Encouraging students to work throughout the year towards a final project: the experience of Management Research Report team supervisors at both undergraduate and postgraduate level

Tame, Geoff (2010) Encouraging students to work throughout the year towards a final project: the experience of Management Research Report team supervisors at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. In: BMAF Annual Conference 2010: Assessment & Assessment Standards: Challenges for Business Education, 20-21 April 2010, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

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This is a paper reporting back on four years experience of a team facilitating student learning sets. The sets were set up to support dissertation students studying Human Resource Management mainly at Postgraduate level. The focus is on the issues relating to formative assessment by peers in “action learning sets, comprising professionals learning from and with each other.” (Stark 2006:24) and to an attempt to structure summative assessment in phases over the full one year study period.
To encourage working throughout the year, the overall assessment consisted of three phases. At six weeks, a proposal was completed, which was awarded up to 10% of the overall marks. At twelve weeks, drafts of the first three chapters of the report were completed, also attracting up to 10% of the overall marks. Finally the completed report could achieve up to 80% of the overall marks was due to be handed in at the end of the study period.
Because many of the students study part time, meetings were difficult to organise, each set had its own dedicated ‘discussion board’ on the e-learning portal (BlackBoard) on which students were encouraged to post their early draft work for comment, “providing exceptional opportunities for self-expression and reflection.” (Levine 2007:73)
Research design and methods of data collection and analysis or method of inquiry:
The research is based on a series of structured interviews with experienced members of the teaching team and from two focus group discussions with students. The author is also part of the module teaching team and so there are contributions from a participant observer.
Main findings:
Students will do the work, but the key is to incentivise engagement. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, tutor pressure through a strict regime can engender student engagement. However, if the application of pressure on the student is not successful, periodic summative assessment is felt by both tutors and students to be a useful way of ensuring progress. Many students welcome the discipline of producing work at regular intervals, although some prefer to spend more time researching and considering, rather than producing work suitable for assessment, even by peers. The discussion board is not well used.
Learning through peer review is not really appreciated; reading other student’s work and reviewing it is , more likely to be regarded as a distraction from the student’s own work, than an opportunity to learn from others, consolidate their own learning and improve their own work.
There are problems with a multi-assessment regime, in that low marks at early stages cannot be recovered. Other problems relate to over assessment, alignment module learning outcomes and resources for marking.
Discussion of implications:
The need to incentivise students to use the entire study period remains problematic. Periodic assessment points can be incorporated in order to encourage progress, but shortfalls at these earlier stages cannot be recovered at the final assessment stage. Perhaps a consequent improvement in the standard at the final assessment can provide sufficient compensation.
Linking to the comments of Bloxham (2009), and the frailty of marking practices, should we even be trying to assess the process of learning, rather than just the outcomes of that learning process.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: N200 Management studies
X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
Depositing User: Helen Pattison
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2012 15:42
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 10:04
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/9377

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