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Transcript of Fostering Learner Engagement and Autonomy through Assessment

Faculty of Arts, Computing Engineering and Science

Fostering Learner engagement and autonomy through assessmentDr Christine O'LearySheffield Hallam University

Paper outline


Learner engagement and autonomy

Implication for curriculum design: assessment for and as learning

A case study of HE final year Languages Students-ContextMethodologyAnalysisConclusion

IntroductionA student-centred approach helps to promote successful learning through better student engagement and motivation (Coates, 2006; Zepke and Leach, 2010).

Learners interdependent/ independent involvement in learning increases motivation (Raya and Lamb, 2008; Hoidn and Krkkinen, 2014) and develops their autonomy (Benson, 2011)

Alignment of assessment with Learning and Teaching practices is a key principle of a curriculum design (Biggs, 2003).

Learner engagement Meaningful student involvement in the development of their own learning environment such as curriculum development, classroom management (Fletcher, 2005)

Students who are engaged can be identified through their sustained involvement in learning activities accompanied by positive emotion. They are willing to initiate activities when given the opportunity (Skinner and Belmont, 1993)

How can learner engagement be fostered?As indicated in the previous definitions, student engagement is predicated on their willingness to take an active role in their own learning.

The concept of learner autonomy defined as learners ability and willingness to take responsibility or control of their own learning (Holec,1981; Little, 2000; Benson, 2011) is closely aligned to the notion of student engagement.

However, the concept recognises the need for ability as well as willingness. and 'opportunity'.

The development of autonomy could therefore be seen as crucial to student engagement i.e. students need to be able as well as willing to engage.

Learner autonomy

The development of a learner's capacity for autonomy does not happen in isolation but through interactions involving peers and teachers. ( Little, 2000; Raya & Lamb, 2008).

To become autonomous, therefore, learners need to develop the psychological and emotional capacity to control their own learning collaboratively as well as independently (Kohonen, 1992; OLeary, 2014).

Curriculum Implications-assessment for and as learning

Assessment for and as learning as well as of learning recognise assessment as vehicle for learning not just a measure of achievement ( Gardner, 2012; Nicol and MacFarlane-Dick, 2006)

We need assessment processes that promote student engagement (i.e. students given the opportunity to initiate activities- see Skinner and Belmont, 1993 and to be meaningfully involved in shaping the learning environment-see Fletcher, 2005)

Portfolio-based assessment can help develop students autonomy as individuals or groups of learners (OLeary, 2014) and therefore engagement.

Case study-

a student-led approach to Learning, Teaching and Assessment with teacher guidance

BA (Hons) Languages with International Business/ Tourism/ Marketing BA (Hons) International Business with LanguageFrench/ German/ Spanish/ Italian/ Chinese & Japanese ( CEFR B2- C1/C2) YearLanguage Skills (x 2 major/ x1 minor)Area Studies (x 2 major/ x 1 minor)Non-language modules(2 for major/ 4 for minor)1ULS 4Business Society and Culture 1 (Post Alevel only)Ab-initio 1 (Spanish, Italian and Chinese ab-initio entrants only)2ULS 5- Sem 1Business Society and Culture 2 (Post Alevel only)- Sem 1Ab-initio 2 (Spanish, Italian and Chinese ab-initio entrants only)- Sem 1Erasmus Study Placement- Sem 23Work-placement in both countries (major) or one (minor)4ULS 6b Business Society and Culture 3

Degree Programme

ULS 6bThe module is designed to enable students to function effectively in a range of professional and unpredictable situations where the target language is spoken through-

performing complex and specialised negotiations

Developing translations and interpreting skills to a high level of proficiency.

Module aims

Assessment ProgrammeULS Stage 6- Assessment programme from 2006Portfolio including negotiating/ debating activities, group translation and interpreting tasks & associated self/peer evaluation, activities selected by the learners based on needs and a learning log/ self-evaluation (70, 50, 20%) performance and processTime constrained translation (15, 30, 25%)Interpreting tasks (15, 30, 25%)

Marking criteriaPortfolio marking criteria equally weighted:

Planning ability to assess learning needs, define objectives and plan work accordingly

Reflection ability to reflect on and assess progress made. The extent to which feedback given to peers is detailed and constructive

Performance: The standard of the tasks (group and free choice activities) included in the portfolio

Progression: Evidence of development and progress (e.g. acting on feedback through resubmission of work)

MethodologyA model for the development of autonomy: individual levelThe psychology of autonomous learning, adapted from Benson (2001: 86) (O'Leary, 2014: 21)

A model for the development of autonomy: social levelA social constructivist model of the teaching-learning process, adapted from Williams and Burden (1997: 43) by (O'Leary, 2014: 22).


Based on the revised model of control over cognitive processes outlined above, the content of 40 e.portfolios, including audio/ written peer feedback and reflective logs, were analysed for evidence of control over cognitive processes, using the following broad categories.

Analysis- Operationalising the constructEmotional intelligence (affect): any evidence of attempting to lower their own anxiety, encouraging themselves, taking their emotional temperature as well as empathising and cooperating with others.Task knowledge (Metacognitive knowledge at task level) encompassing any evidence of: decision to carry out the task, decisions about content, progression, place and time of learning, the selection and use of cognitive strategies, and the criteria selected for evaluation; Reflection: any form of reflection on the language, the learning process, their role within that process etc..Attention: active engagement with linguistic input, involving conscious apprehension and awareness of specific aspects of the language;

AnalysisAwareness of others emotions/ reactions

"During the third meeting we all sat down and productively did the task in hand. To begin with we were all quite pensive and scared of upsetting each other with comments about their work, but after taking a long time over the first paragraph, we settled into it and no one held back with their thoughts and opinions. S2

1) Emotional Intelligence/ Affect

Dealing with own anxiety

Relax (Negotiation, interpretation)- I am very aware that I panic in many situations, which affects my language abilites, in so much as my short term memory fails, I make stupid grammatical errors and my nerves also show in my body language. I need to try to forget that these pieces are assessed and be natural and listen well. S6

Feedback to others on affective strategies

Try not to panic though. If you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask for repetition, explanations or clarifications. BUT remember to ask for repetition in the right language!! You asked the English speaker to repeat, but you asked her in French!! Try not to laugh or say that you don't understand, this does not help the situation. Take you time, listen carefully and try to improve your note taking. S14

Affective impact of collaborative work on the individual

the more we progressed as a group, the more useful our feedback became. It gave me confidence to speak up and taught me that as long as I can justify what I say, it will not be looked upon as wrong. I found it very nobling to have to sit and take heed of what my peers were telling me S26

2) Metacognition (learning to learn)

Cognitive/ Metacognitive strategiesSelf-evaluationI did not understand the meaning of the paragraph. After the interpreting I was told what the sentence meant and still didn't understand, therefore to improve on this, I need to not only read more, but relate what I am saying back to the context of the task. S24

My lack of note taking affected my fluency and there were quite a few pauses throughout. I think to improve this further I should concentrate on the main points being said instead of trying to write it down word for word". S19

Very hesitant and unsure of the meaning of French parts and of certain vocabulary in French used in the English section. You relied too much on the written dialogue which caused you to translate too literally.S20Feedback to peers

3) Reflection"Overall I enjoyed the interpreting exercise as it was an opportunity for me to see how much I have progressed in the past 3-4 years. Translatingquicklyfrom one language to the next with minimal time for thought is something I really enjoy, it isn't only preparation for the future but it's a challenge that we will face every time we speak to a French person; I think it is only natural to make a quick translation in your head whilst speaking in another language" S34

"I was very pleased to be able to choose our groups as there is always an element of risk when completing assessed group work if there are differences amongst the group members. Luckily J**, N** and I all live together and get on really well which facilitated our task. As we were comfortable working together we were able to discuss each others work and give and receive constructive criticism and feedback without an