|Rationale for Assessment of Group Practice at Central School of Speech and Drama|
The Production, Art & Design Department operates a number of assessment methodologies that incorporate (to a greater or lesser extent) the assessment of group practice. These assessment practices are always combined with some form of self and peer assessment. I have, therefore, chosen an example of the self and peer assessment of group practice that has received positive feedback from the students who have experienced it within the first year of their course and have also made favorable comments regarding this system at the Departmental Board of Study.
Assessment criteria are almost never just dry or mechanical statements that simply describe - and differentiate between - levels of student achievement, they are nearly always (implicitly or explicitly) infused with the core values of the curricula to which they relate and - by extension - the values held by the course team who oversee the teaching and learning methodologies deployed. The selected example is designed to help the students to gain a greater insight into the values promoted by their course.
The following example outlines an group assessment system used at Level One of the BA (Hons) Theatre Practice degree at The Central School of Speech and Drama.
R50 'Making Theatre'
In this unit students are working in role on a hypothetical 'paper' theatre production The unit takes place towards the end of the second term of Level One. At this point students will have undertaken a range of group projects which have promoted collaboration and the integration of specialist skills towards the achievement of a group outcome. They will also have operated this particular assessment system on each of their previous Level One units.
The outcome of this assessment process will inform the individual tutorial feedback on student performance within the unit. The assessment criteria used on the proforma relate directly to the learning objectives of the unit which in turn map onto the criterion referenced progression criteria for Level One of the course. This encourages the student to develop a clear understanding of the assessment system which is operating. The following pages show examples of a completed assessment pro-forma and the aggregated outcome of the self and peer assessment forms for one group. The aggregated and anonomised feedback form is shown to the student in the context of a feedback tutorial, where particular features highlighted by the distribution of marks and disparities between the self and peer assessment outcomes can be explored.
Each student group was given the opportunity to agree two additional criteria which they could add to the assessment matrix, these enabled each group to reflect aspects of individual contribution to group performance (self-imposed 'groundrules') that they had agreed at the start of the unit. This approach to assessment was designed to encourage student ownership and understanding of the assessment system, allowing students to be assessed as proto-practitioners, team members and individuals within the same format. The groups were given a greater responsibility for the organisation of the project than in their previous units so that tutors witnessed less day-to-day progress within the groups. This form of assessment enabled the students to reflect the progress of their group in a way which made it hard for students who may have contributed less to 'hide' within the overall outcome of group product. The system also provides staff with a window onto the day-to-day functioning of the group process. This system is used in tandem with a tutor and peer-group assessment process which is designed to evaluate the project outcomes.
This assessment system genuinely allowed students to be part of the process of assessment. To this extent assessment was not 'done to them' by the course but became an integral part of the project. As reported by a number of teaching and learning experts, students undertaking assessment of themselves or their peers often feel that the tutor/s are reneging on there role as judges and experts. A few students expressed this concern but a far greater number appreciated the comparison and sharing of practice that the assessment of other's, work afforded them. I think it is always hard for some students to be objective and not assess others based on friendship or enmity. The triangulated approach used in this project makes any victimisation or favouritism fairly easy to spot.
The benefits far outweigh these possible shortcomings, for example within group and process skills it is possible for students to discover that a person may not be the best or most productive practitioner, but that their drive and enthusiasm within the group makes them a first choice group member. It would be impossible to inculcate this sort of understanding through teaching methodologies, so assessment becomes a genuine part of the learning process. It is also vital that students gain a better understanding of the assessment process and the way in which criteria are used to evaluate their level of achievement, in this way students can gain as high a grade as possible.
Head of Production, Art & Design 2002