Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Assessment creep

It is interesting to see how much undergraduate teaching has changed in just the past decade. Here is a case study for just one course I have been involved in.

In 2001 when I came to UQ I first helped teach a second year undergraduate course Thermodynamics and Condensed Matter Physics. Back then any use of Powerpoint or online resources was a novelty. There was no Blackboard or YouTube. Videos were shown by taking a videocassette to a central projection unit on campus and booking for them to show the video in the lecture at the requested time.
Students expected lecture notes and these were photocopied and handed out.
The course comprised 3 lectures and 1 tutorial per week.
All the assessment was exams: one mid semester and a final.
There were 20+ students enrolled.

What about now?
There are 2 lectures and 1 tutorial per week. In addition students do 3 labs lasting 3 hours.
The assessment has expanded substantially. Students now complete
   23 online reading quizzes
   10 problems sets
   12 tutorial problem sets, done during the tutorial in teams of 3 students
   3 lab reports
   mid-semester exam
   final exam

There are now 50+ students enrolled.
There are no lecture notes. Powerpoint slides are uploaded onto Blackboard after the lectures.
Faculty only grade the online quizzes and the exams.
But setting all this assessment is a significant expansion in workload.
Part time tutors and lab demonstators do the rest of the grading.

Times they are a changing...

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting to think how this affects the opportunities of young academics to establish themselves independently of their superiors. It would seem that:

    1. This trend would make it harder for young academics to support their research with teaching, because the workload is increasing.
    2. This would make it less likely that the same researchers would attract research funding.
    3. This would make it more attractive to abandon one's independent research and join an entrenched research lab.
    4. This would make the entrenched lab more comptetitive, because spots within them would be more competitive. This would make it easier for the senior lab managers to compete, providing feedback to the cycle.

    In a way, this resembles processes that normally lead to an accumulation of power in the hands of a few in resource-driven economies like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Sudan, Venezuela or .... hold on a minute ...