This year I attended the 2012 International Computer Assisted Assessment (CAA) Conference for the first time as both a delegate and as a presenter (I’d had a co-authored paper accepted last year, but had not been able to attend). It was a fairly small event this year, in terms of the number of delegates, but there were a fair few “names” from the world of assessment and it was nice to see plenty of familiar faces when I arrived early on the first day.
Steve Draper was giving the keynote, and informed me on my arrival that he had only just finished writing, and that he would be “even more flaky” than usual. Actually he was wrong – in my opinion he was on top form. His talk, entitled Ask not what CAA can do for your career, but what you can do for assessment Or: Ask not what is technologically glamourous, but what is useful to assessment. [sic] talked about when, if at all, feedback was important to learning, noting that often first class students report that it was of no benefit to them at all. He suggested that often the goal of assessment in HE was not to help student learning but to assist future employers with “personnel selection”.
Not surprisingly (well, not to anyone who knows me), Steve’s talk had a couple of themes that I had also focussed on in writing the paper behind the presentation I was giving with Niall Barr. Our talk Peer Assessment Assisted by Technology was based on a paper with the same name (Honeychurch, S., Barr, N., Brown, C. & Hamer, J) which, we hope, will be published in the International Journal of e-Assessment soon. This paper looks at the benefits of peer assessment and notes that, as Steve mentioned in his talk, the real benefits of peer assessment to student learning are found in the giving, not the receiving, of peer feedback. I’d noticed this when I’d used peer assessment in my teaching, and I continue to wonder how to make it easy for teachers to engage with the tools we have available. This, then, was part of the motivation behind writing our paper.
We compared some of the online tools readily available for peer assessment, and concluded that there was a need to focus on the teacher, as well as the student, when designing software (in particular, the teacher interface in some of the tools we looked at was unintuitive to say the least). Again, this echoed a theme from Steve’s keynote – that the needs of the teacher, as well as of students, should be consulted when setting academic goals.
At the end of the conference we found, much to our surprise, that our paper had been voted by the committee as the best submission. There’s a picture here of me, Niall Barr and Craig Brown accepting the (very heavy) awards.
The conference ended with a symposium on “games and simulations in e-assessment”. This got me thinking about all sorts of things, especially Wittgenstein, and I will need to write a separate post in order to explain myself.