We value learning and assessment that is authentic and relevant

Students feel more motivated when they know that their learning is applicable in real life scenarios and that it is meaningful both to themselves and to their learning. Authentic learning is learning designed to help students connect what they learn to real-world issues, problems, and applications. This approach will provide a more immersive learning experience as well as promoting the development of employability skills.

Equip students with the skills to positively contribute to, and work in, a global and diverse environment

Equipping your students with employability skills throughout the curriculum is as important as developing their disciplinary knowledge. Students should be able to cope with, and adapt to, the uncertainty of the knowledge economy and by having such skills they will be better prepared for employment.

Suggestions

  • You can embed employability skills as part of the assessments either as a core output of the assessment (a client presentation, a business or care plan, a grant application, a lesson plan) or as part of the criteria you are assessing (i.e. a presentation, reflective writing, planning, team-work, critical thinking, problem solving or ethics)
  • Introduce employability workshops within your module/course with the help from the Employability team or the Library
  • Embed field trips to industry and business but aligning those with what you are currently teaching (i.e. create a problem for them to solve so that the questions they ask in the field trip are guided by this problem)
  • Use the ‘Study Skills for Successful Students’ guide, to help your students reflect on their own skills and set goals for their professional development.

Create links with students’ interests and future professional and personal aspirations

Connecting with students’ interests, aspirations and future identities has been identified as a key factor in students’ engagement with learning. During their university path, students will be developing their own understanding of their future profession. Therefore, by exposing them to a diverse range of existing opportunities around their course they will become more engaged as well as more prepared to choose their future career path.

Suggestions

  • You can question your students about what they want to do and where they want to work and signpost the content and assessments relevant to those areas
  • You can develop assessments throughout the course based on problem solving, or the development of mini-projects in different areas
  • You can create opportunities for guest speakers from services, industry, business or charities, tailoring those guest-lectures to students’ shared interests

Contextualising new learning with previous knowledge, learning outcomes and course content provides meaning and relevance

It is important, in the way we develop our teaching, to recognise that students’ understanding of content may be influenced by their prior learning and experiences; this is known in educational psychology as Schema Theory (Kirschner, 2002).

Suggestions

  • Provide a clear introduction before teaching or in the Blackboard module of which learning outcomes you will be introducing
  • Frequently signpost the content you are delivering with content delivered in previous lessons or modules
  • Ensure that students have the opportunity to share their own experiences, their views and the context where they live or work to help shape their perceptions of the topic and to understand those of others. Realising we don’t all comprehend things in the same way is important and through the use of discussion forums, teachers can understand where students have not understood a concept and can correct them without singling them out by posting a clarification to the forum.

Provide opportunities for students to work within diverse and mixed groups of students

Groups that are diverse allow its members to experience new ways of seeing problems, being exposed to new challenges and expanding their knowledge. It also mirrors the type of environment that students will need to adapt to when they start working.

Suggestions

  • Try to organise heterogeneous groups, avoiding clustering in group work. The more diverse a group is the richer the learning experience will become

Assessment briefs and feedback should be presented and discussed with students at an earlier stage

Bloxham (2009) exposes the “fragile enterprise” of grading students against only “tacitly understood” criteria. Evidence suggests that students will have different interpretations of what is intended with the assessment and so discussing assessment briefs and criteria will ensure that all are in the same framework and enable a clearer understanding of the feedback.

Suggestions

  • Make the criteria of assessment explicitly visible in the assessment brief or as part of Blackboard rubrics
  • Encourage your students to use the ‘Guides for Success’ which have been designed to help students to engage more with their assessments and exams. Guides are available for students on Study Support.
  • Use and monitor a discussion forum in Blackboard that enables peer discussions about the specific assessment. You can guide students to respond to questions such as “Did you understand what you need to do?” or “Do you understand the marking criteria?”
  • In a classroom discussion, set the expectations of feedback from day one. Ensure that students understand the type of feedback they will receive, when they can access it and how they must engage with it.

Design assessments that are challenging, ensure transfer of knowledge and focus on determining the skills and knowledge that the students are “able to demonstrate” while completing specific tasks

A study conducted by Ashford-Rowea et al (2014) provides a framework for an authentic learning activity, suggesting guidelines for the design, development and application of work-relevant assessment. They suggest that assessments should be challenging and that the outcome of the assessment process should be transferable and demonstrable while completing specific tasks.

Suggestions

  • Develop assessments that are project-based so that students can draw from the planning, designing and application of this project in future projects outside their learning journey
  • Incorporate more formative assessment opportunities so that feedback received can be used to improve future assessments. This can be done either by separating the assessment in different elements or by having similar assessment approaches from module to module.

Feedback should be coherent and aligned with the criteria. Examples should be given of how to improve in future assessments

Feedback is a relevant part of the learning process. Learners appreciate receiving feedback about the effectiveness of their work or examples of what they should do to improve in future assignments (feedforward).

Suggestions

  • Just highlighting what was wrong is not enough as it does not help the student to improve. You must identify what needs to be improved and provide examples of how that might be achieved whilst helping students to set their own learning goals
  • When you are providing the feedback, you must signpost the marking criteria and the learning outcomes that are being assessed, so students understand the fairness of the marking
  • You may use a rubric system to ensure that there is clear feedback aligned with the criteria. However, you must support this feedback with some personalised feedforward to help students to improve

Professional development opportunities