Case Study - Improving student experience and engagement with group assessments and peer review
Dr. Jamie Kenyon & Dr. Peter Dickenson, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences
21PSC773 Strategic Management of Sport Organisations and Events is a new 20 credit module which ran for the first time in the academic year 2021-2022 for Part C students on the BSc Sport Management programme. In preparing for this new module, group assessment and peer-review practice was implemented that – as well as assessing student understanding and comprehension of the subject matter, etc. – was primarily aimed at enhancing the final-year experience of students by aiming to address areas of the National Student Survey (NSS) Results which had been highlighted as areas of improvement for the BSc Sport Management programme (compared to the other aspects of the course); these being Assessment and Feedback (2020 NSS - 84.8%), Learning Community (85.3%), and Student Voice (83.3%). The following case study outlines that practice, highlighting the issues, benefits, and challenges associated with implementing it, as well as evidencing of success of its application.
In July 2020, the results of the National Student Survey (NSS) were published, indicating that overall student satisfaction with the BSc Sport Management programme was high (92.0%) and above both the wider-University (88.7%) and Sector (90.0%) averages. Yet despite these successes, there were areas of the NSS Results in which students believed that improvements could be made in relation to their university experience, evidenced by the scores the programme received for Assessment and Feedback (84.8%), Learning Community (85.3%), and Student Voice (83.3%), as well as some of the qualitative feedback offered by students who completed the survey. Specifically, for students on BSc Sport Management programme, one of the recurring issues highlighted in these results (see, for example, Appendix A), and by way of module evaluations and the School’s Student-Staff Liaison Committee, relates to group-based assessments and peer review. For example, a common point of student feedback relating to group-based assessments indicated concerns with the fact overall degree marks (a particular concern for final year students) might be impacted by group members whose contributions (or lack thereof) might not see them achieve the grades they might typically expect compared to working alone. Further feedback related to scheduling difficulties for group meetings, and students wanting the opportunity to contribute to and better understand how group-based assessments are conducted and marked.
Shortly after the 2020 NNS results were published, work began on preparing new Part C modules for the academic year 2021-20221, including the focus of this case study, PSC773 Strategic Management of Sport Organisations and Events of which the authors2 were responsible for its development and delivery. In planning for this module, and in setting up the assessment, the authors sought to develop and implement teaching practice that was cognisant of student feedback for the programme and improve on the student experience by seeking to address the aforementioned challenges identified by students in relation to group-based assessments. The hope here was that by implementing such practice at Part C, this would go some way toward improving student satisfaction on future iterations of the NSS relating to Assessment and Feedback (2020 NSS - 84.8%), Learning Community (85.3%), and Student Voice (83.3%) for the BSc Sport Management programme.
1 To allow modules to be finalised and approved by the SSEHS Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) and Associate Dean for Teaching (ADT) in 2020-2021 ready for 2021-2022 (for a newly developed BSc Sport Management programme which began in Part A in 2019-2020).
2 Jamie Kenyon (Module Leader for PSC773 Strategic Management of Sport Organisations and Events & Programme Leader for BSc Sport Management) & Peter Dickenson (Module Tutor for PSC773 Strategic Management of Sport Organisations and Events).
Week 1 (Semester 1) - Lecture 1 - Module Introduction
Students were advised of what the assessment for the 21PSC773 Strategic Management of Sport Organisations and Events module would entail (CW1 was a group PechaKucha presentation in Semester 1, and CW2 was an individual Consultancy Report in Semester 2). For the CW1 PechaKucha presentation, students were required to vote, via VEVOX, on whether they would have liked to have picked their own assessment groups, or whether this should have been completed by the module leader. Students were requested to complete this task prior to the start of Seminar 1 in Week 2.
Results of poll indicated that the cohort were in favour of the assessment groups being comprised by the module leader (68.8% Response Rate) by a margin of 54.7% (in favour of module leader comprising groups) to 45.3% (in favour students comprising their own groups) (see Appendix B).
Week 2 (Semester 1) - Seminar 1 - Managing Group Work & Assessment Preparation
The seminar began with students being made aware of their assessment groups. They were then required to get into those groups and make introductions. The seminar continued with a more in-depth look at the presentation format (PechuKucha), the specific assessment task (see Appendix C), the general marking criteria (see Appendix D), and the peer-review element of the assessment (with a specific outline of how final individual marks would be awarded, i.e., the formula used).
The seminar then moved on to getting the students to reflect on their previous experiences of group work, framed around the following questions: 1.) What were the most beneficial aspects of working in a group? 2.) What were the most challenging aspects? 3.) How did you address such challenges? 4.) What are the characteristics of effective work groups? Once the discussion was complete, the groups’ discussions were shared among the seminar cohort and recorded on Padlet (see Appendix E).
The Module Leader then presented some (theory-informed) knowledge and understanding from the management literature on group work/teamwork structured around the four questions that formed student discussion. As part of the "Strategies for dealing with group work challenges", the students were advised that a one-hour group-work meeting had been added to their student timetables (by the Module Leader) to mitigate issues associated with students "not having the time to meet up", scheduling conflicts, etc.
The seminar discussion then moved on to the peer review component of the group-based assessment, CW1, and the students were required to discuss, again in their assessment groups, what criteria they believed they should assess one another on from a peer-review perspective. Another group discussion was followed by another presentation by the groups to the seminar cohort, which was again recorded on Padlet (see Appendix G) – all Padlets from all of the seminars were later uploaded to the module’s LEARN page for reference.
Following the seminar, the Module Leader then collated the student responses concerning peer review (recorded on Padlet) for the three seminars into another VEVOX survey for individual students to vote on what they considered to be the most important criteria, with an indication of which groups had contributed the proposed criteria (see Appendix F).
Once the vote was closed, students were advised of the criteria that they had collectively selected as part of the peer review assessment component of CW1 by way of the survey results, and marking criteria were then devised based (by the Module Leader) on the five most popular (see Appendix F). This process allowed students to contribute toward how they would be assessed (allowing them to express their Student Voice), but still allowed a fair amount of Module Leader control in terms of how these individual marking criteria would be devised (see Appendix G).
Post-Assessment Delivery and Marking
Following delivery of the CW1 assessment, students were required to complete the peer-review survey (over a two-week window) which asked them to assess the contributions of themselves and their group members to the assessment, based on the criteria that the cohort had collectively decided upon earlier in the semester. The peer review was carried out using WebPA. The Peer Review Index Score produced by the WebPA and the group’s overall mark for the assessment were then used to determine individual grades by way of the following formula (which students were advised of in the preparation seminar and which was also published on the module’s LEARN page):
(Overall Group Mark x 0.5) + ((Overall Group Mark x 0.5) x WebPA Peer Review Index Score) = Individual Grade
Though such complaints were down compared to previous years (on different modules)3, there were still two groups (out of 20 Assessment Groups) that were faced with challenges in terms of non-compliance / lacking contributions from individual groups members which resulted in these groups contacting the Module Leader for assistance. These students were prompted of how to handle the situation (outlined in the preparatory seminar) and reminded that the peer-review component of the marking, if undertaken correctly by all group members, would likely account for such issues by adjusting individual marks based on individual contributions (it did in both cases). Since it was the first time running the module, there were no previous examples to draw on to demonstrate to the students how the peer-review might impact on individual grades, but now that the module is complete there are anonymised examples that can be implemented into the preparatory seminar for next year. Plans have also been put in place to further develop the preparatory seminar for next year to include some more formalised processes for handling inter-group conflict (see Appendix H).
3 Accepting that this year would only represent a single case-study.
- By having the peer review component account for 50% of the CW1 Group-Based Assessment grade, students were able to see how the grade they received was as much down to their individual endeavours as much as it was up to the group. A peer review adjustment set this high can also a have significant impact on those that do not contribute toward the group work and equally benefit those that contribute above and beyond the average.
- By allowing students the opportunity to decide on how assessment groups would be comprised (student led or Module Leader led), this this gave students the opportunity to express their Student Voice (where such an opportunity did not exist previously).
- By devising a seminar that allowed the student assessment groups to collectively reflect upon and discuss the successes and challenges associated with previous experiences of group-based assessments was aimed at a.) encouraging students to take responsibility for their group success by agreeing on some shared behavioural principles, and b.) increase the interactivity among the groups prior to them beginning the assessment in earnest.
- By having students involved in the development of the own marking criteria, this also gave students the opportunity to express their student voice as well as increasing information and support relating to the assessment criteria, and ownership and accountability of the related work.
- Equally, by advising students of the formula used to work out individual grades, this also provided students with further information relating to the assessment as well as increasing transparency with respect to the marking process.
- The way in which decisions were made relating to assessment groups and peer review marking criteria (by way of a democratic process), it was hoped, would foster a greater sense of Learning Community.
- By timetabling weekly group meetings, challenges with respect to scheduling were mitigated, and individual students were no longer able to draw on the excuse that they were struggling to find time in the week when all group members were all available to meet.
5. Evidence of Success
Since no formal module evaluations were planned for SSEHS modules in 2021/2022, the authors conducted an informal mid-module evaluation at the end of Seminar 1, which revealed the following.
Overall, of the 55 responses (71% response rate), the following questions received 4 or above (out of 5):
- The module has helped me to develop my understanding of strategy/strategic management within sport contexts
- The assessment requirements for the module were made clear in advance
- I liked that I could contribute to the peer review criteria for Assessment 1 (PechaKucha presentation)
The theming of qualitative feedback comments also indicated that the cohort found the following aspects of module to have been particularly positive: the team/groupwork assessment set-up and format, the weekly one hour timeslot for groupwork/ability to prepare, and clear assessment guidelines.
6. How Can Other Academics Reproduce This?
The applicability and reproducibility of the practices outlined in this case-study to other disciplines is evident. The addition of a single preparatory seminar (should one not exist), and the implementation of the practices outlined in this case-study would be a relatively easy addition to existing modules.
Despite the “Evidence of Success” outlined above, not until the results of the NNS 2022 are released will there be any indication of whether the practices implemented for this module have contributed toward improvements relating to Assessment and Feedback (2020 NSS - 84.8%), Learning Community (85.3%), and Student Voice (83.3%) in the experiences of our BSc Sport Management students. Further, though there were many positive qualitative comments in the mid-module evaluation conducted by the authors, there were also some comments which indicated that students felt more work needed to be done in improving the module (though not as many comments as there were positive). Among these, related to the group-based assessment, included the fact that despite many student feeling the assessment guidelines were clear, there were some students who conversely believed that they could have been clearer. Student feedback also indicated that more seminars/studying time was needed in relation to the assessment task, and a greater weighting for the group-based assessment. Though it is worth reminding the reader that this is the first year in which this module has run, plans have already begun in responding to these comments for the next iteration of the module (including increasing the weighting of the Group Assessment and amending the module delivery schedule, which have already been approved for 2022/2023).