Beyond Conventional Assessment Formats

On Monday 6 May, a group of teaching academics came together at CLT to be inspired, by an assessment workshop no less! The workshop was delivered by Dr Marina Iskhakova, Senior Lecturer of Economics and Management at the College of Business and Economics (CBE), who took us on a journey from ‘boring and irrelevant assessments’ to highly engaging tasks that motivate and enable students to demonstrate their learning to the best of their ability. Marina is well experienced in designing courses, with her work in international experience and cultural intelligence fostering a deeper understanding during development and contributing to program design of CBE’s Global Business Immersion  programs

The ‘beyond conventional assessment’ workshop was part of CLT’s continuing efforts to provide opportunities for teaching academics to share their experience and knowledge and build relationships across colleges. The ANU Learning and Teaching Strategy directs ANU staff ‘to be innovative in assessment design through the provision of models of good practice,’ and to a model of good practice!

As one participant commented:

“The workshop gave a great overview of different unconventional assessment methods. It was great how Marina gave step-by-step guidance to those new to the idea, and how to start the process.”

That step-by-step guidance included Marina providing a road map for moving from conventional to unconventional assessments. She also shared a long list of potential ideas for assessments and examples from her course design. Concerns in the room were discussed such as difficulties of acceptance at the college level, reactions of students (positive and negative) and the additional challenges of using unconventional assessments in highly technical courses.

Students today

In describing and explaining the difference between, and justification for, unconventional versus conventional assessments, it was obvious that Marina builds on a deep understanding of ANU students. Students today want to learn independently with a program they can shape themselves. As adult learners they are motivated by tasks that give them choice, enabling them to draw on their strengths, and welcoming their backgrounds and experiences. In designing the course assessment, Marina has built in choice and variety thereby offering authentic and creative assessment tasks which are able to measure students’ attainment of learning outcomes. Conventional methods such as essays and exams, while having their place, therefore may not be the best approach given today’s university students and their future careers.

Small changes are best

What I found most inspiring was her joyful and very practical approach to engaging students in the assessment process. Would you believe that she now enjoys marking assessments? If you want to improve your course assessments, then the most important message from Marina is to take your time. Small steps and changes are best as you will need to address issues such as developing appropriate marking rubrics, managing the marking process, and unsurprisingly, justifying better results from a larger percentage of your students.

Your contributions are welcome

CLT welcomes contributions from ANU teaching academics and professionals. If you would like to share your story of success or would like to participate in such a workshop, then please contact us. Other ideas for workshops are also welcome. We can be contacted at clt@anu.edu.au.

May 2024


Dr Leanne Brereton, Professional Learning Team, Centre for Learning and Teaching

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