REAPing the benefits of transformation

Attendees at last September’s SIG meeting will remember Martin Hawksey’s lively presentation on the Re-Engineering Assessment Practices in Scottish Higher Education (REAP) project.  Funded by the Scottish Funding Council and supported by JISC, the project explored ways in which technology can be used to enhance and transform assessment practice in large first year university classes, resulting in enhanced learner skills, greater achievement rates, and deeper engagement.

A final report on the project is available, discussing a range of topics such as project achievements and lessons learned, preparing for, managing and coping with large scale organisational changes, the pedagogic principles underlying transformation and a study on the use of electronic voting systems (EVS) and the surprising impact they can make on learning and achievement.

The figures reported are impressive: one course saw mean pass marks rise from 51.1% to 57.4%, another’s examination failure rate dropped from 24% to 4.6%, while a third saw a 10.4% gain in mean examination marks; hundreds of hours of staff time were saved through reductions in lectures, tutorials and the use of online assessments while students actually spent more time ‘on task’, and the nature of staff-student contact became more supportive and facilitative.  Self-assessment and peer assessment gave students more responsibility for and ownership of their learning, to which students generally responded positively.

As the report suggests, ‘these findings suggest that these processes of transformation are a plausible prospect more generally in the HE sector’.

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