I'm back from the LILAC conference and will finish up reports from it over the next few weeks. In this post I will summarise some points from a presentation by Rebecca Mogg, Senior Subject Librarian at Cardiff University: The pathway to success? Using research trails for summative assessment. She was describing work she had done with the School of Journalism in a core year 1 module of 129 students. Students were assessed by an essay, a portfolio, seminar contributions and - for 15% of the class marks - a research trail. It was this latter part that Rebecca taught and assessed (and she noted how much time marking takes up - too true!)
She had 3 x 50 minute workshops and a one hour lecture (in which she explained what would happen in the workshops). For the research trail, the students had to provide a full reference for each item in the essay's bibliography, say how they found it and say why they selected it. Thus it was tied in with the other parts of the assessment, but Rebecca emphasised that you "need to make the relevance of the approach clear to students".
There was discussion afterwards about consistency in marking: to make this assessment viable with large classes the marking load needs to be spread, and this can introduce inconsistency, even when there are clear criteria for assigning marks. People agreed that training those who were marking, and those who were teaching, was important, when it moved beyond being one person's job.
One improvement for next time was going to be marrying up the research trail and the essay of the same student. Certainly I find this useful: indeed be able to cross reference the two is one function of asking for a reflective search report, since it can help in (hopefully) detering or (at worst) identifying plagiarism (we use a reflective information literacy report in a few of our modules).
Photo by Sheila Webber: Cardiff gardens, April 2009