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I would like to get students involved in evaluating their own work.
P.K. Rangachari, Arts & Science Programme

In my Inquiry course for third and fourth year students in the Arts and Science Programme, the students are involved in the grading of themselves and their peers through the evaluation of formal presentations.

The course which deals with issues related to health and illness in our society is run in a problem-based format, suitably modified to accommodate the larger number of students (20 plus). In week 1, students are given a paper problem that deals with a multifaceted issue such as the closure of a hospital or the approval of a new drug to combat alcoholism. Students use the problem as a basis for raising issues, to encourage participation by all members, and to generate enthusiasm. The issues generated in this brainstorming session are pruned to produce clearly definable learning tasks. An attempt is made to capture the "essential" ideas and linkages. The learning tasks are used as a focus for the formulation of groups of three to five students. Each group sets up a loose contract with the rest of the class to obtain and communicate the required information.

Group presentations are held two weeks after the distribution of the problem. At this session, each student is asked to grade the presentation and make comments according to approximate guidelines. Students are told to give high marks for:

  • clear statements of objectives
  • clear, concise presentations
  • logical sequencing of individual sections
  • concepts supported by good examples
  • enjoyable format
  • precise answers to questions
  • provision of new and useful information.

Conversely, they are asked to give lower marks for: rambling, discursive presentations, poor statements of objectives, poor coordination between individual sections, tedious, dull, overlong presentations, inadequate referencing, and inability to answer questions satisfactorily.

Despite the guidelines, this component is necessarily subjective and the students are often uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I insist on this and repeatedly emphasize that responsible learning involves being able to come to terms with such subjectivity. Their marks (along with mine) are averaged to get a group mark which is allocated to each member of the group. Along with the marks, I distribute a sheet with the collated comments. This group mark constitutes 25% of the final grade of each student.

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