Marks are a phony currency

“Marks are a phony currency” – Professor Chris Rust on assessment

Last Wednesday, the Learning Collective attended a workshop by Chris Rust, Emeritus Professor of Higher Education at Oxford Brookes University, on REDESIGNING COURSE ASSESSMENT-A PROGRAM LEADER’S GUIDE.

The workshop argued for the need to reduce (but improve) summative assessment, while increasing opportunities for formative assessment, the development of the students’ assessment literacy, and effective engagement with feedback at a program level. Overall, the workshop affirmed the value of the program-based approach that the Faculty is taking. Rust advocates for developing simple mechanisms that force people to talk to each other about their teaching.

Rust quoted Boud (1995) “We must confront the ways in which assessment undermines learning” and asked some thought-provoking questions: How confident are you that graduates have achieved all of the program learning outcomes? Do you assess higher order, complex outcomes? Does the sum of the unit learning outcomes add up to the program outcomes? Can students see the linkages between units?

During the workshop, Rust offered a number of provocations about assessment in higher education:

  • We are trying to make assessment both formative and summative by providing both marks and feedback. If we take a purely formative approach, students can take risks and learn for future tasks.
  • We don’t need the plethora of numbers we have in order to graduate students. We can make decisions about student achievement with fewer marks.
  • Marks have become a phony currency – students won’t work unless we pay them.
  • We should ban numbers (marks) in assessment.

The workshop offered helpful practical tips, such as asking students to submit a two sentence response to feedback sheet with assessment tasks. “In my last assessment, I received the following feedback …” “I have applied this feedback to this task by …” Rust also shared this (PDF) resource he has developed” Improve your students’ performance in 90 minutes.
This Teche post by Chris Froissard provides a useful sumnmary of the workshop. To access the original slides of Chris’ presentation follow this link (requires OneID login).

 

Written by Agnes Bosanquet

Senior Teaching Fellow, Faculty of Human Sciences

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