Posted on 29/06/2012
Congratuations to Dr Bruce Baker, Senior Lecturer in the History Department, who has won an Excellence Award, one of the College's Teaching Prizes, for his use of online peer review to introduce new assessment methods. The College's Learning, Teaching and Quality Committee praised his genuinely innovatory and student-centric approach towards answering a specific and recognisable learning and assessment issue. His innovation (introduced as part of his HS2217 History of the USA 1787-1877 course) has been well supported by student responses, the engagement levels are impressive, and the approach is likely to be widely applicable.
As Bruce explains, 'In 2011-12 I decided to use a set of "define-and-connect" questions in the exam for HS2217. For a survey course designed to give an overview of an entire period, this ensures that students pay attention to the entire range of material covered and its interconnections rather than focusing on a few topics. But while this form of exam question is increasingly common in the United States, our students had never encountered it before, so I wanted to be certain that they understood the format. The best way to ensure they knew how to answer the questions was for them to internalize the standards by which they would be marked. Accordingly I decided to use peer assessment structured through Moodle to do this'.
Evidence of broad student engagement can be seen in the high level of participation in the practice forums. As one student commented, 'Despite not having taken the exam yet, I believe that the "define and connect" questions are a new and stimulating way for students to engage with this epoch in American history. I have relished the challenge of learning, and condensing facts into a few short sentences which encapsulate what is being asked of me and believe that this method of learning provides a thorough and broad understanding of the material'. Likewise, according to another student, 'I think that it is important for students to be able to connect terms in history as that it is one key factor of being a good historian. At first I didn't like the idea of judging other people's answers but now I think that it is helpful for both: the one who wrote the answer can see what he or she needs to work on and by thinking about the answer of another person, you also automatically have to revise and think about topic and idiom again'.