Assessment across the Lifespan The demographic time bomb and assessment: motivating older adult learners A pilot study Dr Rosalind Duhs University College London (UCL) [email protected] This study is not a BIG BEAST (Desjardins) People behind the statistics Overview of presentation 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Background and rationale Literature Research questions: pilot study Methods Findings Conclusion and discussion 1. Background and rationale 1. The topic – – the demographic time bomb assessment to motivate learners 2. Older university learners 2012 – European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations Older university learners deserve assessment Context University Lifelong learning beyond 50 and into old age • For this study: university learning (formal) Open University (UK) 7,800 learners over 65 • Universities UK report and Age UK ‘value of lifelong learning’ (Phillipson and Ogg, 2010, p.13) • Richard Desjardins – individual behaviours ‘use it or lose it’. ‘It may be possible to mitigate, delay or prevent cognitive decline.’ Universities UK ‘Investment now in education – and higher education in particular – is likely to have major benefits for individuals and for society as it will help older people remain economically and socially engaged.’ (Phillipson and Ogg, 2010, p.39) The topic: the demographic time bomb Developed world The majority of babies born since 2000 are likely to reach 100 (Phillipson and Ogg, 2010, p.6) Europe Less than two people aged 15-64 for every person aged 65+ by 2060 (4:1 2012) (Eurostat 2012 p.32) UK • 2007: more people of state pension age than under 16 20.7 million people aged 50 and over. Result of demographic time bomb No fixed retirement age Longer employment is an economic necessity Formal lifelong learning 2. Literature • ‘…in the future older adults will be encouraged to return to work or remain in the workforce’ (Bunyan 2005) • Lifelong learning across the lifespan is beneficial to health and may lessen the risk of dementia (Friedrich 2003) • Learning … ‘can protect against cognitive decline’ (Beddington 2008 p.1058) Assessment to motivate learners Participation in formal learning (for accreditation or certification) declines sharply from 50 onwards (Phillipson and Ogg, 2010, p.4) More demanding learning – better for the brain? Assessment shapes learning Backwash Boud (2010) and Gibbs (1999, 2003) Successful older learners: many examples Bertie Gladwin, left school at 14, third degree at 90, MA in Intelligence History, distinction in his dissertation (Garner 2012) 3. Research questions: pilot study How do older learners experience assessment at university? (formative and summative) (both traditional unseen examinations and coursework such as essays or projects, etc) • Do they consider that assessment protects them against cognitive decline? • Are marks important to them? • Does formative assessment help them to improve their work? 4. Research methods (pilot study) • Survey with Likert-type questions and space for free text responses • So far: survey pilot with group of six older learners • Four Swedish, two English, studying/recently studied arts subjects at university, three in England, three in Sweden 5. Findings Two cases and overall characteristics Swedish male, aged between 66 and 70 Assignments marked by lecturers: ‘Very happy with good marks. Rather indifferent to bad marks if I feel that they are unjust. Quite upset if I have failed through my own bad efforts.’ Feedback helps me to improve my work. The marks I get matter to me. Summative assessment I agree strongly that examinations help me to grasp important course concepts. I agree that the examinable component protects against cognitive decline. ‘You are in the course with a lot of young people. You have to show yourself that your [sic] as good as they.’ ‘University studies are good for you as an old man.’ English female, aged between 66 and 70 ‘I agree that written assignments marked by lecturers help me to focus on learning. Written assignments require plenty of preparatory reading.’ The feedback on assignments marked by lecturers helps me to improve my work. ‘Some lecturers had the gift of good feedback, others were discouraging.’ I agree that the marks I get for my assignments matter to me. ‘The better marks were encouraging, lower ones were dampening to the self-esteem but stimulated some more study.’ The two cases: self-efficacy ‘Older adults have reduced levels of self-efficacy’ ‘…negative ageing stereotypes’ lead to reduced effort. ‘Such beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies.’ (Aukrust 2011, p.242) Five out of six cases • Agree or agree strongly that summative assessment protects against cognitive decline • Much prefer/prefer other forms of assessment to examinations • Six out of six care about their marks 6. Conclusion and discussion How do older learners experience assessment at university? (formative and summative) They regard assessment as important and care about their marks. They believe that formative assessment helps them to improve their work. They mostly consider that assessment protects them agains cognitive decline. From this preliminary exploration: It appears to be worthwhile to encourage more older learners to learn at university and experience educational assessment. Thank you References and further reading Aukrust, V.G. (2011) Learning and Cognition in Education. Oxford: Academic Press Beddington, J. et al (2008) ‘The Mental Wealth of Nations’. Nature,455 p.1057 Biggs, J. (2003). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 2nd ed. Buckingham: The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press. Bunyan, K. and Jordan, A. (2005) ’Too Late for the Learning: lessons from older learners’. Research in Post-Compulsory Education,10 (2) Eurostat (2012) Active ageing and solidarity between generations: 2012 edition. A statistical portrait of the European Union 2012 Friedrich, D. (2003) Personal and societal intervention strategies for successful ageing. Ageing International 28(1), 3-36 Garner, R. (2012) ‘The oldest master: student who left school at 14 gets his third degree at 90’. The Independent www.independent.co.uk Phillipson, G. and Ogg, J. (2010) Active ageing and universities: Engaging older learners. Universities UK.