Building on work that others have done, in particular my colleagues Joy Manners and John Bolton in the OU Department of Physical Sciences, we are encouraging a move across the Science Faculty to what we are calling ‘formative thresholded assessment’.
To understand this, you need a bit of history. The OU has a long history of ‘double duty’ continuous assessment i.e. assessment where we think that the giving snd receiving of feedback is important, but where the mark also counts. However we are now trying something a bit different. What we are essentially saying is that students need to get above a certain threshold overall on their continuous assessment, but their continuous assessment score will not contribute to their overall module (or qualification) result.
The initial driver for this was to reduce the huge amount of resource we put into creating new tutor-marked assignments for each presentation of a module – and, like everyone else, just occasionally(!) we make mistakes and end up with assessment tasks that are not very good. With formative thresholded assessment, we can re-use assignments and make sure that these are as good as they possibly can be. But hopefully, we can also put the emphasis back on the formative nature of the assignments.We will still be using the usual software to discourage collusion or plagiarism, but again the emphasis will be on teaching good academic practice.
We acknowledge that we still need to do all that we can to encourage students to engage in all assignments. Suggested methods for doing this include:
- Making it clear that doing all the assignments will help students to prepare for the exam or end-of-module assignment
- Increasing tutor-marked assignment (TMA) and interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA) weightings as the module progresses (so students are not tempted to think they have ‘done enough’ and so don’t need to submit work)
- Module Teams are advised to retain firm cut-off dates for TMAs and iCMAs, again to encourage student engagement.
- Most importantly, just encouraging a culture that appreciates that is is useful to do the assignments.
Will it work? We’ll see.