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Assessment in PBL: Do we assess the learner or the product?
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Robin HowardRobin Howard, Matt EliotMatt Eliot, Mohammad RasulMohammad Rasul, Alphonsius NouwensAlphonsius Nouwens, Justine LawsonJustine Lawson
Grading individual students in teams or projects has always been problematic. To accurately gauge individual learning outcomes, students’ grades need to be based on what they have learned as an individual within the team or project context. However, within engineering team-based projects, individuals have traditionally been assigned a grade heavily influenced by the team’s project outcomes. Final year engineering projects (FYEP) suffer from similar problems. While typically in the Australian context, the projects are conducted by individuals, they are still conducted using the philosophy of PBL. To provide a reliable indicator of student capability and program quality and standards, FYEPs must be coherent, valid and reliable instruments for student assessment and program evaluation. This paper considers two Australian engineering education projects, one recently completed and one current, that investigate the issues of; how can individuals who learn in a team environment be assessed as individuals?, how can the outcomes from final year engineering projects be used to demonstrate the standards required by various state and professional accrediting agencies? And what are the issues that prevent staff effectively assessing the learning outcomes of individual students who learn in the project environment? The paper outlines an assessment model that was trialled and discusses the issues arising. The difference between this form of assessment and others in engineering education is that it assesses the learning outcomes of the individuals as opposed to assessing the product of the team. The paper also discusses the results from the first stage of data gathering on final year projects in Australia. The conclusion is that assessing the product rather than the learner degrades the opportunity to use projects as evidence of learning, but continues because it is easier for academic staff.