We’re all in this together: Reflections on my SoTL journey to embrace Authentic Assessment

Author:
Samantha Read
Nottingham Trent University

Table of Content

When looking at the Four Pillars of SOTL, I am immediately drawn to the first pillar – ‘Passion’ – as this is the baseline for everything that I do within my role as Learning and Teaching Manager for Nottingham Business School (NBS). Over the past year, my passion for creativity and innovation has led me to embracing authentic assessment as an opportunity to re-imagine the way in which we assess students.

What if assessment could be meaningful, or even enjoyable?

To gain support for the creation of staff development opportunities within NBS, I set out to learn from colleagues who were working on similar projects internally. A particular initiative which I was drawn to was promoting alternatives to examinations. This led to me collaborating with the Learning and Teaching Managers from across NTU’s nine Schools to present a case for more authentic forms of assessment at the Quality Assurance Agency’s (QAA) forum for representatives from Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs). Listening to different viewpoints on the value of exams within the current HE landscape was fascinating and there echoed several questions which continue to circulate around universities across the world – are exams an inclusive form of assessment? Are exam questions always well designed or is there too much variance impacting on achievement and progression? Can we really test the application of knowledge in a way which will help students to succeed in their future careers?

Finding the answers to these questions has been a rewarding journey as part of my SoTL development. One particular highlight was the Authentic Assessment showcase which I held at NTU in February 2023 in which I invited NBS colleagues and NTU Alumni Fellows to come together to share examples of authentic assessment and most importantly, the impact that embracing more work-like assessment tasks has had on student satisfaction, achievement and progression. The panel discussion with the NTU Alumni Fellows proved highly popular with colleagues as they could hear first-hand the difference that innovative approaches to assessing students was having on graduates that they were seeing as they entered the work place. The Alumni Fellows too were impressed by the examples that were shared across Levels 4 to 7 which put assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning at the heart of course design. This event was further shared at the Advance HE Learning and Teaching Conference in July 2023 as part of a poster presentation entitled ‘Whose assessment is it anyway?: Re-thinking assessment design to embed authentic work-life experience.’ This opportunity further extended my network to colleagues from across the globe who were also interested in authentic assessment and wanted to learn from my experiences as well as sharing their own initiatives in this area. The shared passion for wanting to improve student engagement and progression through alternative forms of assessment was invigorating and it became very clear to me that we are all in this together.

So, where will my SoTL journey take me next? The fourth pillar of SoTL focuses on creating a road and planning for future growth. As I continue to research how authentic assessment can be embedded within course design and promoted across the sector, there is one pressing contender to be integrated. Yes, you guessed it, Artificial Intelligence. To some AI still remains daunting, to others an opportunity. To our students, learning how to navigate and embrace AI will be essential to their future careers. Networking will continue to be important to me, and I look forward to working with academics and industry professionals alike against a tide of fast-changing technology that is disrupting assessment, but not necessarily having a purely negative impact if embraced in an authentic way.

We’re all in this together: Reflections on my SoTL journey to embrace Authentic Assessment

When looking at the Four Pillars of SOTL, I am immediately drawn to the first pillar – ‘Passion’ – as this is the baseline for everything that I do within my role as Learning and Teaching Manager for Nottingham Business School (NBS). Over the past year, my passion for creativity and innovation has led me to embracing authentic assessment as an opportunity to re-imagine the way in which we assess students. What if assessment could be meaningful, or even enjoyable?

To gain support for the creation of staff development opportunities within NBS, I set out to learn from colleagues who were working on similar projects internally. A particular initiative which I was drawn to was promoting alternatives to examinations. This led to me collaborating with the Learning and Teaching Managers from across NTU’s nine Schools to present a case for more authentic forms of assessment at the Quality Assurance Agency’s (QAA) forum for representatives from Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs). Listening to different viewpoints on the value of exams within the current HE landscape was fascinating and there echoed several questions which continue to circulate around universities across the world – are exams an inclusive form of assessment? Are exam questions always well designed or is there too much variance impacting on achievement and progression? Can we really test the application of knowledge in a way which will help students to succeed in their future careers?

Findings the answers to these questions has been a rewarding journey as part of my SoTL development. One particular highlight was the Authentic Assessment showcase which I held at NTU in February 2023 in which I invited NBS colleagues and NTU Alumni Fellows to come together to share examples of authentic assessment and most importantly, the impact that embracing more work-like assessment tasks has had on student satisfaction, achievement and progression. The panel discussion with the NTU Alumni Fellows proved highly popular with colleagues as they could hear first-hand the difference that innovative approaches to assessing students was having on graduates that they were seeing as they entered the work place. The Alumni Fellows too were impressed by the examples that were shared across Levels 4 to 7 which put assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning at the heart of course design. This event was further shared at the Advance HE Learning and Teaching Conference in July 2023 as part of a poster presentation entitled ‘Whose assessment is it anyway?: Re-thinking assessment design to embed authentic work-life experience.’ This opportunity further extended my network to colleagues from across the globe who were also interested in authentic assessment and wanted to learn from my experiences as well as sharing their own initiatives in this area. The shared passion for wanting to improve student engagement and progression through alternative forms of assessment was invigorating and it became very clear to me that we are all in this together.

So, where will my SoTL journey take me next? The fourth pillar of SoTL focuses on creating a road and planning for future growth. As I continue to research how authentic assessment can be embedded within course design and promoted across the sector, there is one pressing contender to be integrated. Yes, you guessed it, Artificial Intelligence. To some AI still remains daunting, to others an opportunity. To our students, learning how to navigate and embrace AI will be essential to their future careers. Networking will continue to be important to me, and I look forward to working with academics and industry professionals alike against a tide of fast-changing technology that is disrupting assessment, but not necessarily having a purely negative impact if embraced in an authentic way.

Reference

Read, Samantha (2023). Whose assessment is it anyway?: Re-thinking assessment design to embed authentic work-life experience. National Teaching Repository. Conference contribution. https://doi.org/10.25416/NTR.23696358.v1

Song

My favourite Christmas song, Driving home for Christmas by Chris Rea.

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