Gloucestershire University face-up to the new reality

A Times Higher article about developments Gloucestershire University, 19 October 2007.

I have posted the encouraging news from Gloucester further down this post, but I wanted to challenge the reported position taken by Adrian Furnham, a professor of psychology at University College London who found:
“that the least intelligent students favour coursework because it allows them to “freeload” from others and hide their limitations. He blamed the rising use of coursework for grade inflation.”

Adrian appears to be making a confused point about how individuals perform in different forms of assessment with a concept of intelligence – however you define that…

At the root of this is a very self-referential argument that runs like this. By definition university lecturers performed well in traditional forms of assessment and this must, therefore, be the right way to measure the ‘intelligence’ of students at a university and confer membership of this particular club with all its different levels.

Using different forms of assessment that allows other groups of students to evidence their ability allows a wider membership of the academic community and challenging the identity that the current membership have constructed for themselves.

However, the bulk of the article is really encouraging:

Assessment for learning?:

“Gloucestershire plan would emphasise coursework and cut module choice. Patricia Broadfoot, the vice-chancellor, confirmed that she is also pushing for a “substantial reduction” in the number of exams for students at all levels across her university amid mounting questions over the value of the traditional form of assessment. She told The Times Higher that she believes that exams are not the best way to promote students’ learning. “Students have an instrumentalist attitude to study, and we want to move away from that. We want to see them excited by study, and exams contradict that,” she said….Middlesex University abolished first-year exams in 2004, moving to “100 per cent coursework”, arguing that it was the best way to “facilitate learning”

…Professor Broadfoot, a professor of education, said she wanted “to challenge taken-for-granted assumptions” about exams…Much time is spent on marking and feedback,” Professor Broadfoot said, “but this suggests that the latter is not perceived as valuable by a significant minority”. Noting that this year’s National Student Survey highlighted concerns about a lack of formative feedback, she said that “this is a challenging and urgent agenda for all universities.”

Technology arrives?

“New types of feedback to students have developed in line with technological developments – for example, podcasting, electronic criterion-referenced sheets and Questionmark Perception (interactive quizzes). All these provide personalised and formative feedback matched to learning objectives, she said.”

Inquiry based?

“Gloucestershire’s new teaching and learning strategy also includes the promotion of “active learning” throughout the university, or learning through practical activities. “We want students to learn through their own research and to get more involved with teaching each other,” Professor Broadfoot said.”

Community of learners?
“We want to build a strong cohort of students who identify with and support each other.”

Lots here for the IDIBL project at the, Institute for Educational Cybernetics University of Bolton to take encouragement from…

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