Dimensions of assessment

Dimensions of Assessment
CSM BA Jewellery Design Year 3
Unit 9: Research and Development 
This unit is 12 weeks long and is about the student identifying what their final year project will be and  preparing the groundwork of ideas, possibilities, developments and sample pieces that will inform the final collection of work in the next unit (Unit 11) It is a time for 3rd years to consolidate their learning over the previous two years and to start the process of becoming an expert in their chosen area. At the end of unit 9, the students present both Product-based and Process-based work for assessment: a Pilot Collection consisting of a minimum of 3 pieces along with a clearly written proposal (about 500 words), research work, material/process samples, evidence of appropriate cultural awareness, a unit 9 technical journal, a commentary journal and a self-evaluation. All the submission requirements are specified to allow the students a balanced, practical and thoughtful approach to their work and therefore we use Authentic assessment to gauge the student’s level of learning as it offers a broader perspective on the reasoning of their ideas.
With the importance and weighting of this unit: 40 credits towards the students final degree of 120 credits, we put in place a formative assessment point, normally 2 – 3 teaching weeks before the summative assessment. This is invaluable for both students and staff. For the student, it is a key point in their learning that identifies strengths and weaknesses in their process and work. We ask them to present all submission requirements for the mock assessment and we give each student brief written feedback that directly relates to what they have submitted and how this then relates to each of the learning outcomes. This is ungraded but we highlight and explain which of the UAL marking criteria need attention or improvement  before the summative assessment point. If a student is in danger of failing the unit, we tell the student at this point and specify what needs to be achieved so that they can aim to pass. In this respect, both the formative and summative assessments are Internal assessments, set and marked by myself and the course leader.
In a sense, we operate a rather formal formative assessment as though it was the real thing to take advantage of the highly motivational force a mock exam would induce. It really does motivate underachieving students to take their work more seriously and it is seen as a practice run, a chance to see how they are progressing before the final, summative assessment. In this case, unit 9 ( along with the dissertation unit 10 and unit 11) are seen as Terminal assessments because these assessments count towards the student’s final degree whilst all other assessments in year one and two of their study are considered Continuous because the marks do not count towards their final degree. However, progression from year to year is only achievable by passing each and every unit in order.
For staff, formative and summative assessments provide essential feedback on how effective the structure and delivery of the unit has been, how effectively students have understood and progressed through the unit. We build on good practice; reflect on lessons learnt and note examples of good learning outcomes. We mitigate any areas that are perceived to be not working as effectively. For example, the language used to describe the unit and the requirements are carefully revised and quantities of outcome and emphasis are also adjusted following on from each formative assessment. No two final years are the same so It provides a useful point for myself and the course leader to re-evaluate and improve learning outcomes for the next and last unit and for next year’s cohort.
To determine the students’ grades we primarily use Criterion-referencing which involves comparing the student’s achievements with clearly stated criteria for learning outcomes and clearly stated standards of particular levels of performance. In this way, we mark fairly and rigorously against a set of standards applied to all students as opposed to Norm-referencing whereby the student’s grade is awarded on the basis of their ranking within a particular cohort. I think we would find Norm-referencing very difficult to do alone in terms of the diversity and broad spectrum of our students’ work, however, we do find it a useful additional tool at the end of Criterion-referencing to add balance. It can offer clarity and separation of students that appear to fall in the same or similar grading bands.



Creativity in the discipline I teach

This is a random list of words and sentences to describe what I think creativity is in the discipline I teach:


Thoroughness , doesn’t give up easily, feels challenged, exploring, taking risks, problem solving, self critical, self reflective, searches out, defines, sets his or her own standards, able to identify, asking what if…?, dreaming could it be…? (I could go on)


I read the 2006 Lindström article and the 2006 chapter by Claxton entitled: Creative glide space both of which I found really useful. Claxton’s chapter is particularly inspiring to read so clearly in words what I already feel and understand tacitly through the doing of my own work what creativity is.


Similarly, I instinctually look for similar patterns of behaviour in our students. Sometimes I don’t need to look very hard and I recognise that a student’s level of creativity is high. Other times, I see creativity expressed and highly developed in a number of other ways but not associated with or directed to certain parts of their project work. It strikes me that creativity is a habit, a knack we all possess and can be switched on, exercised, practised and re-directed to almost anything.


What do I do to teach and assess creativity in my context?


I try to encourage a lot of the aspects to be found in Claxton’s essay by helping the student identify and exercise these points for themselves. If a certain part of the student’s process appears more thorough, more experimental, I bring their attention to it and try to encourage them to recognise and apply the way they were investigating, opening up or exploring this aspect, to another part of their work that perhaps isn’t as well developed or as creative as it could be. For example, a student that is very good at experimenting with materials and achieves lots of very sophisticated samples either by nature or nuture, may not always apply the same process of thinking to how many possibilities there could be in wearing them. By encouraging the student to see their projects as a collection of different aspects separated out, each part needing attention and focus that then creates the bigger picture, also helps the process by which we assess their creativity as described by Lindstrom to be significant in assessing creativity:


Creative people often possess an ability to adopt a number of different stances or perspectives. When they look at their own work, they focus alternately on the technical aspects, the visual design, the ideas, and so on. They develop a set of standards or a checklist that directs their attention and helps them to monitor the creative process. In addition, they master a vocabulary that enables them to assess their work in multiple dimensions, so that they can pass more qualified judgements than just ‘good’ or ‘bad.’


Claxton 2006 is referring to something similar here:


They need to be both receptive and proactive. They need to be able to think clearly and to dream. They need to be able to be both patient and purposeful. They need to be able to see how things are, and how they could be. They need to be able to play with material, letting it reveal its potentialities, and to mould it to their own will. The creative person, it seems, needs to be capable of being in many minds, sometimes simultaneously, and sometimes moving sequentially between them.


When we assess creativity we look for all these elements in the student’s work and 2 examples that help us assess this is that each student is required to keep a technical journal and a commentary. Both are similar on-going, process journals but one is practical and the other self-reflective. We look for evidence of the student thinking through the differences and similarities of both journals and seeing how they are alternating their thoughts and actions between the two and how thoughts from one prompt action in another and vice versa.


Other possibilities for teaching and assessing creativity?


Creativity is an active mental state, it can be very focused and introspected or concentrated and highly social. It is not passive because we are conscious we are
active in it, even when it’s running on the lowest energy setting, just ticking along in the background barely perceptible, but it is there none the less.


Idea:    A creative thinking matrix 


I realise a lot of what I try to teach and do to assess creativity does have some sort of structure and rationale even if I don’t write it down and print it out so perhaps I can literally sketch it out and use it as a tool for students
to follow and use in an open group discussion to stimulate a more active mental state for exploring ideas for jewellery…?


Students are encouraged to list examples in a creativity driven matrix where one example is encouraged sideways along the matrix – both left and right, starting in any column – to expose further ideas for exploration. In a group, students are asked to put forward and creatively explore in each category all the possibilities they can think of, both individually and through agreement or argument. The categories need more work but here’s a quick example of what I mean and I hasten to add that I want to encourage the act of creative thinking and not specific outcomes so all columns are to be considered equal. Let me know what you think!


What is jewellery?
Please list objects and ideas
Your personal experience Generally Accepted conventions Free and radical thinking/ dream states Historical, factual
Related modes of expression
(i.e film, dance, fine art, sound works, fashion film )
Example: To hold a memory Silver Locket Digital locket Victorian hair lockets Sound recording of peoples memories Wearable recording pendant.
Example: Engagement ring 1ct diamond solitaire ring The materials are melted down and  the diamond is re-cut to make the wedding ring Examples or stories of  spontaneous proposal  rings made of tin foil, sweet wrappers or plastic toy rings. Engagement ring comes with a personal journal for collecting inspiration and details to be used in the design of the new wedding ring. A ring for life, not just for engagements.


Communities of practice

Got a bit carried away and started to add other communities that I belonged to that aren’t related to my practice but the activities, place, exchange and learning that goes on does share lots in common with my professional communities!

Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Jewellery

Troublesome Jewellery
I found reading the Land & Meyer 2003 article after the Osmond, Turner & Land 2008 chapter helped to explain a nagging feeling I’ve often encountered in teaching jewellery. That is, how to give each student the confidence to pursue individual concerns whilst attempting to equip them all with a core set of essential jewellery knowledge and skills within a diverse subject?
I feel that asking our students the question ‘what is jewellery?’ (Much like asking ‘what is art/design/craft/life?’) to be a crucial threshold concept that often leads to troublesome knowledge (as described by Perkins 1999). But asking this question and applying a successful process in the attempt to answer it can also yield the ‘light bulb’ moment in a student’s learning.
We encourage our students to explore the subject of jewellery widely and to know about and understand some of its key concepts, developments and exponents. Because we encourage  jewellery as a subject and not as a material,  I see this as a threshold concept leading to troublesome knowledge. To really ‘get’ and understand what jewellery is, students first have to have some idea of what they think jewellery is. This is important to progress through the course with but at the same time, this (often) basic knowledge doesn’t guarantee them the success they hope for. We challenge their perception of the subject continually along the way. Without one single, solid picture of what jewellery is or looks like, it appears much harder for students to express what they think it is! And I don’t think this is a bad thing so long as they are continually in the process of working it out which is of course the point.
We challenge their view not to change their minds but to develop ways in which they can successfully test and push their ideas to the limits to extract originality, a greater sense of ownership, a stronger more robust understanding of their relationship with their subject with the potential to contribute original knowledge to it, and to further improve design, craft and digital skills required in the realisation of their output. Often students progress well – projects are successfully completed – but find it difficult to arrive at ‘their thing’ further compounded by the need to have really ‘got it’ in good time to fully develop it before they graduate. This leads me to think that despite what everyone thinks jewellery looks like or is, developing a successful process by which every student can tell they are on the right tracks in the exploration of their subject (however they decide to do this), is key.
I notice that some of our 3rd year students start their final year seemingly quite lost  – much in the same way as the 1st year transport design student grappling with the idea of designing something for the first time, and in struggling to do so thought they were more suited to a modelling background (Osmond, Turner & Land, 2008, p. 256) . The 3rd year is about pursuing their personal view points and to build on the knowledge they have gained in the preceding years to begin designing with. Most do not get this at all. There is a sense that students enter the 3rd year expecting to start a new project set and led by teaching staff. It appears that they don’t seem to consider carrying through their learning or expanding and building upon their knowledge. The tendency to re-invent oneself is high: a new year, a new me. This approach, although understandable form the student’s point of view has varying degrees of success for them – plucking out random ideas from thin air isn’t a sustainable way of working or good practise at BA level.

New ideas and fresh work actually arises from further research and the re-working of existing ideas over and over again to identify and fine tune tendencies.

With these thoughts in mind and the conclusions that both Perkins (2006) and Davies (2006) come to about tacit knowledge and troublesome knowledge as cited in the Osmond, Turner & Land 2008 chapter, page 253, there perhaps needs to be a greater personal exploration of what jewellery is right from the beginning of 2nd year (if not earlier)
Currently, yr 2 is made up of a variety of diagnostic projects but whilst this strategy is clear to staff and the majority of students, it is perhaps not explicitly communicated to the year group as a whole (what we’re attempting to achieve through these projects and how their output will begin to shape a personal pathway for them to follow in the 3rd year) and therefore it is not explicitly required of the students to reflect upon and build on the knowledge and personal tendencies that arise during these projects. Because our staff are all practitioners with an incredibly high level of tacit understanding of their own discipline areas, perhaps we automatically assume our students can understand and identify their strengths for working in particular ways.
Idea 1:
A strategy to further embed this notion of diagnostics could be a resolution ‘project’ that actively takes forward the successes of a past project in the part or whole (instead of embarking on a new one) that would help identify the students capabilities and sensitivities for jewellery thinking, making, designing and realisation; i.e. the big question of ‘what is jewellery?’ tackled and answered in a more constructive way.
Idea 2:
Could a resolution template (not necessarily a whole project as above but instead a sort of check list) applied systematically to any part of a student’s learning/project help to fine tune and identify personal tendencies in the students work that they can then carry forward and build upon throughout their 3 years [more easily]?
Students often look for what they perceive is required of them or what everyone else thinks is jewellery and not look back on what they have achieved or discovered over the preceding 2 years as an ongoing, thorough development of what jewellery is, tested and sampled through the projects in the course structure. Generally students can follow technical and heavily tutored projects well but often fall short of the requirements needed in a self managed project set and defined by themselves.
When I was a student…
I remember experiencing a revelation when I finally realised how my process worked and it was like a chain reaction of events that seemed to effortlessly join up my making skills, a penchant for showing-off, a personal starting point for ideas, and an eagerness to have something interesting to say. It dawned on me that I could see a process, a way of doing something that I could apply to any idea to make it work or at least give it its best chance of working. The answer wasn’t even the technical skills I had learned in my discipline though without these it would be very hard to realise my ideas, it was the approach I took and this was how I thought about the world around me; I had tapped into what made me tick and what motivated me and I translated these ideas into jewellery. Any uncertainty about what jewellery was for me seemed to vanish, I no longer worried about it because I found myself doing it.

Constructive Alignment

How I understand it
Constructive alignment is a joined-up learning strategy that enables learners to identify what they will be learning, the Intended learning outcomes (ILO’s) how they will be learning  it (what the teaching and learning activities are (TLA’s), and how the outcomes of which act as an indication of how well they have learned through the assessment task (AT)
For example (I’m explaining this to my husband who is pretending to be a child for the purposes of my homework)
“The ILO is to be able to create a digital image. The TLA’s are me showing you how to use a digital camera and then asking you take 10 images. To find out how well you are creating digital images, the AT will be you selecting and presenting the top 5 images you think best demonstrates your ability to create a digital image”
In relation to my teaching practise
In a nutshell, my students are learning how to apply their ideas for jewellery. Because the outcomes can be and are encouraged to be diverse (“Jewellery is a subject, not a material” Caroline Broadhead, 2012), another task they are learning to do is work out and fine-tune what jewellery is for them; there is no right or wrong answer so this they have to define for themselves through the teaching and learning activities we provide. They practice applying their ideas for jewellery through making tests, samples, self- reflection, tutorials, presentations and practical techniques to aid them to do this. finally, they are assessed on how well they have applied their ideas for jewellery by presenting a collection of work. We basically practise this together between staff and students so that they can get more and more proficient and advanced in their methods at applying their ideas for jewellery.
I teach 3rd years and in general I try to align a lot of what they have learned and experienced in years 1 and 2 with what we expect of them now to better enable them to apply their learning to their new found ideas to develop and create a final collection.
Constructive alignment in microcosm
A small thing I have begun to do recently is to try and make group tutorials (8 students) more helpful and stimulating for the students involved and to achieve a better level of group engagement as very often students tune-out whenever the attention is not directed specifically at them or they think what is being said to another student is not relevant to them. This will all sound very obvious and I thought so too until I started to consciously do it.
Before we even start talking about what each student has been doing, I say from the outset, “this is a group activity and i will, during the course of the session, open it out for the whole group to give constructive feedback, opinions and comments so that each of you can get as much feedback on your work as possible” As the session goes on, I do notice that the students are more likely to ask questions and offer advice because they know that’s what’s expected of them in the session and after a few more rounds, some get really into problem solving for each other and find it a stimulating activity. When they are really engaged and just before the end of the session, i ask each student to write on a postit note 3 things they can realistically do/achieve before the next session that will help their progress. Each person already had a minimum of 5 or 6 bits of feedback from the group so this was done with ease. I kept a photocopy of their 3 things and gave them back their postit. When I saw them again, I had the copy of their posit in my pocket and I didn’t need to produce it –  about 80% tried to achieve what they set out to do and there was an overall 60% improvement in productivity and progress.
Upon reflection, constructive alignment really does work whether in microcosm or in the grand scheme of an entire course and I don’t think you can practice it enough. Even for the students that aren’t doing so well now or not as productive as they could be; knowing what they need to achieve , how they can go about achieving it and what impact the outcomes have in relation to their own learning is a huge step for them. It also helps strip away a quantitative approach in favour of a qualitative one and the ‘trying to work out what the teacher wants’ also begins to fade because their progress is defined almost wholly by what potential they can see in their work.
Brabrand & Andersen’s film: Teaching teaching & Understanding understanding (full details and links below, also in the Reading List on Blackboard) is a really clear and concise way to understand Constructive Alignment. Especially as it breaks it down to the three perspectives of what the teacher is doing, how the student is learning and how understanding occurs. It’s also a good reminder that what the student does matters more to determine what is learned than what the teacher does (Ralph W Tyler 1949) I think it’s complimented and deepened my understanding of Biggs & Tangs Chapter  4 on Constructive Alignment, particularly about the 3 levels of thinking about teaching (also by Biggs) and how activation is not enough, I didn’t quite get this the first time I read the Chapter.
Here are some of the key points I found interesting and thought were just great:
Deep learning – characterised by the spontaneous use of higher cognitive processes, generally teaches oneself and can’t stop learning.
Surface Learning – characterised by the use of higher cognitive processes only when absolutely necessary, generally cutting corners to achieve goals with minimum effort.
The 3 levels of thinking about teaching (John Biggs)
Activation itself in teaching is not enough.
Understanding understanding: we learn by associating new and unknown information with old and known information or we build new information on top of old.
Brabrand, C., and Andersen, J. (2006) Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding. Aarhus University Press, University of Aarhus, Denmark, 2006.

Part 1 (8 mins): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ngc9ihb35g

Part 2 (6 mins): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcybQlLAV2k&feature=related

My teaching practice

The majority of my teaching practice is at BA and MA level in contemporary jewellery design; metalsmithing; goldsmithing and silversmithing. I also have experience of teaching in FE; adult education; public sector teaching within museums & galleries and national and international master classes and workshops. Currently, I’m a Senior Lecturer at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design and 3rd year tutor on the BA Jewellery Design course and external supervisor for a student PhD practise at UCA.

I am particularly interested in learning how to learn and hope that by reflecting upon my own teaching practice I can enhance the student experience of teaching and learning.