Contributors: Professor Lizzie Barmes & Professor Kate Malleson
School: Centre for Commercial Law Studies
Professors Lizzie Barmes and Kate Malleson recently adopted video assignments as part of the assessments for their Equality and the Law 15 credit, level 6 module taught in the Department of Law. This gave students an opportunity to develop multimedia content and communication skills. It also helped Lizzie and Kate utilise classroom time more effectively and provided a more flexible form of assessment that was well adapted to accommodating students’ different learning styles.
Background & Context
Equality and the Law is an optional undergraduate module designed to enhance students’ substantive understanding of equality and the law, while also exposing them to the range of possible methodologies for investigating topics in this broad field.
The module assessment takes the form of a 10 minute video presentation of an outline research proposal, which accounts for 25% of the final grade, and a 5000 word research proposal on the same topic (of the kind which a prospective PhD student might develop), which accounts for 75% of the final grade. There is also a formative assignment in the form of a written research proposal outline, in which students identify and start to develop the research proposal that will form the basis for the two summative assignments.
The design of the assessment in the first year the half module was run (2016) included three summative assessments and a formative one. The students submitted an abstract of a research proposal, wrote an outline research proposal, delivered a 20 minute oral presentation in class on their project and wrote a fully developed research proposal.
Lizzie and Kate found that assessment load heavy, complicated and time-consuming both for students and teachers. There was an additional problem of timetabling the 20 minute presentations. While student numbers were low in the first year, it was clear that this assessment model could not easily be scaled up if numbers rose.
Taking inspiration from their colleague Jessie Hohmann (Senior Lecturer in Law), who had successfully used video presentations in another module, they replaced the oral presentations with video ones. This had the advantage of not requiring class time. Instead students could create the videos as and when suited them and they could be graded from any location at any time.
The new video assignment also has pedagogic benefits. It enables students to develop and demonstrate a range of communication, research and analytical skills. In order to enhance flexibility, the students are allowed to create videos in whatever manner they choose (including on their phones), with the emphasis in the assessment criteria on content rather than video-making skills. Crucially, this mode of assessment accommodates a wide range of learning styles (and potential learning disabilities). It also has a positive identity dimension, in giving students an opportunity to express themselves in their own way.
The one disadvantage of the video assignment over the previous in class presentation is that students do not have an opportunity to see and give feedback on one another’s work. So peer learning is reduced.
Students were made aware through in class training and QMplus that recording equipment is available for loan and told about the recording booth at Mile End. The students were directed towards the module contacts in the E-Learning Unit should they have questions either about resolution, video formats etc or if they encountered technical issues.
Feedback on the videos was given online, using marking criteria tables and free text commentary. However technical problems arose with using these tables on QMplus. As such, Lizzie and Kate are now consulting with E-learning colleagues to find a solution to those issues.
The video format was one which students were extremely comfortable with and the quality of their presentations exceeded expectations. The students’ videos effectively demonstrated their communication and analytical skills in presenting the background to, rationale for and methodology of potentially large research projects in a 10 minute video.
Lizzie and Kate were struck by the way that the students were able to express themselves orally on video in ways that can get lost in translation in written submissions. The video format allowed them to demonstrate their originality and creativity, complementing and enhancing the written element of the half module assessment. The video presentations were therefore useful both as a learning exercise in their own right, but also in strengthening the final research proposal which formed the bulk of the students’ assessment grade.
Changes for this year
Lizzie and Kate have met with the E-Learning Unit early in the academic year to find solutions to the issues that came up last year with marking and providing feedback via QMplus.
This has led to the decision to experiment with providing formative feedback via an audio file, attached to a video of students’ work being annotated in the course of marking. This should save time and allow more tailored and extensive feedback, both to the group and individually.
The videos may also be shown in class so that the advantage of peer learning is not completely lost. Time has been allowed for this in one of the last seminars of the term.
Key points for effective practice
- clear guidelines on video length and format
- clear guidelines on what students were being assessed on (via rubric)
- consult the E-Learning Unit or departmental learning technologists early about setting up assignments and methods of providing feedback. This not only helps to- minimize problems, but facilitates learning and experimentation.
- gain consent from students to use their videos as exemplars, to share with future students