Since 2007, Dr Sophy Smith (DMU Teacher Fellow, 2015 and HEA Senior Teacher Fellow, 2015) has been taking a fresh approach to assessing students on the MA/MSc Creative Technologies course at DMU.
In essence, Sophy and the team provide an open choice to the students with regard to what they study, how they are assessed and the format that they express themselves in.
At the beginning of the Major Project module, the students will have a conversation with Sophy and they will firstly decide whether they will go for an MA or an MSc in Creative Technologies. Then, based on the student’s aspirations regarding employability a set of learning objectives and the assessment format will be agreed.
The module is 15 weeks in total with 2 hours per week being delivered by Sophy and the other members of the teaching team. There are also workshops and seminars and a project is started around half way through.
The only rigid assessment component is that the students are required to provide a critical commentary regarding their project however the format of this component is also negotiable. Students do often opt to provide a written critical commentary but some students have also opted to provide a collection of blog posts, a film or any other media.
Sophy began taking this approach on two modules in 2007 but this negotiated approach to assessment is now the norm on all of the course specific modules that make up the MA/MSc Creative Technologies.
As part of the course there are shared modules too and students do not have the choice when taking these modules, only MA/MSc specific modules provide the opportunity to follow a tailored path for assessment.
One example of this flexible approach to assessment includes a student who knew that he wanted to work in the games industry producing Machinima style movies and therefore the module was tailored toward this goal for this student and his project title and assessment mechanism was also focused on this goal.
Linking the assessment to the student’s employability aspirations in this way ensures that students build a body of work throughout the life of the course to show prospective employees and this triangulated approach (linking learning objectives to employability goals and enabling a preferred expression format) is believed to be linked to the high employment rates that the graduates of this course demonstrate.
This tailored model also supports the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in that from the beginning the students are engaging in ways that suit them as individuals and they will be assessed in a manner that plays to their strengths.
Students also feel as though they own their learning experience on this course which helps them to feel motivated and to achieve.
When marking, the learning objectives that were agreed at the beginning of the course are made known to the marker and second marker and the student work is marked against these; alongside general marking criteria in line with PG regulations.
The negotiated learning objectives do align with the learning outcomes on each module to ensure parity and quality standards are upheld and Sophy believes that the success of this approach is rooted in the clarity of the learning objectives.
Typically, the MA/MSc Creative Technologies will attract around 15 students per year and the flexible approach to assessment is now standard across all course specific modules on this course.
There is a new MA Digital Arts that is coming on stream in 2016/17 and this good practice has been carried over to the new course where students will again be able to negotiate their learning objectives and assessment style from the beginning based on their employment related goals.
Thank you to Dr Sophy Smith, Reader in Creative Technologies at the Institute of Creative Technologies, DMU for enabling this blog post.