Participants learnt about assessment and constructive feedback in motivating students over the two sessions of the in-house training held at the WOU main campus.
The training on ‘Module 6: Formative and Summative Assessment in ODL’ was part of the ODL Core Competency Certificate Programme (ODL-CCCP). The second session today and the earlier one on August 13 were attended by 12 staff from the four Schools and the Educational Technology & Publishing Unit. The facilitators were Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic-OCL) Prof Mohandas Menon and Prof Phalachandra Bhandigadi, School of Education, Languages and Communications.
In the first session, Prof Menon talked about the basic concepts and processes of assessment, adding, “Assessment offers feedback to all stakeholders – students, educators, parents, MQA and the public – and allows for certification.”
Every system, he said, should have both formative and summative assessments. At WOU, tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) represent the main formative assessment used while others include self-test, quizzes, unit tests and short projects. Summative or semester-end assessments are final tests and final projects.
Prof Menon stated that feedback given on TMAs can either motivate or deflate students. “There are different reasons why learners drop out after the first TMA. The system itself is new to them, and suddenly they realise all that is involved, so they drop out at the first level.” He said students are sometimes not given proper guidelines on doing assignments, remarking, “You find that even in postgraduate courses, students do not cite their references properly.”
He said the course coordinator, when preparing TMAs, must ensure that assignments help students read the course materials and reinforce what they have learnt. “Ideally, assignments should cover the two units equally, the first is on the content and the second is more application type. Assignment should be made very relevant to learners so that they remain committed to continue with the course.”
Prof Menon stressed that tutors’ comments on assignments should be “positive, constructive and global. Tutors should avoid negative, null, hollow, misleading, and harmful comments.”
The participants were asked to classify samples of tutors’ feedback into various categories as an individual activity. A detailed discussion was held to ascertain the appropriateness of the classification done by the participants and the reasons for classifying the feedback statement as null, misleading, positive, constructive, etc so that a common understanding could be reached about the classification and its implication for students’ motivation and learning.
Prof Phala conducted the second session on how to develop TMAs, including the types and structure of TMAs, and the marking scheme. He spoke on what students expect from TMAs, namely a “fair and objective grading, clear comments/notes on grading, constructive criticism with indications of how to improve, their strengths and weakness pointed out, and making it a learning experience.” TMAs can be questions, field/lab work followed by report, surveys with report of findings, or the analysing of case study and responding to questions, he added.
He conducted a critical analysis and discussion on sample TMAs regarding appropriateness, the number of questions, clarity of questions, level of difficulty, mark distribution, probable time required to complete the assignment, etc. This discussion was to help participants prepare better quality TMAs with effective instruction and marking scheme.