UCL symposium on innovative assessment

30 April 2009

The UCL Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT) held a symposium attracting 150 delegates on 22 April 2009 to discuss innovative ways of improving assessment and feedback to students. The symposium provided a platform for the debate and discussion of assessment based on the experience and expertise of UCL staff from different faculties.

UCL Main Library

Six presentations from UCL academic staff explored the advantages and possibilities of web-based learning, peer assessment, and online examinations for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The new forms of assessment aim to enhance student learning in a variety of areas including referencing, academic writing, laboratory techniques and group presentations.

For example, Dr Chris Blackman (UCL Chemistry) demonstrated the advantages of using video clips and quizzes on Moodle, UCL’s virtual learning environment, to acquaint students with laboratory procedures before the students undertook their own experiments. This made for less passive learning than texts on laboratory techniques.

Drs Mark Lake and Sue Hamilton (UCL Archaeology) discussed the role of Turnitin, a web-based system for detecting textual matches between student work and publications, in improving students’ academic writing, while Dr John Mitchell (UCL Electronic and Electrical Engineering) outlined how the scenario based practical application of students’ theoretical knowledge from lectures could be assessed through group work.

Dr Helen Chatterjee (UCL Museums and Collections and UCL Biology) detailed how enhanced learning of animal taxonomy can be supported and assessed on Moodle, and Drs Chris Louca and Maurice Faigenblum (UCL Eastman Dental Institute) demonstrated an online examining system for Masters students, a method which provides immediate results and feedback. Dr John Richens (UCL Infection and Population Health) discussed peer assessment of oral presentations which he introduced on a Masters course.

All six case studies demonstrated engaging ways of assessing students and supporting their ongoing learning alongside more traditional methods, such as exams. Despite the different teaching requirements and assessment criteria across disciplines, the six presentations highlighted the benefits of employing online resources, such as Moodle, and branching out through other digital means.

Professor Michael Worton (Vice-Provost, Academic & International) opened the symposium via video. He highlighted the importance of the development of assessment to UCL’s diverse student body.

Professor Worton commented: “We all know that assessment is an absolutely critical part of learning and teaching, we know also that it’s an important part of maintaining quality and excellence, but we need perhaps to think from first principles: what is assessment actually for? It’s something that should always have the main aim of student facilitation and progression, but more importantly the development of learning and, indeed, personal development.”

Professor Peter Mobbs (Executive Dean of the UCL Faculty of Life Sciences), Chair of the Executive Sub-Committee on Innovations in Learning, Teaching and Assessment (ESCILTA), closed the symposium by emphasising the need to adapt assessment to the demands of the globalised working environment  encountered by UCL’s graduates. Professor Mobbs was optimistic that UCL was beginning to change the process and purpose of assessment in ways that drive learning in the new directions required by today’s students.

 

UCL Context

Brigitte Picot, director of UCL CALT, discusses the role of assessment at UCL.

“Assessment is a priority at UCL, as it enables students to be aware of their progress and to understand how to improve their performance. In addition to traditional ways of testing, such as unseen written examinations, UCL academics use a combination of assessment methods to facilitate learning.  As indicated by the National Student Survey, students are increasingly aware of the importance of assessment and feedback on their work and UCL is keen to respond to their needs.”

For further information about Assessment for Learning please contact Rosalind Duhs.