Art Of The Assessment

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Martin Kippenberger – The Problem Perspective. MOMA New York. 2009

Activity 1:

1. Visit the Times Higher Education website

2. Search for ‘MOOC

3. Stand Back!

(Thanks to James Wisdom for this advice!)

 “It’s going to change. There is no doubt about it… For students in developing countries who can’t get it any other way, or for students in the first world, who can but may choose not to… Pay thousands of pounds a year for your education? Or get it for free online?” Sebastian Thrun Director of the Stanford AI Lab

If we want to talk assessments, or at least the future of assessments we need to consider where education is going and to do this, inevitably we come face to face with the MOOC. The M stands for MASSIVE and massive it literally is, proposing to carry courses from 12 UK institutions set to rival established providers in the US, openly available to students across the world free of charge.

Open University launches British Mooc platform to rival US providers Times Higher Education. 14 Dec 2012 

“We had a million users faster than Facebook, faster than Instagram.. This is a wholesale change in the educational ecosystem.” Daphne Koller. Stanford AI Lab

MOOC is being heralded as the future of learning, with tens of thousands of students enrolling for its courses and famous name tutors praising its values, writing at how astonishing it is to be teaching so many students. Conversely we see some of the UK Vice Chancellors panicking at the perceived threat this move will have on the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ universities, saying that its not real education unless you have the richness of involvement a traditional English education system offers (think lofty aspirations, eccentric tutors, peers, prefects, thinking great thoughts, wearing boaters, walking under trees, lashings of ginger beer..).

However, closer scrutiny exposes the real debate. What about certification? A student who studies online needs certification, after all what is the good to study online if you have nothing to show for it in the end? So we will inevitably see a growth in online certification, which will raise the question of the validity in the assessment process. Once this certification is in good quality, who is to know how a successful student has studied and ultimately how and by whom assessed? and will this matter anymore?

In pedagogic terms ‘Assessments’ is about course design using learning outcomes and constructive alignment.

 ‘looking at practices useful to the designing of teaching and learning plans, with pedagogical methods and strategies aligned to the the competences developed by students’. Tinus Van Rooy. ICED Conference. 2010

‘The ultimate goal is the use of ‘constructive alignment’ as a system, ‘from objectives through teaching to assessing the outcomes, is aligned on the basis of learning activities embedded into objectives’  Biggs, J. 2003. Teaching for Quality Learning at University, 2nd edition, The Society for Research into Higher Education, Buckingham: Open University Press. 

Joe Biggs’ writings on constructive alignment, taken from his ‘Teaching for Quality Learning’ journal is evident in practice throughout all of Higher Education. Lecturers are taught how to design models with learning outcomes driven by appropriate assessment. However attention is turning, due to a number of recent reviews that critically evaluated these reforms, as some of the new teaching methods, intended to achieve greater results failed to achieve sustainable benefits (Williams and Lua. 2004).


Sculpture Group ‘A’. ‘Sitting Project’. Central Saint Martins. 1971

Interestingly, James Wisdom mentions that attention has started to shift away from student assessment via Constructive Alignment, towards examining and improving on the role of the program leader/course leader within educational institutes. Course leaders are individuals who have to hold together a team of teachers whilst designing a whole degree. Institutes will use a form of learning outcomes to do this and that will inevitably end up looking like an assessment model.

 ‘..if what goes on with the teaching is driven by well designed assessment, then the well-designed assessment becomes potentially more influential than the individual teacher. Anyone trying to pass that course will probably study it in that particular way, whoever is teaching them’.

What James Wisdom proposes with this statement is a radical rethinking of HE, and a concsious move towards spending more time designing assessments, than training our teachers.

 A Lesson On Generics

Activity 2:

1. Visit google

2. Search ‘generic’

3. Sit down, yawn..

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‘.. if you have basic programming ability, which we’ll all have if we complete the course.. and a bit of creativity, you could come up with an idea that might just change the world” Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder on MOOC

Creatively, at first glance, a generic culture is not particularly inspiring is it?

If all learning is based solely on assessment models, if we do streamline the experience of learning so that students can do away with the need of an institution and even the need for a real teacher, no matter how efficient this new model is, and how successful the student is at passing a required unit – What effect does this have on the creativity and the employability of a graduate?

As noted, within the recent altshiftual Art and Design conference held in London, last December. Creative Director Chris Clarke of LBi states –

‘..It is not that there is a lack of work placements out there for our students, it is the fact that more students are graduating nowadays than ever before and most without that essential ‘creative spark’ that creative agencies are wanting’.

This ‘creative spark’ is a transferable skill (from person to person) that most creative agencies thrive off. It is this same spark that acclaimed artist and Cal Arts educator John Baldessari claims of the student –

‘When you teach, if you haven’t seen the ‘fire’ in their eyes and if you don’t see the ‘fire’ in their eyes, you have to try a different approach until you do’.


The Locked Room. Central Saint Martins. 1970. A Question Of Feeling. BBC Documentary

It is not uncommon within art institutes to see a provision to work on ‘real world’ briefs with clients attending tutorials to discuss work in person. This approach develops working patterns that mimic ‘real world’ context, with the college becoming an intermediary between community and business. Through group tutorials art institutes foster a positive competitiveness, where students become familiar, confident, and comfortable with confrontation of a creative and challenging kind. These transferable skills are essential within the creative industries and many the territory outside of an over arching assessment model.

For learning programs which incorporate many e-learning elements into their program already, I am certain MOOC will perform very successfully, yet the culture of art and design education is about as far from online as it could be and it is as much about building a sustainable staff-student relationship of trust and mutual respect, as it is about quantifiable assessments. But the issue still remains. The separation of teaching from assessment, which goes against every culture we have inherited, represents a threat to the traditional college structure, but the prospect of free education may very well out-way the disadvantages . . .


‘The pool hall “mook” brawl in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973) offers an alternative vision. “Soccs” (small online closed courses) might be a better description of what many so-called “Moocs” will end up looking like’. 

‘Socc it to ya, ya big mooc’. Simon Walker. National teaching fellow Head, Educational Development Unit, University of Greenwich. 13 December 2012. Times Higher education

Essential reading:

“Goodbye to all this?” ‘Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university? The Observer. 11 Nov 2012. Carole Cadwalladr. Ironically the online article, spouted some 361 comments before they closed the process, goodbye to all this? I think not..

Middle class pupils shun University. The Guardian. 11 Nov 2012. David Boffey



David Boud

Nancy Falchikov

Sally Brown & Phil Race

Peter Hartley

Kay Sambell and Liz McDowell CETLS “assessment for learning in higher education

Oxford Brookes ASKE

The TESTA project at Winchester