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Assessment for learning: Putting the pieces together with real-world assignments

This is the seventh post in our Assessment for Learning (AfL) series as we anticipate Beyond Grading: Effective Assessment Strategies for Better Learning, a McGill University symposium taking place on December 7, 2018. 

Reflecting on my time as a philosophy student at McGill, I initially found it quite difficult to recall an assignment that was “real-world” or “hands-on” in the way that those terms are typically understood: I never journeyed to Greece to work at a school for moral education or sculpted a bust of Plato. However, when I took those terms less literally, it became quite clear to me that I was constantly asked to make connections between theory and the “real world” in my assignments. These real-world connections made my studies much more meaningful and increased my understanding of often dense texts. I have the suspicion that many students in other disciplines would feel the same way.

Fellow grad student Simone Tissenbaum accompanied me on an expedition through McGill University’s downtown and Macdonald campuses to ask students about the types of assignments that have really helped them learn. Two students, one from the Faculty of Engineering and another from the Faculty of Education, shared with us their experiences with assignments that allowed them to apply their learning to real-world scenarios.

This student recalls a project in which they were tasked with designing an amplifier for a microphone. They found that they needed to implement a variety of concepts that they had used to solve practice problems in class, exclaiming, “It was cool to see how they all fit together.”

The other student describes an assignment for which they attended a cultural event. They note how they particularly appreciated being able to “actually use” what they were learning and “put it into practice.”


Assessment for Learning (AfL) strategy:

Read about why instructors might want to involve students in “hands-on” projects and how they can implement such activities.

Need ideas for creating authentic writing assignments? Check out some examples.

Beyond Grading: Effective Assessment Strategies for Better Learning – December 7, 2018

Do you teach at McGill University? You’re invited to a symposium where we will engage our community of instructors in learning about creative and effective assessment strategies to help improve students’ learning and motivation to learn, and inform teaching practices. View the symposium program and register to attend.

Check out the other posts in the Assessment for Learning series:

Kira Smith is an MA student in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. She received her BA in English and Philosophy from McGill in 2017 and has been working as a project assistant at Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) since. An avid unicyclist and voracious reader of pretty much anything, Kira enjoys good chats about student affairs and TLS coffee.

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Student Engagement Officer, Office of Science Education

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