The first year experience of assessment – realigning the learning
Bone, Alison and Swan, Zoe (2011) The first year experience of assessment – realigning the learning In: Learning in Law Annual Conference 2011: Experiencing legal education, 28-29 Jan 2011, Warwick, UK.
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This paper updates and builds on research which was first presented at the Learning in Law Annual Conference 2010. The project was originally funded by a university Learning and Teaching Fellowship award and examined the experience of first year assessment of undergraduates in the Brighton Business School. An assessment audit examined the nature of assessment within the Business School and found a traditional mix of coursework and examinations although the module Legal Academic Skills had a variety of assessment tasks. All first year students were asked to complete a questionnaire in May 2010 addressing their experience of assessment. There was a relatively low response rate (17% n=103) but students had a wide range of views on which assessment tasks they found challenging and why. Law students generally found the non-law subjects most challenging, but there was a great variety in the reasons. Staff were also asked why they had selected a particular form of assessment and despite a reasonable response rate (53% n=11) very few (3) mentioned learning outcomes. The literature suggests that there has been a reduction in both the quantity and quality of feedback students receive (Gibbs and Simpson 2004) and that students are confused about guidance which lecturers think is clear (Hodgson and Bermingham 2004). These findings were supported by this research. Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006) state that it is necessary to ensure that feedback is embedded into the curriculum and the assessment strategy. In summer 2010 a decision was made to realign the assessment methods for three first year subjects on the LLB Law with Business degree: Legal Academic Skills, Legal Institutions and Method and the Law of Tort. In the academic year 2010-2011 first year students will be given a series of tasks which enable the students to develop research, presentation and problem-solving skills using examples from the law of negligence. Formative assessment from the first task set in week five (in one module) will feed into the first summative assessment in week nine (in the second module) and feedback from both tasks will be monitored using one-to-one interviews with weaker students to ensure their understanding in preparation for the third assessment task (a tort problem for the third module). Interviews will enable the tutor to discuss with students their understanding of the feedback so that they can ensure they do not make similar errors. This paper gave an overview of the findings of the original research and gave an initial impression of the impact of the scaffolding strategies on student learning and assessment. It is proposed that although the use of personal interviews to ensure feedback is understood by students is resource intensive, it is likely to result in better performance by students across all three of the modules covered.
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