Reflecting on Learning and Teaching in the Performing Arts
Assessment for Learning or Assessment of Learning in the Performing Arts.
In this study area you will be introduced to issues of assessment in Performing Arts Higher Education. The subject is a difficult one for teachers in disciplines where practical work may be collaborative and process driven or where artistic judgements might be considered subjective but reflecting on the rationale and mode of assessment is vitally important to you in shaping how you teach.
Assessment defines what students regard as important,how they spend their time and how they come to see themselves as students and as graduates. It is a major concern of those who learn, those who teach and those who are responsible for the development and accreditation of courses.
Peter Knight. A Briefing on Key Concepts. LTSN Generic Centre Assessment Series No 7
The purpose of assessment is usually to:
- allow students to demonstrate the outcomes of learning;
- award or withhold qualifications or credit;
- measure student performance
- encourage, guide and improve learning and teaching
Certainly assessment should enhance the student learning experience and assessment activities,support and feedback can be a powerful and integrated feature of learning within the curriculum. For these activities to be valuable they need to enable students to fulfill the learning outcomes of their work, to provide information on the ability and progress of the student in fulfilling the aims of their course, to be of use to the student and relate closely to their academic development. Assessment tasks may have diagnostic,formative or summative aspects which may determine when and how you use them in your teaching.
- diagnostic assessment provides an indicator of a learner’s aptitude and preparedness for a programme of study and identifies possible learning problems;
- formative assessment is designed to provide learners with feedback on progress and inform development, but does not contribute to the overall assessment;
- summative assessment provides a measure of acheivement or failure made in respect of a learner’s performance in relation to the intended learning outcomes of the programme of study.
QAA Code of Practice.Assessment of Students.May 2006
In the resource rooms you will find material on assessment issues including:
- diagnostic, formative & summative assessment
- criterion-referencing and norm-referencing
- the assessment of collaborative group work
- performance & production assessment
- negotiated tutor, self & peer assessment
- the discouragement & detection of plagiarism
- student feedback
If you are new to assessment, you are advised to start with the first resource in the Reading Room entitled Starting Out in Assessing Performance. You should also access the Learning and Teaching Support Network Generic Centre Assessment Series. A Guide for Lecturers (Brown) and A Briefing on Key Concepts. Formative and summative, criterion and norm referenced assessment (Knight) will be particularly useful introductions.
As teaching in the Performing Arts is usually practice based, the students acquisition and development of knowledge, skills,reflection and understanding often needs to be assessed in a practical application.This may include the creation of designs,production plots, production books, performance,artefacts,scores,scripts,scenario,visual and aural materials. It may involve the assessment of practical coursework, or practical presentations and performances which range from studio based to fully mounted productions in professional spaces, together with portfolios, reflective journals, seminar presentations,research projects, written assignments and examinations. Such a wide range of modes can make the design of assessment tasks an exciting way to really enhance the learning experience of students but it also presents problems of parity and the difficulties of assessing process and collaboration. In the Performing Arts the success or otherwise of a performance relies on effective group collaboration. If this area interests you particularly, have a look at the resources of the HEFCE funded project entitled Assessing Group Practice.
Threshold Concepts (see Cousin’s paper in the Reading Room ) are those deemed to be central to the mastery of any subject discipline. They are usually transformative, for example changing from being a drama student to becoming an actor; they deal with “troublesome knowledge” which may well be counter intuitive; they are usually integrative, revealing hitherto hidden interrelatedness of phenomenon and are consequently tricky to assess. You might try to identify one or two threshold concepts in your subject discipline and think how you might assess this troublesome knowledge in the most appropriate way (that is, in a way which will enhance the learning of the threshold concept).
The Powerpoint presentation entitled Being Innovative with Assessment for Learning sets in context the need for a conceptual framework to ensure that assessment tasks are designed FOR learning. It then explains eleven conditions under which assessment supports self-regulated learning. There are Reflection Prompts recommended within the slides and you are encouraged to respond to these in your Reflective Portfolio where you might consider whether you agree that assessment is the strongest driver of learning in formal settings. In the Reading Room the paper by Kleiman raises interesting questions about creativity and how we struggle to assess it. Read the paper, think of the sort of creativity you wish to excite in students and try and devise an assessment task which will encourage creativity and innovation.
In Study Area 4 we considered how students might engage in the learning community. The most important aspect of assessment for students is feedback on their assignments and this is evidenced by student reponse to the National Student Survey. If students do not receive appropriate feedback then the learning involved in the assessment process is severely diminished and students have little idea of how to progress.
At Rose Bruford College we initiated a research project on Student Feedback in 2008 and a subsequent Learning and Teaching Working Party report in 2009 recommended the following principles should underly feedback practice within the College:
- Feedback should be timely and appropriate:formative or diagnostic feedback must be given to students prior to them commencing further work of a similar nature.
- Assessment schedules should give dates for the completion or submission of each assessed component and also give details of the feedback process for the assignment
- Assessment feedback processes are part of the student’s learning experience and as such should be given timetabled space within the delivery of the curriculum.
- Students should be made aware of the many ways in which feedback is delivered as part of their learning experience. That it may be verbal or written and part of the continuous process of practical work. Students should value both tutor and peer feedback.
- Transparency and clarity can be achieved more successfully when the language of feedback echoes the language of the learning environment and the associated assessment criteria and learning outcomes.
These principles have helped tutors to clarify and enhance the use of feedback in the assessment process.
Study Area 5