In 2009, following the suggestions from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) developed a graduate attributes model to inculcate professionalism among the students and to fulfil the needs of the employers (Edinburgh Napier University, 2009). The four essential dimensions of the ENU graduates are, 1) Application of & contribution to the knowledge, 2) Learning for life, 3) World of work prepared, 4) Citizenship. Considering the Validity, Reliability, Practicality, Cost-effectiveness, Fairness and Usefulness (V.R.P.C.F.U.) criteria (Brown and Knight,1994), the current assessment scheme in the module Sustainable Developments (BSV 10104), does not test generic skills that students have developed over the course of their studies. Therefore, providing various assessments might improve the graduate attributes through building their confidence and increase employability. This study will thus, evaluate the Sustainable Development module taught in the 4th year at ENU. It is a compulsory module for students studying on various built environment courses. The module is testing conceptual and disciplinary knowledge through a written, three-hour and essay-type examination. Although this method of assessment has advantages when dealing with large cohorts and managing tutor’s workloads, it does not teach effectively the application of knowledge which an alternate or another form of assessment might provide. Additionally, solely this method of assessment may create tension with the validity and fairness of the assessment potentially creating inequality within the whole student cohort which is against Edinburgh Napier University strategic aims.
The study seeks to find out the possibility of using an alternative assessment strategy within the BSV10104 module, to improve the student’s learning experience, employability skills and attributes. The study objectives are 1) to appraise the reasons influencing assessment strategies. 2) to identify assessment strategies available for improved learning in a large cohort, 3) to evaluate current assessment practice and develop new methods of assessment within the BSV10104 module, 4) identify the area of development, 5) assess how the new proposed evaluation strategy could improve graduate employability skills and attributes.
The aim of the study was to find out whether an alternative assessment strategy can improve the student’s learning experience and, employability skills and attributes in the BSV10104 module. In particular the current study had five objectives 1) To appraise the factors influencing assessment strategies, 2) To identify assessment strategies available for increased learning in large cohort, 3) To evaluate current assessment practice and explore development of the new methods of assessment within the BSV10104 module, 4) Identify the area for development, 5) Assess how the new proposed assessment strategy could strengthen graduate employability skills and attributes. The study has found the need to change the current assessment scheme of the Sustainable Developments module.
A new proposed assessment strategy included the range of features to improve the students learning experience. For instance, use of interactive online discussions for reflection and grant of 5% marks for the student’s participation in online activities. Second, removal of the research activities. Third, use of the traditional exam assessment method to encompass an added assessment. Fourth, introduction of PBL real case scenario on “Sustainable construction / low carbon building design”. Fifth, formation of online groups will provide opportunities for collaborative learning”. Sixth, provision of detailed formal feedback for the students. Also, the introduction of peer-assessment and self-assessment marking strategies to provide immediate feedback to the large student’s cohorts.
The criteria’s used to evaluate the feasibility of the new proposed assessment strategy are 1) Five key criteria test, 2) Bloom’s cognitive domain test, 3) Employability skills and attributes analysis and 4) Assessment for learning environment test. The proposed added method of assessment complements well the current traditional written examination. Not only can it encourage students’ involvement and adoption of the deep-level approach to learning, but it can also develop employability skills through summarising complex information, communicating the findings, and working within a team.
It implies, the university may encourage the continuous professional development of the academic staff and promote evaluation of the assessment strategy with the Graduate Attribute model. Information from the Human Resource Department and the Research Department will help in proposing new assessment strategy to heighten students experience and provide an opportunity to the academic staff to conduct research.
A suggested direction for further research is to create as assessment model by triangulating data on the students learning styles, assessment strategies and the workload information.
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