We propose to conduct research into how to build a progressive relationship between lecturers and students, co-exisiting as researchers in a pedagogical space of possibility. We look to develop a pedagogical practice that, already in operation in an optional module at Level 2 in the School of English (LIT271 Radical Theory), is driven by active collaboration between members of staff and students, where the latter no longer function as consumers, but, as Mike Neary writes, producers of knowledge. We will investigate what barriers there are to building these relationships, to the development of an ‘Institution of the Common’, particularly in terms of assessment: we aim to examine and re-imagine assessment as a practice in which students become active participants and, as a result, transform the assessment practice of a core module at Level 2: Critical and Literary Theory (LIT204).
We propose, as such, the following:
(1) a half-day of workshops, 2-3 weeks into the Spring term, for which we invite all interested students at L1, L2 and L3, as well as Students’ Union officers & staff from SoE to discuss alternative assessment practices. In order to solicit interest, we will put out a call for papers-style announcement, structured around critical approaches to assessment and student-as-researcher-centred pedagogy.
(i) Workshop 1 (led by Josh, and without staff presence): ‘Feedback’, in which we invite students to bring along copies of their past assessment papers (the rubric & set questions) for each respective module as basis for asking questions about what worked, what they would like to see changed, what alternatives there might exist. Prior to the workshop, and informed by research into alternative models of assessment, we will generate a series of questions that the students can refer to for guidance and discussion points.
(ii) Workshop 2, titled ‘System’, and circling around the various problems of doing assessment, what type of learning assessment practices might favour, the correlations between mental health and a system of marketised HE, obsessed with endless performance reviews, data analysis, programme specifications, Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO). We will invite the Student Union’s welfare and education officers for this session.
(2) a series of short, (5-10 minutes) online provocations (either written or recorded) on the subject of ‘radical pedagogy and the logic of assessment’, given by invited speakers, both staff & students, accessible via a specially-dedicated website, where we collate all information relating to our fellowship, including information on, and summary of discussions from, workshops, a further reading list, etc.
(3) a 90 minute seminar, led by an invited speaker, who has practical experience of alternative assessment elsewhere (e.g. in a different discipline and/or different institution) to help both staff and students think through pedagogical possibilities.
(4) Workshop 3, (week 9/10), proceeding from the previous initiatives, focused on ‘Design’, & in which we will start to redesign the assessment practice for LIT204. We will ask L2 & L3 students to explain the module, its outcomes, purpose and practices to L1 students in order to launch a series of interrogations into assessment possibilities specific to this course. Considering that the module asks us to critically intervene in the world, are there ways to better align outcomes & assessment? How can we level our critical thinking against the assessment process in order to re-imagine it? We extend our invitation to SoE assessment officers, the Director of Learning & Teaching, the LIT204 course team, and the (deputy) Programme Director to join us for this session.
(5) collaborate in the writing of a conference paper, to be presented at SRHE (Society for Research into Higher Education), held in December 2017, and plan to write up our findings into an article.
We aim, then, to produce a proposal for reforming the LIT204 assessment, informed by a semester-long process of dialogue and deliberation between staff and students and thereby engage actively with two of the Faculty’s L&T priorities: assessment and student voice. We seek, as far as possible, to engage all students in the School who have taken or will take the module, giving them the space and critical tools to examine prevailing assessment practices and propose new ones. The process of dialogue will, we hope, demonstrate that staff can (and must) learn from students’ practical “inside” knowledge, giving students the confidence to co-create, debate and (re-)negotiate academic practices. Looking to the future, we also hope that the experience of this project will help ourselves and others to explore novel, democratic models for learning and teaching design; ones which allow students and their teachers the latitude to negotiate modules, curricula and assessment practices.