The power of role-based e-learning: selected content, tables and figures
Chapter 8 Assessing learning in online role play
- Example Online Role Plays for This Chapter
- Beginning with “the End in Mind”
- What is Assessment?
- Why Assess at All?
- Principles for Assessing Role-based e-Learning
- Assessment Modes in Role-based e-Learning
- Planning Ahead
- How does Role-based e-Learning Make Assessment an Enjoyable Experience?
- Incorporating Lifelong Learning and Continuous Improvement
All the role-based e-learning activities examined in this book have, in various ways, given specific attention to the problem of generating assessable learning activities. Documentation for the designs includes general ideas and specific suggestions for assessment formats that are intended to be an integral part of the learning activity. All provide specific ways and means of engaging participants in learning to judge the quality of their own learning and of the process that has been creating it.
In their book on assessment in higher education, Boud and Falchikov (2007) argue eloquently for processes that contribute to “developing students’ capacity for future learning beyond [their] present course of study”. They regard learning as the “development of judgment [with] assessment being the process of informing judgment”. Despite this, the dominant assessment practices assume learners as passively submitting themselves to assessment practices designed primarily to meet the needs of others. In this paradigm learners are perceived as incapable of judging their own learning progress or achievements.
However educators seeking ways to create “meaningful learning” – defined as “authentic and therefore complex” by Jonassen et al. (2008) – face a major barrier as long as assessment tasks do not require learners to engage in the creation and judgement of their own learning. This chapter introduces assessment strategies for use with role-based e-learning and emphasizes ways in which associated assessment strategies and specific tasks fall within the parameters of Jonassen’s focus on “authentic” learning. It also demonstrates how designers blend learning and assessment into a continuing process supported by the action of the role play, and encourages current and future users of role-based e-learning to work with Boud and Falchikov’s notion of personal judgement as a key factor in determining how to assess learner achievements.
Assessment Modes in Role-based e-Learning
Table 8.1 provides a comprehensive overview of ways to incorporate assessment modes into the fabric of a role play. It highlights the variety of choices available for designing assessment in accordance with Boud’s proposal for tertiary education to be capable of “reframing assessment as if learning mattered”. It emphasizes the fact that assessment tasks that are aligned with the sequencing of activities as experienced by participants, assist in embedding the learning. Tasks that are limited to assessing recall of facts may ensure participants can display recall but they will not be assessed for integration of “knowing” into “doing” or “being”.
The many different approaches to assessing online role play range from team-based assessment tasks to individual private writing and reflexive tasks. It is not possible or advisable to assess every aspect of the role play – just as a written exam cannot be expected to assess the entirety of what might have been memorized during a term of lectures. The scope of the assessment process will depend on the purpose and extent of particular role play goals as well as its location in a larger unit of study. A blend of assessment tools – for example using online and face-to-face components – may be best for assessing participant performance and their learning achievements. Use of a variety of assessment tools is an almost inevitable result of role-based e-learning since it involves a variety of responses.
Table 8.1 was developed by Rosser (2009) in her role as national project manager of Project EnROLE to demonstrate how creative and dedicated educators are able to incorporate assessment tasks in a role play sequence to meet external – often abstract – expectations. Her summary emphasizes the complexity of choices available to educators and illustrates the creativity of the designers working with role-based e-learning in tertiary contexts. The use of an e-portfolio has been added to her list here, as this tool is proving to be excellent for longer term development of learner understanding of their personal development.
Table 8.1 List of potential assessment tasks
As practices for the assessment of learning move further away from being simply a collection of imposed recall-based tasks, participants cease to be passive objects, becoming instead an integral part of the learning process. Where “knowing what” was once all that assessment sought to assess, role-based e-learning is contributing to the shift towards expecting that learners, by completing interactive tasks, demonstrate they “know how”.
Linking assessment tasks to the action sequence in a role play enables learners to track the evolving nature of their own learning. Once learning is considered as a lifelong and continuous improvement process, both learner and educator find it necessary to re-think what is being sought and provided in the educational context. Integrating the task of assessing learning into the process of creating learning ensures that all involved come to see themselves as judges of the results of both action and reflection. In the forms of role play examined throughout this book, “learning” has been shown to be attuned to learners’ needs and acquires commensurate importance. Assessing learning is incorporated into the whole process and is no longer a “boring, detached and isolated” task.
Not every context will require a role play designer to include a focus on assessment. Similarly not every designer will want to evaluate their design. From long experience the authors highly recommend that designers understand the role of assessment and evaluation. For those who are interested in evaluation of role-based e-learning – as a design and learning process – this is examined in the following chapter.