Friday morning saw me doing my usual Friday-morning-thing, namely work on my PGCert Tertiary Teaching portfolios. (I’ve put in a recurring appointment in my calendar every Friday morning for this semester so I actually get down to doing this task.) As part of this, I’ve been pulling together relevant blog entries on my teaching experiences.
A dangerous move, because I’ve started reading them again. Some of them are full of good intentions that haven’t quite materialized. Here’s a quick example. Back in April this year, I wrote about the book ‘Assessment for Learning’ by Paul Black et al. I highlighted the discovery that giving a (secondary) student a summative mark with a piece of work (e.g. 8 out of 10) completely negates any formative comments you write on the work – i.e. you may as well not have bothered writing any comments. However, if you don’t put a mark on the work, the students will take note of your comments and improve. I then said "Worth a shot in one of my papers…"
I now recall that I intended to do this with my experimental physics class. (For this class, it’s a fairly easy thing to do because I spend a lot of time with them in the laboratory, and the course is completely under my control – I don’t have to fit in with what another lecturer is doing.) So my intention was not to give the students marks on their work, but rather give them feedback and discuss with them where they can improve. However, my intention has not turned into reality. It’s halfway there, in that I give them comments, discuss the work with them, and then ask them to give themselves a mark (Phil Race style, www.phil-race.co.uk, see also here), but after they do that I end up giving them a mark (which usually is pretty close to their mark.) Not quite what I had in mind earlier. There is next year.
Of course, at some point, I would need to get ‘summative’, because the students need to get a grade for every course they do. But there are probably plenty of options for doing that.
Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B. & Wiliam, D. (2003) Assessment for Learning. Maidenhead, U.K.: Open University Press.