Otago Polytechnic

A holistic approach to assessment helps reduce student anxiety.

Tertiary students are often highly focussed on assessment, asking exactly what it is they need to do to pass each one and worrying their way from one assessment to the next. Obsession with counting their credits can distract students from their learning, and was undermining the project-based learning basis of the Bachelor of Culinary Arts programme, where students work to solve a problem using design thinking.

For these reasons Senior Lecturer Chloe Humphreys reviewed assessment for first year Bachelor of Culinary Arts students, challenging herself and the teaching team to change how, and how often, they assess students. The model she developed from her research has several key features:

  • Taking a big picture approach, looking at the learner outcomes, rather than a detailed list of criteria;
  • Moving to assessment at course end based on evidence gathered throughout the course, instead of dictating what should be learnt when; and
  • Broadening the range of evidence of learning that can be used for assessment, for example observations, formal conversations with students, and menu item design for a student's part time job.

The results were implemented in 2019. Observation and anecdotal feedback indicate that the change has been successful. Neither students nor lecturers talk so much about assessment; that falls naturally out of the learning on which both students and staff are focussed.


August 2020