Barbara Goff     School of Humanities     b.e.goff@reading.ac.uk

Overview

In my Part 2 module ‘Ancient Sport’ I offer students a choice between a traditional essay and an ‘outreach project’, which requires them to communicate an aspect of ancient sport to a non-academic audience, perhaps for schools or for the general public.

Objectives

  • To develop students’ communication skills in an attractive way
  • To diversify assessment in a relevant way (I first taught the module in an Olympics year)
  • To foster students’ sense of their own employability by developing a range of skills.
  • To engage students more fully in an assessment that draws on creativity and imagination.
  • I also hoped that students would have fun with the assessment, which they definitely have done.

Context

The module ‘Ancient Sport’ investigates Ancient Greek and Roman sporting activities with a focus on relating these to concepts of gender, desire, citizen identity, political power, and empire.  The histories of art, architecture and engineering are also important.  Amy Smith, the Curator of the Ure Museum, suggested the outreach project when I started planning the new module.  I consulted with other colleagues in Study Advice, and the then Teaching and Learning Dean, in order to design the assessment effectively.   I monitored the success of the outreach project via evaluations and discussion with students as well as via assessing the work itself, and recursively amended rubric and feedback sheet in order to communicate what students needed to do, and to guide their practice by clarifying criteria.

Implementation

Each outreach project has to be accompanied by a commentary on a relevant ancient text, a bibliography of secondary literature, and a reflective essay.   I start talking to the students about the assessment choices at the beginning of term.  Towards the end of term, students discuss their chosen project with me and get some feedback on how it is developing.   The module includes a workshop on outreach communications, run by Kim Shahabudin, a colleague from Study Advice, and we share with the students the specific rubric and feedback form which I have developed to address the various elements of the assessment.  We also situate the assessment in the context of employability, pointing towards the importance of being able to reflect on one’s own work, as well as stressing research and communication skills.

Impact

The outreach project assessment has been very successful, with many evaluations picking it out as a strength of the module.  In informal conversations, it has become clear that students understand the link with employability, e.g. with their ambitions towards teaching, journalism or museum work. Over the years students have produced work such as videos both educational and entertaining, board games, museum trails, short stories, comics and magazines.  I have been impressed by the effort, imagination, humour and creativity that students have put into their work, and also by their ability to reflect on their achievements, any limitations of their projects, and the decisions that they had to make along the way.  I have been particularly gratified when students who have struggled with the traditional essay, for a variety of reasons, have found an assessment activity in which they can really shine.  We have used several projects on Open Days and in workshops for local schools.

Reflections

What has mainly contributed to the success of this activity is simply the effort and commitment of the students, and I am very glad to have elicited such good work.  This activity has also been very well supported by colleagues in Study Advice and in the Ure Museum, for which I am grateful.  The activity has required me to rethink things like assessment criteria and rubrics, which I have found useful overall in my teaching.

Follow up

I find it very productive to approach assessment as a way of fostering employability and a variety of skills.  As Departmental Director of Teaching and Learning I am keen for the Department to continue to extend such opportunities for students to engage with a variety of assessment.  I have given extra publicity to our Independent Project module, which offers an alternative to the dissertation.  Although I shall rest ‘Ancient Sport’ for a while, I shall develop a creative writing assessment in a Part 3 module.  We are going to investigate the transformations of the figure of Helen of Troy, across different literary genres and periods, and students will have the opportunity to produce their own version of Helen, in poetry, short story, script, or other text.  Reflection as well as research will be a significant part of this assessment.

 

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