SIMPLE Final Report: Replay/remix/feedforward assessment culture vs. snapshot assessment

by Paul Maharg on 03/10/2008

Simulation learning, like clinic, PBL, and other forms of situated learning environments, gives us great opportunities to transform assessment culture, both formative and summative assessment. Both types are still too oriented to the past, and rooted in an examination culture. Formative says: ‘this is how you did in this mini assessment — don’t make the same mistake in the final exam’. Summative comes along and says: ‘here’s an instant photo that’s representative of your learning this year’. Both are wrong.

Students appreciated the assessment of the whole transaction precisely because it took account of improvement within the simulation and over a span of time. In this respect, assessment by simulation is quite different from the snapshot assessment that takes place within examinations or other conventional forms of assessment. Moreover, when a learning environment is also used as an assessment environment (where students can draft and redraft documents online, for instance, before they send them – the transmission of the document effectively being an entry in the submission process) then the close adjacency of assessment to learning can serve to change the culture of assessment. Students take responsibility for their client, their file and their process of learning. That this happened in most projects to some extent is evidenced by student comment upon their own performance.

Another, related, feature is the ability to play elements of a transaction and replay them. While students build the transactional file they begin to use and remix elements of letters and documents: they learn to streamline the production of communications. They begin to act, in other words, as professionals do in similar circumstances (and this applies to academics as well as professionals beyond the university). In this environment, feedforward, i.e. mentoring advice and guidance that is directed at shaping student performance in the next loop, is crucial to student improvement. It is by means such as these that student performance can be moved from a level that may be barely acceptable at the start of a simulation to capable and polished novice performance by the end of the simulation.

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