Case study: Summative Co-Assessment

Summary

Honours students have the opportunity to become partners in assessment. They self-assess their oral presentation and negotiate their final grade with a member of staff, using their self-reflection as evidence to support their position. The students learn to think critically about their own work, and direct their own goals for improvement.

Key points

College: College of Social Sciences
Class size: Small (< 25)
Technological competency: Basic (General computer literacy)
Administrative support: General
Required resources: Video recording equipment
Suitable for online/distance learning: No

Corresponding contact: Susan Deeley

Course details

Course title: Social and Public Policy
Level: Honours
Module title: Active Citizenship (Service-Learning)
College: Social Sciences
Instructor: Susan Deeley
Implemented since: ∼2008

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Objectives

On this service-learning course, students learn about theoretical aspects of citizenship and engage in voluntary work on placement in welfare agencies in the community. In their presentations, students critically reflect on the employability skills and attributes they have developed through their placement.

Being involved in the co-assessment process encourages students to become active learners and more confident, and a staff student partnership in co-assessment facilitates a more democratic classroom.

This form of assessment encourages students to:

  • develop their critical thinking abilities
  • encourage lifelong learning for students, not just around their subject-specific skills but also for broader graduate attributes
  • develop and assess their communication skills
  • participate in negotiation, as they have to defend the grade they give themselves
  • gain confidence in presenting by going through the process formatively, understanding what the process involves and how they can improve it in time for the summative assessment

Implementation (what was done)

  • A practical session on presentation skills and written guidance is given to students early on in the course.
  • The students give an oral presentation on their placement experience. In the presentation, the students reflect on the skills and attributes they developed during their placement.
  • Afterwards, they evaluate their presentation skills and the content of their talk. The students self-assess the presentation using a pro forma given to them in advance.
  • The lecturer then meets each student individually to discuss their presentation, and they agree on a mark together.
  • The students have to back up their mark. They fill in a pro forma where they can tick boxes to reflect what they have done, and also write critical comments. The lecturer does the same. This document is then used as supportive evidence in the discussion.
  • This grade also counts towards their degree and is worth 10% of the course. The students are made aware of this in advance, so they know that the grade will have an impact on their overall score (despite being minor).
  • The presentations are recorded, so the students have time to look at what they did. This is important, as it can be difficult to self-assess when doing a presentation.
  • The students repeat this process twice, first as a formative exercise, and then a summative assessment, where the mark they get contributes towards their final degree. The process and the pro forma used for grading are the same for both assignments, but the students present on a different aspect of their placement each time.
  • Presentations are only five minutes long, and the students are not allowed to use a PowerPoint, so they have to rely on their speaking and communication abilities. The students normally show an improvement from the formative to the summative assessment, and they are able to compare the former with the latter.

Considerations (and what worked well)

  • The small class size allows students to reflect on their experience in smaller groups, and become familiar with each other and the tutor.
  • Recording equipment must be made available, either through the University Echo 360 system or using other equipment.
  • To ensure viability as a summative assessment, the lecturer retains the right to decide the final mark. The responsibility is retained with the lecturer, and the students are aware of that. Recording the presentations enables another staff member to make a judgement about a mark should the lecturer and student be unable to reach an agreement. The recordings are also available for scrutiny by the External Examiner.
  • Meeting with each student individually takes up a lot of staff time, so this would only be possible with small classes.
  • Initially, Susan used the university system (Echo 360) to record the talks, but this became a problem for a couple of students that were not able to attend the recorded session, and a second session had to be arranged where the recordings were made using Google Glass. In the future, recording each talk individually might be a possibility.
  • Recording the talks allows the students to review their presentation afterwards, thus giving them a better opportunity for judging their efforts.

Scalability and Transferability

Approach is tied to a small class size, so it would not scale up to larger classes.

Approach could be used in other disciplines.


Benefits

Student benefits 
  • Students gain valuable skills, including public speaking and negotiation, which are useful for later employment.
  • The students become more active learners, growing in confidence and trust as they take some responsibility for their own assessment.
  • The students have one-to-one time with the lecturer to discuss their grade and feedback.
  • The students go into the project with enthusiasm as they are able to co-assess a piece of summative work.
  • Student’s learning experience is of a very high quality.
Staff benefits 
  • Staff can be rewarded with a more engaged, responsible, and active community of learners.

Challenges

Student challenges 
  • Initially, students often feel wary of a new assessment method. They are comfortable with the idea that the final grade decision is retained with the marker, but there may be a temptation to ‘cheat the system’ by giving their presentation a higher mark than it merits. It is therefore important that students are able to justify their mark reasonably with critical comments.
Staff challenges 
  • Time is the biggest challenge, but there is also an element of risk as the marker is letting go of some of their power. This could be a difficult adjustment and may create some tension as ultimately staff retain the responsibility for assessment.
  • Very time-consuming, depending on the size of the class.

References

Deeley, S. J., and Bovill, C. (2016) Staff student partnership in assessment: enhancing assessment literacy through democratic practices. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, (doi:10.1080/02602938.2015.1126551) (Early Online Publication)
Deeley, S. J. (2014) Summative co-assessment: A deep learning approach to enhancing employability skills and attributes. Active Learning in Higher Education, 15(1), pp. 39-51. (doi:10.1177/1469787413514649)