Magazine article Teaching Business & Economics

Developing Self-Assessment Skills in the Context of Level 3 BTEC Business Courses

Magazine article Teaching Business & Economics

Developing Self-Assessment Skills in the Context of Level 3 BTEC Business Courses

Article excerpt

The ability of students to assess their own work is a key feature of assessment for learning (AFL). Peer and self-assessment is described by Black and William (1998) as "far from being a luxury, [it] is in fact an essential part of formative assessment". In the opinion of Black and William, for a school wishing to implement formative assessment practices, training students to make judgements about their own work and that of their peers is vital because it allows students to "understand the main purposes of their learning and thereby grasp what they need to do to achieve".

As a student on the EBEA MA module at Warwick University, I have investigated how assessment for learning principles could be used to benefit BTEC business students. At my school, we run three BTEC National Diploma modules simultaneously in the winter and spring terms, using the summer term to focus on corrections and enrichment activity. This means that students sometimes need to produce more than one assignment each week. Many students fail to pass their assignments at the first attempt. Indeed, some may take three or more attempts to complete an assignment successfully. This increases the workload for students (who have to complete corrections and improvements to their work while working on subsequent assignments) and for teachers (who have to assess each piece of work repeatedly).

Teaching students to assess their own work, putting them in a position to make informed judgements about the quality and accuracy of their work, should provide several benefits.

* Students should become more confident If they are able to accurately judge the quality of their work, this should reduce uncertainty while producing assignments - they will be happier that they are on the right track.

* The first time pass rate will increase More students will be able to pass their assignments first time.

* The workload of both students and teachers will decrease

If more tasks are passed first time, students will spend less time completing corrections to their work and teachers will spend less time assessing the work.

The research

In order to test this hypothesis, I carried out an action research project. Action research is a cyclical process of gathering information on a topic, implementing a practical solution to a perceived problem, analysing the progress of the solution and adjusting practice based on this analysis as each cycle progresses.

Before the start of the research, I split the cohort of students into two groups of equal size, with an equal distribution of ability (based on prior attainment data) in order to provide a test group and a control group.

Then working with the test group, I delivered a series of sessions focused on giving students the opportunity to develop and practice self-assessment skills. I based the lessons around short, simple examples in order to build the confidence of the students, as assessing coursework can be daunting for experienced teachers let alone pupils.

Students were then asked to review exemplar BTEC coursework and make judgements on the grade that should be given for the work. They were asked to make judgments using the material contained in the BTEC specifications, which are provided to students with their assignment brief when they start a new unit. I set the students up in pairs, with the most able student paired with the least able student (again based on prior attainment data), the second most able student with the second least able student and so forth. …

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