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  5. Can an asynchronous student conference in Open Studio develop students’ critical evaluation skills?

Can an asynchronous student conference in Open Studio develop students’ critical evaluation skills?

Project leader(s): 
Catherine Halliwell and Jenny Duckworth

The level 3 module Evaluating Contemporary Science, S350, helps students learn, develop and apply important key skills such as evaluation of current science research and communication of these findings to different audiences, along with professional skills such as time-management, giving constructive feedback to peers and reflecting on learning practices. TMA3 requires students to partake in an asynchronous online student conference using Open Studio (OS), creating a poster and audio presentation using accumulated knowledge to evaluate a contemporary topic in science. The work in the poster is further developed in the EMA, so participation in this OS activity can have a significant impact on a student’s final grade in S350. Whilst many students enjoy the conference and achieve relatively good marks on style and presentation of their work, it is not clear to what extent students develop (and recognize) deeper rather than superficial critical evaluation skills that focus on the science presented. This is a key issue in terms of helping students learn and practice skills of critical evaluation which are needed for them to succeed in their final project modules (student success). It is important for module teams and ALs to understand how students approach learning through peer-to-peer feedback in an online environment so that student experience and success can be enhanced (learning design) and best practice in the assessment of such activities can be shared within the module and to other modules (innovative assessment).

Our research questions are therefore:

  • Can a student conference using OS lead to a positive impact on module success through supporting a deeper engagement with critical evaluation of contemporary science?
  • What ‘quick fixes’ can we put in place to help promote student engagement in deeper learning and reflection?

We will collect and analyse data on when students engage with the conference, the scope and depth of that engagement (particularly in relation to feedback from and to peers), and whether students reflect or act on that feedback. From this we will propose interventions and actions in 19J that will promote deeper learning and reflection.We will then monitor the effectiveness of these interventions.

The impacts of this work are potentially

  • Minimizing the stress associated with OS activities so that students are more aware of the professional skills they develop than the mechanics of the conference preparation
  • Development of post-conference teaching materials
  • Assess the potential for enhancement activities such as a synchronous conference
  • Advice for the design of assessment using OS and/or student conferencing/peer evaluation

This would lead to the following outcomes

  • Increased attainment levels amongst S350 students, particularly in professional skills (for example using and giving constructive feedback, time management and organization) – in line with student success and employability priorities
  • Increased student confidence in giving peer-to-peer constructive feedback
  • Recommendations on design of assessment involving OS for other STEM modules and disciplines.

Halliwell, C. and Duckworth, J. (2019) poster