About esthersaxey

I am an Academic Developer, working at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Cheat on your exam!

I like this assessment experiment from UCLA. A professor used an exam to demonstrate the theories his students had been studying: cooperation, reciprocity, social organization.

I told my class that the Game Theory exam would be insanely hard—far harder than any that had established my rep as a hard prof.  But as recompense, for this one time only, students could cheat. They could bring and use anything or anyone they liked, including animal behavior experts. (Richard Dawkins in town? Bring him!) They could surf the Web. They could talk to each other or call friends who’d taken the course before. 

 Students responded well:

One student immediately ran to the chalkboard, and she began to organize the outputs for each question section. The class divided tasks. They debated. They worked on hypotheses. Weak ones were rejected, promising ones were developed. Supportive evidence was added. A schedule was established for writing the consensus answers.  

My immediate thought was: it’s all in the framing! I suspect if he’d announced ‘your assessment will be a loosely defined, oddly unstructured group project’, his students would have (rightly) cavilled.  Instead, he said ‘It’s an exam – but you can talk to your friends and look things up!’ And the students liked the idea, and it created a splendid outcome.

I then (selfishly) wondered what I could learn/borrow/steal for my own teaching.

Students learn through the process of assessment. As the professor said: ‘I got them to spend a week thinking like behavioral ecologists. As a group they learned Game Theory better than any of my previous classes. ‘ But how does he then test *that* learning? Ideally, it would feed back into another assessment. This is another reason why formative assessment’s incredibly useful – the skills and subject content required by an intensely focused task can be learned in advance of the final trial. How can I persuade my students to make the most of the formative assessment, and take it as seriously as possible?

Can I encourage students to support one another more? Criterion-referenced assessment already means that students have little to lose by (for example) sharing a resource they’ve found with a friend, but it rarely happens. Do they understand that even if their friend’s work gets better as a result, their own grade won’t go down? Maybe I need to talk with my students about marking – and about legitimate co-working, so they’re not scared of accidentally plagiarizing.

Can I teach my disciplinary content through the students themselves? Is it fair, for example, to use students themselves to demonstrate philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology? In some disciplines, it’s common for students’ experiences, and the way they behave towards one another, to be under scrutiny; in others, it’s pretty much unheard of. My usual stomping ground is English Literature, and I’ll be looking out for opportunities to (tactfully, ethically) explore how my students embody bits of the discipline they’re studying. 

E-nthusiastic about e-assessment

E-assessment can be pedagogically invaluable and an administrative life-saver. But it’s also a fast-developing and potentially daunting tool.

The Learning Enhancement Unit will be working over the Summer on an e-assessment policy and some solid-but-flexible guidance for our academic staff (and students). We’ll be looking at best practice, evaluating new/useful/reliable technology, and finding out what Goldsmiths staff need.

If you have any initial questions, or want to share your experience or perspective, then please email tel.gleu@gold.ac.uk

To update our knowledge of the sector, GLEU staff attended the HEA/HeLF seminar on Institutional Transformations on Electronic Submission last Friday. Check our Twitter stream for aspects that we found particularly engaging.

Future Tense now past

Our learning and teaching conference, Future Tense, took place on May 18th. Thanks to all our speakers, and everyone who came. With over a hundred attendees, and twenty-five different presenters, it was a busy and eclectic event.

Some of the excellent feedback from attendees:

  • ‘…very stimulating innovative ideas brought together.’
  • ‘Really interesting and very relevant discussion on learning technology. Very helpful & informative.’
  • ‘Richard Wingate’s talk [on research-led teaching] also excellent, resonated hugely with own experiences.’
  • ‘[Mark Miodownik and Martin Conreen’s] energy & lateral thinking were stimulating.’

A couple of the photos from the event:

Melissa Benn at FutureTense

Melissa Benn at FutureTense

Education and equality debate, with Melissa Benn, Fiona Millar and Francis Gilbert

Melissa Benn’s contribution to our lunchtime debate on education and equality is available at the Local Schools Network.

We’ll be putting more material online over the next couple of weeks.

Looking forward to … connectivism

Two Future Tense speakers will be discussing the pressing issue of connectivism.

Put simply, connectivism suggests that students learn in large part by making connections – between themselves and sources of information, and between one other. Mira Vogel and Mary Karpel will both show how this approach might challenge conventional Higher Education Institutions and courses. Do we encourage, or even allow, students to learn by forming networks? If they can learn from debate and contact with one another, then when and why do they need their institution?

Mira Vogel will discuss Massive Open Online Courses, the behemoths of online learning, and the possibility of bringing advantages from MOOCs into traditional institutions. Mary Karpel talks about working from within a traditional institution and moving ‘outwards’ – developing a programme of work-based learning where students create their own negotiated programme plan.

I’m hoping to catch both panels, as I’m certain that HEIs are being offered huge opportunities (in the form of available resources) but facing great challenges as we learn to work with them.

Staff awards for learning and teaching now open

Goldsmiths seeks to reward staff who really help our students learn – who are inspiring, supportive, challenging. The Peake Awards for Learning and Teaching are open for 2012, and are accepting student nominations, and also applications direct from staff. 

Students should use our quick, online form before March 30th (log in to learn.gold and click the ‘join’ button to enter the course area – only one nomination per student).

Staff should consult the guidelines for how to apply – their deadline is 27th April.

Good luck to all!