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How to Become an Excellent Tertiary-Level Teacher - page 10 / 16





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If you want to become an excellent teacher, you should make yourself thoroughly familiar with the full range of teaching/learning methods that are currently available, and try to choose the most appropriate method (or mix of methods) for achieving any given set of student learning outcomes.  The 1996 booklet on ‘Selecting Appropriate Teaching/Learning Methods’ by Ellington and Earl (see ‘References’) is a good starting point.  Detailed guidance on how to make effective use of the various methods can be found in any of the standard texts on the subject;  ‘The Lecturer’s Toolkit’ (Race and Brown, 1998), ‘Facilitating Student Learning’ (Ellington and Earl, 1999) and ‘A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (Fry et.al., 1999b)  are three recent books that readers should find useful.

Golden Rule 4 : Use appropriate assessment methods

It is now becoming increasingly widely accepted that assessing their performance is the most important thing that teachers do for their students, especially at tertiary level.  Students can, after all, miss lectures and other scheduled classes and still pass their course - but they cannot opt out of the assessment process (Brown and Knight, 1994).

Thus, it is important that tertiary-level teachers should carry out this assessment professionally and effectively, and should also try to make it as useful to the students as possible (Race and Brown, 1998).  Good assessment should be a key part of the learning process;  indeed, assessment methods and teaching methods are now very often the same thing (essays, assignments and projects, for example).

Ideally, all student assessment should have the following five characteristics (Percival et.al., 1993).  First, it should be valid, ie, should actually assess what it sets out to assess, not something completely different (like speed of writing in traditional essay-based examinations, for example).  It should also be reliable, producing the same results under different but comparable conditions, or when the same piece of work is assessed by different markers;  some assessment methods, such as essays, can have severe reliability problems unless suitable measures are taken to standardise marking.  Assessment procedures should also be reasonably practicable in terms of their cost, time taken and ease of application;  this sometimes necessitates a trade-off against other desirable characteristics such as validity, eg, in the assessment of practical work.  Next, assessment should be fair to all students, and should not make unexpected or unreasonable demands of them - something that is particularly important in these days of student charters and the increasing tendency of students to demand ‘value for money’.  Finally, as we have already seen, students should find their assessment useful, both by helping to facilitate the learning process and by providing them with feedback on how they are progressing.  

When planning student assessment, you should begin by asking yourself a number of basic questions regarding the mode of assessment, eg:

Why is the assessment being carried out?  Is it formative assessment, designed primarily to provide feedback on progress?  Or is it summative assessment, designed

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