My school has just upgraded to Moodle 2.1, so I am busy exploring the functionality, and it occurred to me that it might be useful to document these explorations. My first impression is that there is a great deal of benefit to be had from the changes. The first function that I was very eager to try out was the peer assessment module, something I couldn’t do at all on my old Moodle.
Peer assessment is one area that I believe can really benefit from the application of technology. In Moodle 2.1 peer assessment can be set up in the Workshop module. It is done quite elegantly, and without much fuss.
The workshop module allows you to set up a submission process in a number of phases. In the first phase the teacher sets up submission instruction and compiles an assessment form, essentially a rubric which students will use when they assess each others’ work. In the second phase, the teacher allocates students to assess the submitted work. This can be done randomly, or deliberately. In the last phase the grading is completed and checked. It is then ready to be added to the gradebook.
What is particularly powerful about all of this is that it automates a process which in the physical world would be extremely difficult to control, and provides a digital paper(less) trail to boot. I like the idea of peer assessment for a number of reasons. Firstly I believe that it is a useful tool in developing self-monitoring routines. Many students are not able to monitor their own performance of a task adequately, and assessing someone else’s work is a stepping stone to learning to assess your own work dispassionately. It also gives value to student opinion, and that this is a priceless trust.
Secondly, I think that it is important to establish assessment routines across the school which allow for mentoring models in a broader sense. It has always seemed madness to me that teachers spent so much time assessing work. Teachers hate it, and students rarely take heed of it, so what on earth is the sense in it? Teacher time would be so much better utilized in helping students hone their skills. By using peers as mentors and assessors, surely we could establish a much more valuable regimen of work. A student who is one level above the student they are helping and asessing would benefit greatly from an opportunity to consolidate what they know. It would also allow for much greater personalisation.
Technology is an important tool in enabling such models. For example, the Personalisation By Pieces framework offers a vision of how mentoring and peer assessment can revolutionize the curriculum, and its reception in the classroom appears to have been very positive. While the Moodle Workshop module is a crude tool by comparison, it is clear that teachers could use it to encourage mentored assessment.
I have to say that I am absolutely blown away by the power of this module. It is quite sufficient to forgive Moodle 2.1 all its other little peccadilloes!
Here is a vodcast showing how to set up the workshop module in Moodle.