The primary aims of this project are tripartite: to provide assessment-based opportunities for reflective practice; to expand the range of assessment models in the School of Law; and to engage in sustainable practice by making best use of both institutional and personal technology.
Secondary aims include the normalisation of non-traditional forms of assessment; and the promotion of the relatively underused, and oft misunderstood, institutional lecture capture service.
Assessment need not be passive (Dochy et all, 1999) and where students ‘mark’ their own work, they are often both accurate and, in so doing, reflect on their performance – often more than once – with the result of achieving better outcomes in future assignments (Gentle, 1994).
The design of a new and innovative oral assessment for the first year core Law unit ‘English Legal Systems, Methods and Skills’ aims to capitalise on both of these aspects. This involves students being set a two-part assignment; the first part requires students to produce a digital video recording of themselves giving a short presentation on a given topic. The second element of the assessment involves students watching the recording of their presentation and completing a reflective self-feedback form to be submitted alongside their presentation for marking and feedback.
The topic of the presentation is, fittingly, ‘To reflect the 21st century obsession with technology all lawyers should operate from ‘virtual chambers’ or ‘virtual offices’ and provide advice over the internet. Agree or disagree’.
‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) is a better fit with current student expectations and lifestyles (Johnson et al, 2016), and students are encouraged to use the technology they are most comfortable with. While this tends to be their own laptops, tablets or phones, departmental iPads are available to those who wish to use them. The ‘Bring’ element of BYOD is debatable here, as students were further encouraged to record in a familiar and comfortable environment; largely their own rooms, and at a time of their own choosing.
Online and face-to-face support is offered to students. The online support comprises of a standalone – and therefore reusable – Moodle resource with helpsheets, and a discussion forum that invites students to post questions relating to the assessment. The face-to-face support is in the form of drop-in sessions where students can seek assistance in installing and using the recording software.
Students are able to record, review and – if necessary – re-record their presentations prior to submitting them through the course website on Moodle (the institutional Virtual Learning Environment). Moodle is integrated with Panopto – the institutional Lecture Capture service. A global change was made to the latter to facilitate this, and future, video-based assessment initiatives throughout the College.
The reflective written piece is submitted to Turnitin – the institutional e-submission and marking service. This is already very familiar to staff and students alike. Markers – including external examiners – are able to view and mark the presentations and reflective written pieces in Moodle.
Influencing & enhancing learning
Reflective practice is something which is often advocated in teaching, but it is not often taught (Russell, 2005). Students are not always aware of what constitutes good reflection on their work (Ward and McCotter, 2004), and as a consequence do not always reflect on their work in a way that provides them with any useful insight or personal development (Hobbs, 2007).
Providing 90 Year 1 students with a performance-based task, and the means to subsequently review and reflect upon it can, realistically, only be achieved with the use of technology. Given the personal nature of self-reflection – although this could become a peer assessed piece of work in the future – it makes sense to use personal technology and to provide a ‘safe space’ in which to record and review the work prior to submission.
The second element of this assignment therefore required students to complete a structured reflective self-feedback form after watching their recorded presentation. The form gave students a structured means by which to reflect on their performance and encouraged critical, but constructive, reflection; students were invited not only to consider what they might improve, but also to celebrate what they had done well. This self-reflection was not done from a cold start for this assignment; in seminars students completed formative presentations in small groups and used the same form to give feedback to their peers. Peer evaluation offers a range of benefits, including emphasising skills, encouraging involvement, focusing on learning, establishing a reference, promoting excellence, providing increased feedback, fostering attendance, and teaching responsibility (Weaver & Cotrell 1986). Timing the assessment to take place after formative presentations to peers in a classroom environment in this way is important; students develop confidence in themselves as the academic year progresses, but also as they receive feedback and develop over time (Dochy et al, 1999)
Further to the pedagogical benefits and increased inclusivity, there were also practical benefits – recording the presentations meant that they did not need to be watched by two members of academic staff as with a ‘live’ presentation. This not only increased efficiency in terms of utilising the resource of academic staff’s time, but also reduced the pressure on room bookings within the College; the cohort of 90 students would have required around 3 days of booked rooms and the time of two academics. More significantly, recording the presentations meant that the assessment was more compliant with College regulations on marking than ‘live’ oral presentations, as a sample of the recordings can also be sent to the external examiner in the usual way.
Feedback from students was sought in relation to this project and was positive; students enjoyed the use of a type of assessment that differed from their usual written assignments. Students also found the support materials useful and the process of recording and uploading their assignments was, for most, straightforward.
Marking the reflective written pieces is ongoing; yet the overwhelming majority of those already marked are in the 2:1 and 1st degree classifications.
Dochy, F., Segers, M. & Sluijsmans, D. (1999) The use of self-, peer and co- assessment in higher education: A review, in Studies in Higher Education, 24:3
Gentle, C.R. (1994) Thesys: an expert system for assessing undergraduate projects, in: Thomas, M. et al (Eds) Deciding our Future: technological imperatives for education, pp. 1158-1160 (Austin, TX, University of Texas))
Hobbs, V. ‘Faking it or hating it: can reflective practice be forced?’ in Reflective Practice 8(3) (2007
Johnson L., etal. 2016. NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition. The New Media Consortium.[online] Available at: http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2016-nmc-horizon-report-he-EN.pdf
Russell, T. ‘Can reflective practice be taught?’ in Reflective Practice 6(2) (2005)
Ward, J. R. and McCotter, S. S. 2004. Reflection as a visible outcome for pre‐service teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20
Weaver, R. & Cottrell, (1986) Peer evaluation: a case study, in Innovative Higher Education, 11