Participation in the Postgraduate Certificate classes on Learning and Teaching in Higher Education prompted Dr Malcolm Harvey, School of Social Science to think further about constructive alignment, and about linking learning with university graduate attributes and employability relating it to PI3074: American Politics as an example.

Context

Participation in Postgraduate Certificate classes on Learning and Teaching in Higher Education prompted further thinking about constructive alignment, and about linking learning with university graduate attributes and employability. The teaching of American Politics - the contemporary nature of the course and fast-moving subject matter meant that this was a course that provided an opportunity to move away from 'traditional' assessments and attempt to utilise those which might have specific application for employability.

Activity

Two new types of assessment were introduced. One was three 600-word blog posts (with the first being a formative assessment to allow students to 'practice' the writing style) on key issues that were dealt with during the course (whether the president or congress were more powerful; the rationale behind the Electoral College; a comparison of race relations now and in 1964). The rationale was to give students experience of a different writing style. Similarly, the second assessment - a group briefing document recommending one branch of US government for a new state - provided the same opportunity.

Evaluation

From the first cohort (autumn 2017) to attempt the course, the feedback was a little mixed - with many noting trepidation at a different assessment type, and concern that they would not be good at it. However, SCEF reports indicate that after receiving feedback that was largely positive, students were glad to have had the opportunity. I heard from one student who went on to do a Masters course elsewhere, whose degree contained a number of these types of assessment and was pleased they had already experienced them. These assessments have been broadly well-received this semester.

Impact

It is difficult to gauge the impact on students: the impact upon employability and the ability to write in different styles will only be established when they are employed, and it is likely that I may never discover whether it helped or not. However, with the (PIR) department, we have moved towards more differentiation in assessment types. Colleagues have used posters, reports and podcasts as alternatives to essays and exams. I'm pleased that promoting my assessment types has allowed others to reconsider their own assessments and their purpose, even if they have not adopted the same assessments.

Dissemination

In collaboration with a PIR colleague (Dr Stuart Durkin) I presented these examples at the Centre for Academic Development's Annual Symposium 'Evidence for Enhancement' in the summer of 2018. We have, since then, turned this presentation into an article which we will present at the Political Studies Association Conference in April 2019, and have also submitted to the Journal of Political Science Education for publication. We will also, in early 2019, make a presentation of it, and our experience of alternative assessments, at a PIR departmental meeting.