Project introduction and background information
To provide students with structural feedback on the quality of microscopic preparations and interpretations of those, we created a peer feedback structure using Turnitin. Students took pictures of a few of their drawings at the end of the first three practicals, and submitted them to Turnitin. Next, they reviewed drawings of fellow students based on several criteria. One of their submitted drawings was reviewed by a teacher. Students used the received feedback to adjust their working behaviour during the rest of the course. Here, I will share our setup and experience, including the final grading of the practicals.
Objective and expected outcomes
One of the learning goals of our courses is to make and interpret microscopical preparations of plant parts, both from lower and higher plants, to obtain data and knowledge with regard to plant structure, growth and development. Our aim within this project was to provide students with feedback regarding this learning goal at an earlier stage in the course, for three reasons: 1) for students to get familiar with our assessment criteria, 2) to inform students about the quality of their drawings and 3) for students to be able to see their fellow students' work.
- Students became more aware of the criteria that are used to mark their workbooks. As a result, they pay more attention to their drawings of microscopical preparations. The average mark of the workbooks increased from 6.9 to 7.4. The learning goals related to the practicals (‘Student is able to make and interpret microscopical preparations of plant parts, ..., and to obtain data and knowledge with regard to plant structure, growth and development.’) was reached by many students; only 4 % received an insufficient mark, while this percentage was much higher (20 %) for the same group of students in their previous course, in which feedback was not incorporated.
- The new assessment criteria resulted in consistent grading among different teachers.
- With the use of the new assessment criteria, grading became more efficient (it saved us 10 hours in a course of 200 students - but with the implementation of a new 'workbook test' (see also project recommendations), grading became even more efficient by saving us 25 hours in a course of 200 students).
Results and learnings
In our case, students became more aware of the criteria that are used to mark their work. In the first year course, this resulted in an increased effort to produce good drawings. However, we noticed that the students appear to focus too much on quality and quantity of drawings, and less at content and understanding. We noticed, for instance, that theory questions (aimed at deep understanding of the course contents) were partially neglected (to save time for making drawings). We therefore decided to incorporate an extra test, to circumvent this problem.
Instead of marking their workbooks, students now take a 'workbook test'. The mark for this test makes up 10 % of their final grade. The test consists of two parts: 1) students make a drawing of a microscopical preparation, according to the assessment criteria that they became familiar with during the feedback procedure that was previously designed, and 2) students label subparts in a series of pictures of microscopical preparations. Students are allowed to use their own workbooks during the test. This stimulates careful attention to workbook assignments (including drawings, but also theory questions). The average mark for this workbook test was 7.6, comparable to the average workbook grade of the previous year.