Doing your own assessments

I have been producing sample work this past year for the distance learning courses at the request of the Shadow Teacher. For the first item, an essay plan, providing sample work has resulted in a significant improvement in the work submitted over last year. It is probably more essential in Transnational education to be extremely explicit about what expectations are and sample work is a useful way to do this.

I also provide sample work for a few assignments for home students but  with the acknowledgement that the sample work could be marked to around 2i standard. I like to leave sufficient room in such sample work for a student to excel and not be limited by what I think is great work. These assignments are usually ‘new’ to the students – an infographic in 3rd year inorganic reaction mechanisms, a ‘what am I?’ style molecule puzzle, or something debunking wrong chemistry on the internet. Beyond 1st year, I would not expect to have to provide a sample lab report (and it would be virtually impossible to provide one without doing all the analysis and giving the game away).

I asked around on twitter and most of us do answers for tutorials, exam questions (model answers being a requirement for external examiners), and in lecture problems. Actual assignments seemed less common though.

We provide fairly long assessment guidelines and criteria but I’m not sure this always makes sense to students without a sample on hand. I also find assessment criteria to be frustrating in that it is often just a case of linguistic trickery – replace the word ‘excellent’ with ‘very good’ with ‘good’ and ‘satisfactory’ as you go down the degree classes. Or move from ‘free from errors’ to ‘some errors’ to ‘significant’ errors. I must admit, I’ve given up defining more than the characteristics of failing work. just passing work and 80%+ work. I think it’s reasonable to assume the stuff in the middle is a spectrum from ‘bare pass’ through to ‘couldn’t be bettered’.  Terms like ‘good’ are highly subjective anyway, and what I might mean by it is not necessarily how it is received.

One thing I would like is to be able to upload sample work to Turnitin or BlackBoard Assignments, employ the rubric or grading form and some quick marks/annotations, then make that marked sample available to the class as well.  I can upload the work and test drive the marking forms but it isn’t easy to make it available to all. I think it would be useful in showing students how to access the different document views. I don’t think this is possible but it would be a nice feature.