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Flipping The Assessment?

29 Jun

It is exams time at our school, and amidst all the hype around the Flipped Classroom, I wondered if I could Flip the Assessment in any way.

Once again I am running my Information Technology Exams in a nearly paperless environment. Students still receive a printed exam paper so that they do not have to read the screen, but all the source files for the exam are posted on the school Moodle, students upload their replies, and I assess and give feedback online, posting a copy of the marking memorandum at the same time. The graphic shows the Moodle interface at work.

What I find so liberating about this way of working is that it is much quicker than opening a digital file to assess and record feedback on the question paper or rubric sheet, as I used to do when assessing ICT work, and then recording the marks on a separate spreadsheet. This required three separate interfaces: the student digital file, recording feedback with pen and paper, and entering the marks on a spreadsheet. Using Moodle, everything is assessed, and feedback recorded in the same interface. I then simply generate a spreadsheet of the marks at the end. What a pleasure!

The feedback and assessment is also available to students as soon as the batch has been marked, simply by toggling from hide to show.

The graphic shows the Moodle page once everything has been made visible to students, with download files, upload links and memorandum files available to students as soon as the exam has finished.

This means that when students get to class for the big hand back of papers, I have already dealt with the inevitable queries about marks being added up correctly and so on. I can concentrate on going over the paper and discussing, and modelling responses. Because the memo is posted online I do not have to go over every aspect of the paper, but can zone in on the worrying areas. I feel that this way of handling exam feedback is far superior to the rather rushed and unsatisfying hand-backs that time allowed in the past.

In a sense, this amounts to a partial flipping of the assessment process. By making the feedback, marks and memos available outside the classroom ahead of any formal handing back of papers session, I can use the time in class to make sure that my feedback achieves some meaningful remedial purposes as well.

A full flipping of the assessment would be to have students work on the exam questions at home, and for the assessment to be done with the student in class. I have used this with normal homework, paper-based assessments in the past, with great success. I found that by giving the student feedback during the marking process, talking to the student while doing so was very effective, and I feel that students greatly appreciated such a direct form of feedback. I would move around the classroom, sitting at student desks, or if this was impractical, calling them to sit next to me in the “hot seat”.

When I first became a teacher (of English), I spent a great deal of time at home marking scripts that I often felt students never read on their return. Students would often look at the mark, and leave the homework or test behind them when they left. By doing the assessment in class, next to the student, talking them through my reactions to what they had done, I felt that they really listened to the feedback, and could also explain their thinking to me, allowing me to award partial marks or explain why I couldn’t award a mark for an answer. I found that students really seemed to appreciate this one-on-one interaction, and perhaps, for the very first time gained insight into why and how marks were awarded for tests.

Sadly, though, the way the examination process is set up does not allow the time and space for this. But it is certainly something that platforms such as Moodle enable.

The optimum system would be for peer mentors to do the assessment and feedback, and an ideal Flipped Assessment model would entail peer mentoring and assessment, such as we find in the Personalisation By Pieces model. Although Moodle does have a peer assessment module, it does not have a system where peer mentors could be allocated according to a skills ladder, where someone is assessed by someone else who is one level above them.

I sincerely hope that any Moodle developers out there read this and get inspired. Such a skills ladder system would enable gamification approaches as well.

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