Description of Good Assessment Practice

Title: Dr
Name: Mable Chan
Academic Position: Others
Name of Institution: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Country: Hong Kong
Discipline: Others
Department/School: Department of English
Course title: English for Advanced Academic Communication; English for Advanced Academic Writing
Course code: ENGL216/ENGL217
Class size: 21-40
Course Year: Year 1
Assessment Title: Use of a Learning Contract for Self-assessment
Assessment Type: Both
Time allowed for assessment: Both inside & outside
Target: Peer- and self-assessment
Learning outcomes of the assessment practice: Learning Outcome 1: To foster self-access work and independent learning

Learning Outcome 2: To raise students’ awareness of their needs in learning English

Learning Outcome 3: To encourage students to undertake the responsibility of learning and planning

Learning Outcome 4: To develop the habit of monitoring their learning and do self-access work in a progressive manner

Key features and principles of the assessment practice: A learning contract is an agreement between a teacher and a learner. It is one form of assessments which provides a useful mechanism for assuring both parties of whether a planned piece of work can meet the requirement of a course. The idea of learning contract is being applied in different areas and disciplines, in academic settings and also in the workplace for training and other purposes. The main purpose is to apply the learning contract in language proficiency courses, encourage self-assess work and independent learning.

At the beginning of the semester, students were asked to fill in the learning contract. They were asked to write down two general learning objectives (e.g. speaking, writing), specific information about their learning goals and what they plan to do. During the semester, students were asked to submit learning evidence e.g. in Week 4, 6, 9, 14. This is to encourage them to do self-assess work regularly instead of starting to do the work at the end of the semester when they have to submit the assignment.

In a meeting of week 7, for example, the teacher asked students to form into groups in class to share what they have done in the learning contract. Students with similar learning objectives were formed into the same group. They can share what they have done and learn from each other. They can also have the opportunity to adjust or modify their own learning plan.

At the end of the semester (normally in Week 14), students were asked to make a presentation about the learning contract in which they have to tell their classmates what their learning objectives are, what they have done to achieve the learning objectives and the learning outcomes. This is a very good opportunity for them to spell out and reflect what they have done and to share the learning experience with their peers.
What are the best things about this assessment method? Learning contract:

- Helps students set clear learning objective and what they should do to achieve them;
- Raises students’ awareness of learning needs and engage them in thinking about their learning needs instead of telling them what to do;
- Fosters students’ planning skills as they are in charge of what to learn and how to learn;
- Encourages students to do self-access work regularly through building checking points and interim review as self-monitoring is often overlooked by students.

Learning contract effectively shifts the responsibility of learning and planning to the students so as to foster independent learning. Independent learning is very important because it allows students to ‘own’ the learning process, they have considerable ‘say’ in decision-making. They can decide on what to learn and how to learn. So this is important not just for studying but in the workplace for professions.
What are the challenges in implementing this assessment method? It is important for students to set practical goals. This leads to the important role teachers should play in the initial stage when formulating their learning objectives. After receiving the learning contract from students at the beginning of the semester, teachers should give them feedback as some students may have misconceptions about learning a language or may set too ambitious goals. At this initial stage, the teacher needs to give them some advice and guidance when they formulate their learning objectives. Otherwise they would not be doing something meaningful in the learning contract.

In the subsequent process, teachers should also help students monitor and reflect what they have done in the middle of the semester. When it comes to assessment, it is the quality of students’ work that matters, which is about whether they have done something which can help address the learning objectives effectively. Helping students understand what it means by quality of work is another challenge.
What do your students think about this assessment method? (Any evaluation?) Students consider learning contract an effective way of evaluating self-access learning. Most of them are in favour of this approach to improve their language proficiency and will use learning contract for future learning in different occasions. Some comments from students are given below:

- “I prefer learning contract. During classroom time, we may only have the chance to do some boring work, just like writing essays. But learning contract could give me a chance, and even inspire me to do independent learning”.
- “I also prefer learning contract because different people may have different needs. It caters to everyone’s needs. With learning contract, we can decide what we can learn and what we can achieve. So I think it’s more flexible”.
- “As a university student, we cannot expect the professor to give you everything you need to learn. Instead, we need to look for some more information for ourselves and to be an independent learner”.
Plans for changes/developments in future (if any):
Attachment: Learning Goals and Contract
Creation date: 2015-10-15 16:09:47