Assessment for practice oriented education
Assessment drives learning. The change to practice oriented education requires not only a curriculum and delivery style change, but a total rethink of the assessment practices. Practice oriented learning, assessed by traditional methods, runs the risk of driving students back to traditional ways of thinking and learning. Traditional assessment methods typically include team based project reports, assignments and examinations. Assessment methods should demonstrate meaningful learning and understanding rather than rote learning and regurgitation. Practice oriented learning should encourage reflection and integration of theory with practice. It is vitally important then that assessment techniques and instruments should also encourage reflection and integration. As the engineering faculty at Central Queensland University made the transition from a traditional lecture based program to a project based, co-operative education program, many of the assessment problems arose from the fact that the learning experience (the project) was also the assessment tool. It was recognized that in the practice oriented approach to learning, that the freedom to make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes, leading to reflective practice, must be one of the great advantages. However, while being traditionally assessed, students were afraid to take risks and make mistakes, because the assessment penalized them for this. It became vital to decouple the learning experiences from the assessment tools. In other words, the students needed to learn through projects, but not ultimately be summatively assessed on them. A system of portfolio assessment, including reflective journals has been introduced to project based courses, as the sole summative assessment tool, in the engineering degree at Central Queensland University. This was done to focus students on the necessity to specifically address the course learning outcomes as the criteria for demonstrating satisfactory achievement. The responsibility is on the student to document and demonstrate how, and to what extent, they have met the learning outcomes of a course. The reflective journal is an important tool to encourage and allow students to progressively and reiteratively reflect on their learning and personal and professional development. The paper will discuss how the assessment style was introduced, and the issues that arose.