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Transforming tutorials with formative assessment

Morgan, Jill 2019. Transforming tutorials with formative assessment. Presented at: Networking for Education in Healthcare Conference 2019 (HEA), Keele University, 3-5 September 2019. -.

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This session explores how simple innovative practices using varied types of formative assessment can facilitate deeper understanding and learning within a tutorial based class. Additional benefits of improved engagement, attendance and student satisfaction are also highlighted; strengthening the call for formative assessment opportunities within the curriculum, without overburdening the workload for staff. Background: Undergraduate Physiotherapy students supplement their learning of anatomy with weekly tutorial sessions, which have previously been structured to allow students to prepare answers to relevant disclosed questions in advance. Tutors consistently found many students would arrive poorly prepared, or having just copied the answers from textbooks. Deep learning was not apparent since their understanding was lacking on further questioning (Biggs and Tang, 2011). Furthermore some would rely on others in the group to answer thus tagging along to the session rather than fully engaging with it. Attendance in tutorials became sporadic and tutors felt sessions often became mini-lectures. Cohort size has meant repeating sessions to small groups with a subsequent drain on staff and facilities, increasing difficulty tracking the progress of learning within the cohort, and a struggle to identify those who require additional support. Despite this, good marks at the end of module exam were achieved, however, a strategic approach to learning anatomy often left students struggling to understand and apply skills in subsequent modules. A change to the design of these tutorial sessions has been explored to address the issues highlighted. Aim/Focus of Innovation: Redesigning the tutorial aimed to introduce opportunities for formative assessment of the cohort. Yorke (2001) highlights the value of this approach in that it facilitates both the student and the tutor to interpret and understand the learning that has occurred and to identify where there may be gaps. Many formative tasks are developed for an online platform, which reduces the contact and workload for the tutor, however engagement with these formats is sporadic and has questionable efficiency for learning (Peat and Franklin, 2003). The aim of this project therefore was to design formative tasks for the classroom so that improved integration of student learning can occur. Variation in these tasks was encouraged to recognise and be inclusive of the individual learning styles of students and to balance the workload demands on the tutor in terms of being able to provide rapid feedback. Ultimately the focus of the approach was to foster deeper learning of the topic area for practical application into subsequent modules. Implementation of Innovation: To reduce the number of repeat sessions, groups were combined (maximum of 28 students together) and where possible each group allocated an individual tutor for each of the 8 tutorial sessions in the semester. This facilitated consistency, familiarity and built trust between staff and students. It was more transparent for a single staff member to observe which students were struggling and with what – often prompting discussions of a pastoral nature and signposting to the relevant support. All tutorials provided 2 previously unseen exam style questions. Tutors were able to use these questions in a variety of methods to facilitate formative feedback in the classroom. Students could work in small groups or individually to answer the questions in an informal or formal manner. They were offered choices so that they could practice exam technique, and they experienced self-marking, peer-marking and tutor marking of their papers within the session. Where understanding was lacking or misinterpreted then discussion and clarification within the group as a whole or with individuals ensued. Marking schemes were provided during and after the session and moderation processes were discussed so that students gained an understanding of how their learning would be assessed. Methods to Assess Evaluation: Evaluation of this approach to tutorials will be conducted via several strands. Firstly students and staff were invited to provide specific qualitative feedback on the tutorial style at the end of the module, but prior to the summative assessment. This was conducted on an informal basis and allowed all parties to consider what they liked, didn’t like and would like to change in relation to the sessions. Secondly, a review of the grades achieved in the summative assessment for this and subsequent modules will be undertaken and compared to previous cohorts who did not use this style of tutorial. It will be pertinent to review their scores on future assessments to gauge the level of deep learning that has taken place in relation to their anatomy knowledge. Thirdly, the cost impact in terms of staff workload and resources will be reviewed and compared to the previous style of delivery during the preceding academic year. Finally, a review of student attendance to the tutorial sessions will be conducted and student engagement with the online marking schemes analysed once the module assessment has completed. Key Findings: The overall costs in relation to the anatomy tutorials has halved between two academic years. Previous tutorials used 80 hours of staff time and room allocation to accommodate the 8 tutorial sessions for the whole cohort. This change in delivery has led to 40 hours of the same. Staff have had to 'teach' less and instead have spent more time providing feedback and clarifying explanations. Individual student support has been facilitated where necessary and dialogue with students has occurred in relation to moderation and assessment literacy. Student evaluation has been overwhelmingly positive with most highlighting that the unseen nature of the tutorial questions allows them to develop exam technique and to identify their strengths and weaknesses in relation to their learning. The have enjoyed the variety of the approaches and gained confidence in working independently as well as within groups. Staff meanwhile appreciated the benefit of the students being exposed to mock exam conditions so that they have greater awareness of the pressures of an anatomy exam situation and can develop strategies (with staff input) as how best to manage these pressures and optimise their learning strategies. • Initial evaluation of this innovative yet simple tutorial design seems positive. The student engagement and evaluation highlights that technology need not be the immediate answer when considering how to implement formative assessment and feedback within a curriculum. • The value of the tutor being able to respond and adapt their practice to gauge and develop understanding within the classroom is rated highly by students. • Immediate feedback on student performance to staff is beneficial and facilitates improved scaffolding of learning and teaching activities, without exceeding workload demand.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Healthcare Sciences
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2020 15:30

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