shed light to several ways that this is carried out at the Law Faculty, with her talk that evolved around participation assessment methods where students themselves are more actively involved in helping assessing each other. This includes online surveys using tools and other measures of getting the students to participate not only in class, but also by demonstrating independent skills in between meetings. 

#3: Peter Vermeer (UCM): Assessment participation is the bankruptcy of PBL

In his talk, Peter Vermeer argued that participation assessment a form of micromanagement that is highly destructive to the learning environment, the sense of autonomy of the students, and also to the dynamic between professors/tutors and students. Vermeer sees the need for discussion on assessment participation as a symptom that something is essentially wrong with the current assessment system, and provided a diagnosis of the issue as that the university fail at achieving a PBL environment conducive to learning. As a solution to this, he put the issue of removing the subject entirely on the agenda, instead encouraging students to become strong, autonomous learners. As he concluded with an observation from his teaching experience «If you want them to behave like adults you treat them like it; you give them no choice».

#4: Nina Bien (FPN): Going beyond assessing participation to improve and increase participation

Nina Bien addressed the challenges of participation assessment by putting the effects of it in context of her field; psychology. An important asset to this, is according to the speaker that if students are extrinsically rewarded with participation grades, this undermines the intrinsic behavior and motivation of the students. In line with other speakers of the event, Bien argued that participation assessment might have a negative effect of the autonomy of the students. By rather supporting intrinsic motivation and give students ownership over their learning process, they also engage more deeply in this process. In addition to this, involving students in peer reviewing and peer feedback regarding their own learning process are constructive tools to improve assessment participation.

#5: Mark Vluggen (SBE): Assessing participation; The good, the bad & the administrative overhead

Finally, the event closed off with a recount of also the positives of participation assessment. Mark Vluggen gave a insightful summary of how to meet the five most imperative challenges of participation assessment; grade inflation, grade negotiation, subjectivity, administrative overhead and the possibility of that extrinsic motivation crowds out intrinsic motivation over time. To meet these challenges, Vluggen proposed solutions including having the professors/tutors grade participation immediately after a meeting and establishing an average grade in order to deal with the challenges of grade inflation and grade negotiation. In addition, Vluggen pointed out that participation assessment taps into aspects of academic performance that are not covered by exams, and that if executed properly can add value to the PBL-experience. As class participation is difficult to fake, it does also provide for fewer opportunities for academic dishonesty as compared to written work, and could therefore serve as a useful component in overall assessment.

Overall, the talks triggered engaging discussions that brought new topics to the table, something which could spark further conversations on the matter. We therefore look forward to our next UM Teach-Meet session and hope to see you there!

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