A team from McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) has been named winner of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network’s 2020 Innovation Award for its survey asking students to assess the types of assignments that best helped them learn.
The award-winning team is comprised of Carolyn Samuel Senior Academic Associate; Eva Dobler, Teaching and Learning Consultant; Mariela Tovar, Senior Academic Associate; and Bruktawit Maru, Graduate Student Assistant.
“This project is particularly exciting because it brings student voices into conversations about learning-focused assessment, and because it provides a valuable resource to faculty that can be replicated at other institutions,” said Adriana Streifer, the POD Network’s Innovation Award Chair. The POD Network is North America’s largest educational development community, supporting more than 1,400 members representing every US state and more than 30 countries, to develop professionally through meaningful and sustained interaction.
According to the POD press release, the Innovation Award received a record-breaking number of submissions. The work of Samuel and her colleagues stood out to the selection committee for “its emphasis on the value of student contributions to the work of educational development, and for its approach to creating a lasting resource that supports instructors in creating learning-focused assessment practices.”
Assessing a diverse student body
The student survey, which was conducted in the Fall of 2019, is part of TLS’s ongoing efforts “to raise instructors’ awareness about assessment for learning (AfL) and the importance of varied assessment practices to ensure all members of our diverse student population have the potential to succeed regardless of their differences,” says Samuel. “Our multi-faceted approach involves intentional interconnections among several strategies, such as learning communities, blog series, student videos and symposia.”
- According to Samuel, the student survey was used to:
- learn about assessment practices at McGill
- enhance a collection of strategies to support instructors with implementing AfL
- increase the network of instructors TLS works with
- recognize instructors’ contributions to student learning
- raise students’ awareness about AfL
The survey had a broad reach, with respondents from approximately 60 different programs. “Many students described assignments that allow for practical application of the material they are learning and for creativity,” says Samuel of the results. “They also perceive that assignments where they need to submit some work on an incremental basis helps them stay on track with their learning.”
Assessment strategies during the pandemic
The original plan was to share the results with McGill instructors in a 2020 TLS symposium on assessment; however, the event was cancelled in light of COVID-19. Organizers are currently considering alternative ways to share the results with the McGill community.
“We hope that by sharing examples that students cited, instructors may be inspired to implement a variety of assessments in their courses,” says Samuel. “Students’ learning experience can be enhanced when they are afforded more and more varied opportunities to demonstrate their learning.”
Assessing student learning is a key part of the remote learning puzzle and TLS is a good resource for McGill instructors.
“COVID has compelled higher education to rethink assessment practices. TLS has created a web page called Beyond Grading: Strategies from McGill Instructors. The page highlights various assessment strategies used by McGill instructors, a number of which (strategies) have been drawn from the survey responses,” she says. “As we indicate on the web page, many of the strategies can be easily adapted to a remote learning environment. We encourage instructors who are seeking inspiration for how to assess student learning – in remote or on-campus learning environments – to check out the variety of strategies on the page.”