Hacking Assignment Practice: Finding Creativity and Power in the Fissures and Cracks of Learning and Teaching

A teaching and learning conversation with:


Sandra Sinfield
London Metropolitan University

When: Tuesday 26th April 12:00-13:30 UK Time (90 minutes)

About this conversation:

Discourses of Assessment can be complex and contradictory with many voices calling for a de-stabilisation of the essay as the sine qua non of academic achievement (Crème 2003):

Moral panics about plagiarism have suggested we design plagiarism out of assessment with more creative challenges than the traditional essay (Viz. http://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/TLTC/connorj/plagiarism/Staff/ ); somehow the essay remains.

Tackling disability suggests making ‘reasonable adjustment’ for students with SpLD – and that all students be given the choice of undertaking the alternative assessments thus developed (Ingle 2013a, Ingle 2013b). And still the major adjustment is not to re-design the assessments – but to allow more time in which to complete or submit the traditional written assignments.

The push for TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning), e-learning and/or blended learning implies that this new multi-modal age will usher in more multi-modal assignments that will match the essay in challenge and complexity (Abegglen, Burns & Sinfield 2014; Burns, Sinfield and Holley 2009, 2012); but the technology typically introduces the online submission of the written assignment.

No matter from where the push for alternative assessments emerges, we seem to end up with the same old written assessments.

When asked to populate a 30-week first year module written with Higher Education Orientation (HEO) in mind, without getting caught in the navel gazing trap that language interrogation can lead to (Hayes 2004), we wanted to go deeper – below the contours and fissures (Deleuze and Guattari 1987/2005) of ‘typical’ HEO practice and rhetoric. We wanted to introduce emancipatory education that also acted as a lens with which to critique stultifying academic practices (Sentito 2013). Moreover, we wanted flexibility in the assessments such that students could choose from a range of activities and mini-projects in ways that lit fires in their hearts and minds and allowed them space and time to follow their passions.

This is Learning Development that definitely goes beyond ‘fixing’ broken or deficit students – and instead looks at new ways to help students find their voice and power so that they ‘get’ the multi-faceted range of active processes involved in successful studying and learning.

We would like to discuss how we ‘hacked’ our traditional assessments to provide fissures and cracks (Deleuze and Guattari 1987/2005) in which to promote student engagement, choice and passion based learning.

In the discussion we would like to consider how learning developers, educational technologists and discipline staff can work together to develop and scaffold alternative assessment practices.

References, links and further reading:

Abegglen, Burns & Sinfield (2014) ‘Disrupting learning landscapes: Mentoring, engaging, becoming’in Investigations in University Teaching and Learning Vol 9, Spring 2014 pp15-21

Burns, Sinfield & Holley (2012) ‘The Shipwrecked Shore – and other metaphors: what we can learn from occupation of – and representations in – virtual worlds’ In Investigations in University Teaching and Learning Vol8 summer 2012 pp119-126

Crème P (2003) ‘Why can’t we allow students to be more creative?’ in Teaching in Higher Education Vol. 8, No 2 2003 pp 273-277

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F., 1987/2005. A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press

Hayes (2004) in Satterthwaite, Atkinson and Gale (Eds) Discourse, Power, Resistance: Challenging the Rhetoric of Contemporary Education Stoke on Trent; Trentham Books

Ingle J (2013a) ‘Writing as exclusionary practice’ in DISCOURSE, POWER AND RESISTANCE: DISCOURSES OF INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION 2013

Ingle J (2013b) Blog post for DISCOURSE, POWER AND RESISTANCE: DISCOURSES OF INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION (http://www.thinkingwriting.qmul.ac.uk/node/131 accessed 01.12.14)
Last Refuge blog (2013): http://lastrefugelmu.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/discourse-power-and-resistance-2013.html

Noble, C (2014) Week 12 blog: https://becomingeducational.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/week-twelve-learning-log/

Preventing Plagiarism (2008) Staff website: http://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/TLTC/connorj/plagiarism/Staff/

Sentito (2013) Leader of the Symposium Strand: ‘Stimulating or stultifying? Education as if learning matters’ in DISCOURSE, POWER AND RESISTANCE: DISCOURSES OF INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION 2013

Sinfield, Burns & Holley (2009) ‘a Journey into Silence’ in Social Responsibility Journal Vol 5 No 4 2009 pp566-574

Joining the conversation:

Simply follow this link http://mmu.adobeconnect.com/tlc/ and enter as a guest by typing your name, institution and country into the name field and clicking on the “Join Meeting” button.

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You may also find our Adobe Connect Webinar Participant Guide useful to print out in advance of the session.We really hope that you will be able to join for what should be a lively and highly interactive TLC.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Rod Cullen. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rod Cullen

I am a Senior Lecturer in Learning and Teaching Technologies in the Learning Innovation Team at Manchester Metropolitan University. I have gained considerable experience over almost 20 years in design, delivery and evaluation of online learning, teaching and assessment. I am particularly interested in assessment and feedback practice as well as the emerging role of web conferencing technologies to support blended and distance learning.

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