A Survey on Effective Assessment Methods to Enhance Student Learning

By Le, K. N.; Tam, V. W. Y. | Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, October 2007 | Go to article overview

A Survey on Effective Assessment Methods to Enhance Student Learning


Le, K. N., Tam, V. W. Y., Australasian Journal of Engineering Education


1 INTRODUCTION

Understanding student differences in their motivation, attitude about teaching and learning, and responses to different classroom environment and instructional practices helps lecturers meet the diverse student needs (Ribeiro & Mizukami, 2005). While it is impossible to tailor their class to match each student's needs, it is possible to provide a balanced teaching approach that will meet the needs of the majority of the students in the classroom (Besterfield-Sacre et al, 2001).

One of the main student concerns is how to pass a course and, at the same time, achieving satisfaction. For example, for a particular course such as Physics, most students may consider a grade of Credit as satisfactory, however, a small number of students in the class may aim for High Distinction. As such, assessment items and methods, which tell students how to score marks contributing towards the final grade, play a key role. Further, achieving a high grade for a course, which means that students theoretically understand the subjects and concepts taught in the course, does not always mean that they are satisfied with the course. Students usually consider further explorations during their own time to apply the knowledge that they have learnt in the course to real-world problems, such as finding jobs, web-page design, designing a small circuitry or building a bridge meeting certain criteria. Thus, assessment items and methods need to be carefully designed and experimented with to meet student needs on one hand, and to ensure that they are able to contribute to their profession upon graduating on the other hand (Berglund et al, 1998). This can be considered as the single most important aspect of assessment. From the lecturer perspective, it should also be noted that assessment items and methods should also be designed and arranged so that the marking and feedback-giving processes are not time consuming. This ensures that the teaching process is productive, and by meeting the above-mentioned point, the teaching process can be considered effective and satisfactory (Hapburn, 1992).

The most effective way to measure the effectiveness of assessment items and methods is to conduct surveys to measure student attitude (Berglund et al, 1998; Burtner, 2005; Carrington et al, 2005; Grace et al, 1998; Mead et al, 1999; Ribeiro & Mizukami, 2005). From that, possible improvements can be made. The objectives of this paper are:

* To conduct student attitude and understanding on different assessments items and methods.

* To show and to analyse results of the survey using RII values and F-tests results.

* To give appropriate recommendations to improve the assessment methods.

2 LEARNING APPROACH

Learning is a succession of (Griffith Institute For Higher Education, 2006): i) an increase in knowledge; ii) memorising; iii) acquisition of facts and procedures; iv) abstraction of meaning; and v) an interpretive process. Two conceptions can be linked to approaches to learning that have been classified as taking a surface or deep approach by Gibbs's study (Gibbs, 1992). Figure 1 shows a 3 "P" model of teaching and learning, which involves Presage, Process and Product. Process is the main focus in this paper, in which it can be divided into two main learning approaches: a deep approach and a surface approach. In the deep approach, students attempt to make sense of what is to be learnt, which consists of ideas and concepts. This involves integrating between components and between tasks, and also playing with ideas. In the surface approach, students reduce what is to be learnt to the status of unconnected facts to be memorised. The learning task is to reproduce the subject matter at a later date.

The surface approach to learning is encouraged by (Ramsden, 2003): i) assessment methods emphasising recall or unconceptualised procedural knowledge; ii) assessment methods that create anxiety; iii) cynical or conflicting messages about rewards; iv) an excessive amount of material in the curriculum; v) poor or no feedback on progress; vi) lack of independence in studying; and vii) lack of interest and background knowledge in the subject matter.

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