Spotlight on SOTL: The Power of Choice in Assessments
This article is based on the following research article:
Morris, C., Milton, E., & Goldstone, R. (2019). Case study – Suggesting choice: Inclusive assessment processes. Higher Education Pedagogies, 4(1), 435–447. https://doi.org/10.1080/23752696.2019.1669479
Courses traditionally have pre-set modes of assessment determined by the instructor. What if the student had a choice over how they were evaluated? In this paper, Morris and colleagues examined whether allowing students choice in their assessment methods would create equal opportunities for students to express evidence of their learning.
What did the researchers do and find?
Research on qualities and processes of assessment and feedback in higher education have garnered interest over time. Many propose that the mode of assessment heavily affects how students approach coursework, and that poor experiences with assessments and feedback can cause students to lose confidence and self-esteem.
But what if we allowed students to choose their assessment method?
The authors of this research sent out an anonymous online survey to students and instructors asking about their satisfaction and concerns with existing assessment and feedback methods, and their thoughts on whether students should be able to choose between assessment methods.
In total, 111 undergraduate students and 60 staff responded to the survey.
Here we share some of the student and staff perspectives on introducing choice in assessments:
- Overall support for assessment choice
- Students expressed that the assessment methods for a course heavily influence which classes they choose to take.
- Students were in favour of being able to have a choice of assessment method as this could allow them to play to their strengths and choose classes more freely based on the course content.
- Staff were less supportive of the idea, owing to the administrative challenges that could arise.
- Although supportive, students were concerned about the fairness of the idea because they felt some assessments were easier than others and not equivalent in workload.
- Confidence in assessment design
- Staff had concerns regarding their ability to create various modes of assessment.
- Staff acknowledged that additional training and resources would be needed to carry out this idea.
How might you use this research in your teaching?
Given students’ support and enthusiasm for choice in assessments, it’s worth considering what this might look like in your classroom, even on a small, experimental scale.
The research also identified potential constraints that are worth considering, including issues with fairness among assessments. This might be addressed by co-constructing assessments with students and developing clear strategies for moderating assessment and feedback.
When implementing student choice of assessment, it is also important to consider which skills are developed through each assessment method. While allowing students to tailor their assessment method to their strengths can make the classroom more accessible, there are still several core skills that students might wish to develop to support future opportunities post-graduation. Instructors can support students in understanding the skills they might develop through different assessment methods.
Stay tuned for the next Spotlight on SoTL coming to the MacPherson Memo on April 27, 2022.