Case Study 1: Bridging the gaps between what students know and what we want them to know
A Case Study from the University sector. Part of the Enhancing the Effectiveness of Tertiary Teaching and Learning through Assessment project.
The University Sector
Researcher: Jill Musgrave
Research participant: Dr Alison Campbell, Senior Lecturer - Biology, Department of Biological Sciences - The University of Waikato
Assessment Background: Assessment knowledge gained from secondary teacher training, involvement in national examination system and the university's Teaching and Learning Development Unit (TLDU)
Assessment Strategies: In class quizzes
Qualification: Bachelor of Science
Level: Level 5 (First year paper)
Class Size: 300-500 students
Student groups: International, mature, domestic students
'We know that there are gaps between what students know when they come to us and what we think they know, and I use quizzes as a way of trying to bridge the gaps. Students have to be able to fit the new learning into what they've come with.'
A university lecturer adopted the following strategy in response to research that highlights gaps between what first year students know and what lecturers expect them to know. She believes these gaps arise, in part, from the way that NCEA standards compartmentalize topics and also from the tendency lecturers have of focusing on the facts in their specialist areas at the expense of making explicit the connections between topics.
The purposes of this formative assessment strategy are to highlight and reinforce issues that students need to be aware of and to get students to engage in their learning and link one concept with another.
The strategy consists of in-class quizzes during first year lectures where students discuss questions and attempt to persuade each other of their viewpoints. When the time is up, the lecturer explains what the answer is and why. If students don't have the correct understanding of the issue, then they know that they need to do more work. If they do have the right idea, they feel good about it, and if they have also persuaded their peers, then those peers also feel good about it. In this way, it feeds on itself.
Informal feedback, gained from students after lectures, has been positive.