Foundation Skills/Ways of assessing student learning and providing meaningful feedback/Assessing practical evidence

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Assessing practical evidence

Teaching and learning does not only happen in the traditional classroom. Practical settings include: the laboratory (chemistry, biology, physics), the workshop (engineering, trades), the gym (sports and exercise science), the art studio (painting, sculpture), the computer suite (information technology, graphic design), the kitchen and restaurant (cooking and hospitality), the salon (hairdressing).

  • Where do your students engage in practical learning activities?

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Just as you provide your students with learning outcomes, objectives, guidelines, instructions, marking schedule, etc. for theory assessments (such as essays), you should do the same for practical assessments. In particular, ensure that any practical activities and assessments align with the learning outcomes for your course. By way of illustration, consider the following two learning outcomes:

  1. LO1: Discuss ways of minimising chemical hazards in the science laboratory
  2. LO2: Dispose of chemicals in a safe manner
  • Which of these two learning outcomes would require a practical assessment?
  • What evidence would you expect from the student to indicate competence and how would you collect this evidence?

We use practical learning activities to enable students to:

  • Reinforce theory and to test theory
  • Develop practical skills
  • Expose student to authentic learning environments
  • Test new ideas

Can you think of other reasons why we use practical learning activities?

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Web Resources

Generally, we assess students' practical competence by observation (process) and/or a completed worksheet or written report (product). How do you assess your students' practical competence?

For some more ideas on how to assess your students' practical competence and abilities, have a quick read through the University of New South Wales resourceAssessing Laboratory Learning.

  • Which of the methods of assessment (outlined in the UNSW resource) are you likely to try in your context?

The Times Higher Education (THE) has published a short article entitled Assessment criteria for practical skills, which includes advice from leading assessment experts in the UK.

  • Which two points stand out most for you in the THE article?