The challenge of assessing reflection

Centre for Inclusion and Collaborative Partnerships
Working for social justice in higher education
Inclusive Assessment in Practice
The Challenge of Assessing
The Open University Access Programme
John Butcher, Stefanie Sinclair, Anactoria Clarke
 Critical evaluation of assessment of reflection in Arts
and languages Access module (Y031)
 Y031 is one of three new L0 Access modules. Includes
a range of assessed/non-assessed reflective tasks.
 30 credits, 30 weeks, designed for WP students new
to HE with limited prior qualifications, offering
additional preparation to build confidence to succeed
in L1 UG qualifications.
How does the assessment of reflective tasks
affect students’ perception of and
engagement with reflective tasks?
How do tutors view the transition to a more
formal assessment of reflective tasks?
 30 years since key texts theorising reflection
 (Boud, Kolb, Schon). Recently, persistent advocates but
strong critiques around contested areas of learner
engagement, deep reflection and assessment of reflection.
 Reflection in HE: Cowan 2013, Dyment & O’Connell 2011,
Moon 2001, 2006, Race 2010.
 Inclusive assessment in HE: Butcher et al 2010, Gravestock
2006, Hockings 2010, McDowell 2008.
 Formative feedback in HE: Evans 2013, Nicol 2007, 2009, &
McFarlane-Dick 2006, Shute 2008.
 Online survey to Y031 13J students
 Telephone interviews with sample of Y031 tutors
 Analysis of tutor feedback and PT3 assessment
summary on sample of marked TMAs
Findings: what worked?
 Some students spent time on, and thought carefully about
reflective tasks if assessed, perceiving them as important
skills in dealing with future studies.
 Some tutors felt assessing reflection made students take it
more seriously, enhancing active, independent study skills
and progression as distance learners.
 If tutors targeted feedback on reflection as a positive
aspect of learning (not a ‘problem to be solved’), trusting
dialogic learning resulted.
 Younger students more confident in reflecting.
 Students found most helpful activities where they could
reflect on how they used their tutor’s feedback.
what needs improving?
 Reflection challenges Access students - some
perceive reflection as waste of time (describing
rather than analysing), prioritising content, so tutors
need to support reflection pro-actively.
 Students with negative prior educational experience
need to trust their tutor to reflect honestly:
quality/quantity of feedback is crucial.
 Tutors need to be more confident about assessing
reflection (assigning a % grade)
Reflection on findings
 Access learners can be vulnerable, lack study resilience and
be at risk of early withdrawal.
 Tutor feedback is crucial to student success
 Prior educational experience of Access students may not
have been positive, they may not value the skills and
experiences they bring to their first taste of HE.
 Tutor trust/support are critical to student persistence
 Tutors may be committed to the benefit of reflection, but
lack confidence in grading/feeding back on reflection.
Assessment is an issue.
 Tutors need to be competent in assessing reflection
 Be explicit why students are asked to reflect: include a
definition, amplify purpose, scaffold ‘prompts’, prioritise
 Reflective activities need to be embedded into an iterative
learning process, and an integrated curriculum and
assessment design, combining assessed and non-assessed
reflective tasks
 To prompt greater dialogue with the tutor, assess
reflective tasks: interaction is cumulative.
 Tutors need further staff development to build confidence
and skills in the assessment of reflection (exemplars of %
grading & feedback).
Inclusive assessment
 How can the assessment of reflective tasks support
Widening Participation?
 In what way can the assessment of reflective tasks be
regarded as inclusive assessment?
Centre for Inclusion and Collaborative Partnerships
Working for social justice in higher education
Dr John Butcher
Deputy Director, CICP
Dr Stefanie Sinclair
Chair of Y031, Lecturer in Religious Studies
Dr Anactoria Clarke
Regional Manager Y031
Any questions?

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