In his second-year History module ‘Go-Betweens: Crossing Borders in the Early Modern World’ Dr Guido van Meersbergen diversified assessment tools by allowing students to choose between producing a podcast, video or blog post for a group-work project that explored the stories of border-crossing individuals or communities. Students who opted to write a blog post were given the freedom to choose their own case-study related to the module, and worked in groups of 3 to 4 to produce a blog post that included textual and visual elements. Students were also able to choose which digital tool they used to create the blog post, which meant that the group project was accessible to all levels of digital proficiency and students could cater the assignment to their skill sets. Dr van Meersbergen encouraged students to think of the blog as medium with which to communicate their research to a wider audience outside of just their tutors and to incorporate both visual and textual media. The blog assessment also provided students with something that they could use to showcase their skills as a historian and develop transferable skills around collaborative working, both of which could in turn increase future employment prospects.
Dr Guido van Meersbergen, History
- Dr van Meersbergen introduced the assignment in the first week of term.
- Students arranged themselves into groups of 3-4 in the second week of term.
- Students were given 2-3 weeks to decide on a topic for their blog, be it an individual, community or theme related to the module.
- Dr van Meersbergen held a seminar in which students were asked to share their plans. This allowed students to get inspiration from hearing about each other’s projects.
- As the assignment was designed to allow students to choose the digital format with which they are most comfortable, Dr van Meersbergen did not provide students with specific technical support, although students were encouraged to attend his office hours for advice.
- As part of the assignment, students also did a 12-15 minute group oral presentation on their research findings, which contributed to their mark and gave them an opportunity to get feedback and answer questions from fellow students. Students were able to use this feedback to revise their final projects.
- Each group member submitted the project to Tabula individually, either by uploading a file directly or uploading a word document with a weblink to their blog, for example if it was on WordPress.
Students found working in groups really good for community building…The pedagogical principle here is that group work is important for developing certain skills…the time management, division of labour and dealing with different personalities, opinions, perspectives and working styles is also part of the learning process.
One of the reasons we are diversifying assessment is because we acknowledge that essays and exams play to particular strengths…There are definitely students who feel like they are at a disadvantage [in regards to] essay formats and marking descriptors [that] reward a particular type of excellence and it’s a type of excellence that is not neutral, it’s connected to a white middle-class idea of how to write and that’s something that quite a few students are aware of.