Does weighing a pig make it smarter? #octel

This week for #octel we need to”list and critique up to three different assessment approaches available on Technology Enhanced Learning courses”

The 3 I am going to use are

  • Online tests with automatic feedback
  • Online Essay submission with online marking
  • Online peer assessment

Online tests with automatic feedback – done right these can be very useful, make sure students get the feedback as soon as possible.  I talked a lot about these in my last post so I wont go into more detail here.  One thing I missed was the importance of designing your questions well – I hope to feature a guest post from my teams assessment expert which covers how to design questions (post should appear by the end of the week).  Also as the technology gets better the feedback can become more detailed and personalised (see this post about the automatic generation of personalized reporting)

Online Essay submission with online marking – at the really simple level if you stick to the same form as you would with paper (ie a student submits an essay, you write comments on it) then online has 2 advantages,

  • Its more convenient for students to submit, they can “hand it in” from anywhere with an internet connection rather than physically going to an office
  • Students (and staff) can look back at earlier essays done by the student and see feedback etc rather than searching through old paperwork for previous essays and feeback

However there are a number of advantages to online marking, if you use technology to be creative, this old case study from my departments website shows how use of audio and video feedback helps students.

Online Peer Assessment – you can do this offline but the paper shuffling is problematic and it can take much longer as students will have to physically hand over work.  You do need to be careful online as well because having some students not do the inital essay can have repercussions further along the process.  However it will ensure the students engage with the learning process giving them multiple passes over the material

  • First pass – Writing the essay
  • Second pass – reading the rubric/marking scheme the lecturer provides
  • Third to Fifth pass – reading, considering and marking other students work (I like to ask them to mark 3 essays)
  • Sixth pass – reading marks and comments from other students
  • Seventh pass – reading what the lecturer thinks of the marking they did
  • Eighth pass – reading the final marks of the lecturer on their work

This compares very well with the 2 passes done in a traditional “write essay/get marks” assessment.

Pig 001

So what about the smart pig?  Well its a reference to the quote “Weighing a pig doesn’t make it heavier” which is often trotted out when someone wants to criticise testing and say it doesn’t help learning.

Now it is true that a lot of students get tested to within an inch of their lives, and sometimes it seems that the test are simply so that someone can make league tables of schools, check the teacher is doing their job etc.  I will avoid going off into a rant about this and instead simply say – when you are testing your students, make sure they are learning from the experience, not just doing a test to get a mark.


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