Quite often as a part of the process of choosing which modules to take in the coming academic year, students will look and focus on the assessments, how that module is assessed. Generally risk is something that most students will want to avoid. If a student has predominantly experienced the traditional forms of coursework or exams, they know what sort of grade they can achieve when the time comes to undertake the assessment. They know how long it takes them to write ‘X’ number of words, how many hours of research they may need to put aside. So what happens when a student reads a module description and the assessment requires them to undertake a series of tasks, possibly in a group, many of which they are unfamiliar with and inexperienced? Do they select this module? Chances are, they don’t.
No real surprise there then, students want to achieve the best possible grades they can and if this means choosing the same forms of assessment time after time, because they know how to undertake them successfully, who can blame them.
The Collaborate Voices Blog is a video wall containing snippets from interviews with various stakeholders in the project, including students from across the various colleges. The video blog allows themes to be followed which become evident from the interviews, popular views amongst the stakeholders or ideas which they share. One such theme amongst the student body is that they recognise the need to expand skill sets or knowledge in certain areas, especially those which they believe employers will want, examples include the competent use of technology including ICT, presentation skills and group work. However, there is a real anxiety amongst these students (increasingly so when they’re in the latter stages of the degree), when it comes to taking modules where these components are used within the assessment.
Students admit to playing it safe. We offer the means for them to take alternative forms of assessment but they are hesitant. So what’s the answer? Do we reward students for taking what to them, seems like an educational risk? And if so, what shape does this reward take? Perhaps reward is the wrong term, but there does seem to be a need to make the perceived risk either appealing or not as dangerous as first thought.
When the interviewed students had this notion proposed to them, there was an agreement that in order for them to move away from the sanctuary of essays and exams then there did need to be an incentive or reward for taking an assessment which they see is a dangerous and inhibitive to them gaining the marks they know they should be achieving. Students on the Maths Group Work Project hadn’t comprehended the value in taking the group work project until the end of the module. The value they now place on this module is staggering. Once students have been enticed away from the safety of essays and exams, then they are able to see the benefits and that the risks were not really there.