When I first came across Renewable Assessments, I thought that I had found the answer to motivate me and my students to produce quality work as a direct product of assignments. However, the articles I found were at times too specific to particular courses or too academic and not easily applicable.
The goal of the following considerations is to provide, at a quick glance, what faculty should be aware when considering incorporating renewable assessments in their classes.
In simple terms, a renewable assessment is one that will have a shelf life beyond the instructors grading, it will not be disposed in the end and it has the potential to be useful to people outside the current classroom environment.
Traditionally students complain about doing assessments and instructors about grading them. Most of time when I am grading, I look at the time it is taking me to do it and I just wonder how the time could be better spent. Renewable assessments may just be the answer.
One of the many goals of renewable assessments is to turn students from passive consumers of information to active producers of knowledge. This not only directly benefits the students as they engage deeply with the content, but also the community in general as the end product will be shared for the common good, according to Bruff (2013).
2. Authentic Assessment
A very popular attribute when qualifying good assessments is to make them authentic. According to Svinicki (2004), being authentic means that the assessment is relevant and similar to the type of work the student will be required to perform once they graduate and start working in the industry.
Making the assessment authentic will also work to motivate students, as they will take it more seriously because it is not just “busy work”. It will also help students to get ready to face open problems once they leave college.
In the end, if you stop to think, you will realize that if the assessment is not authentic, it will have no appeal to audiences beyond the current classroom and there would be no point in publishing them to the open community.
3. Opting Out
To be considered a renewable assessment, according to Hendricks (2015, October 29) the assessment artifacts must be encouraged by the instructor to be open licensed, however this must the optional to the students. If some students are not comfortable making their work open, they should not be penalized and should be assessed equally to students that have agreed to make their contribution open.
According to Hendricks (2015, August 18), students must be given a choice as to whether or not they want their work to be public, after all, the copyright for their work belongs to them.
There might be various reason why a student does not want to make it open. They may feel the quality of their contribution was not good enough. They may feel like they invested a lot of time and they do not want people to freely use it. They may not want to have their name out there in the open.
In case the student just wants privacy, they could have the choice to publish the work openly under a pseudonym according to Hendricks (2014).
Of course, all assignments should be guided, but in the case of a contribution that has the intent of be shared publicly, the stakes are even higher.
According to the case study based on Dr. Simon Bates Physics 101 class at UBC, Physics and Astronomy Department (2015), the quality of the end work will be directly related to the quality of the guidance provided by the instructor of the course. Without that, the students may feel adrift, the quality of the contribution will suffer and the full benefits will not be realized.
5. Don’t Be Radical
At first when I came across renewable assessments, I felt a bit overwhelmed as I though: (1) How am I going to change all my current assessments and turn them into renewable ones? and (2) How will I be able to sell it to our department? These two questions got me paralysed as I saw no hope.
“But I don’t have to be a radical”, I thought afterwards. Of course, I can start with baby steps. Maybe you can start to experiment with renewable assessments as a simple bonus mark. Then if all goes well, you may expand it the following semester to replace one of the many assignments.
By this point you will have some experience under your belt and you may have now the confidence to approach a course coordinator to showcase what you have done to others in the department.
In the end, you don’t need to replace all your assessments. Renewable assessments is not the end all be all. Traditional assessments still have their place. You are just adding one more tool in your instructors tool belt.
6. Medium of Expression
Be flexible in terms of what kinds of artifacts the students can produce to fulfil the assessment. You will not be able to make it completely open, but you can recommend a few different types of artifacts according to Hendricks (2015, August 18).
If your assignment is about creating questions or exercises you can provide options such as:
- Example Problems
- Exam Questions
If you would like the student to create explanatory content you can recommend:
- Blog posts
- PowerPoint slides
- Glossary of Terms
- List of common problems
- What to focus on
By having autonomy on how they express themselves you will give the students more ownership of the assignment outcome. More about autonomy next.
One of the aspects that make students motivated about an assessment is the degree to which they have a saying about the topic of the work. The instructor should be able to provide multiple choices of topics or approaches the student can use to produce their contribution.
It can even be that the instructor encourages students to select their own topic freely, but within the constraints of relevance to the course.
According Bruff (2013), cognitive science tells us that we are more motivated when we feel we have some autonomy over our work.
Bruff, D. (2013, September 3). Students as Producers: An Introduction. Vanderbilt University website. https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/2013/09/students-as-producers-an-introduction/
Hendricks, C. (2015, August 18). Non-disposable Assignments in Intro to Philosophy. Blogs.ubc.ca website. http://blogs.ubc.ca/chendricks/2015/08/18/non-disposable-assignments-intro-philosophy/
Hendricks, C. (2015, October 29). Renewable assignments: Student work adding value to the world. Learning.ubc.ca website. https://flexible.learning.ubc.ca/news-events/renewable-assignments-student- work-adding-value-to-the-world/
Hendricks, C. (2014, July 27). Authentic assessments in two PHIL classes. Blogs.ubc.ca website. https://blogs.ubc.ca/chendricks/2014/07/27/authentic-assignments-two-classes/ work-adding-value-to-the-world/
Svinicki, M. D. (2004). Authentic assessment: Testing in reality. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, 100, 23-29. DOI: 10.1002/tl.167
UBC, Physics and Astronomy Department (2015, February 18). From consumer to creator: Students as producers of content. Learning.ubc.ca website. http://flexible.learning.ubc.ca/case-studies/simon-bates/
Aderson Oliveira is a college instructor and tech podcaster at SoloCoder.com. He has 25 years of technical experience in the field of computer programming. He has been teaching since 2018 and found a new passion in education. He loves helping people achieve their career goals.