Project assignments

(By: Hilde ter Horst (Zoëzi) and Riet Martens)

Assignments are a commonly used test format in the faculty’s programmes. For instance, most of the programmes conclude with a final assignment. The learning objectives and assessment criteria for these final assignments are set by the programme director. Other study units also use assignments to determine whether students have achieved the learning objectives. This often involves project assignments, which are questions or assignments from a company, organization or institution to be solved by an individual student or a group of students.

As an examiner, you can opt to use either individual assignments or group assignments. For the purposes of testing, this distinction is not relevant. If you opt for group assignments, you need to focus on ensuring individual students achieve the learning objectives and avoiding free-riding behaviour.

We will address the following issues:

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Benefits of assignments (and project assignments)

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Disadvantages of assignments (and project assignments)

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Composing assignments

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Key issues

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Detecting and preventing plagiarism

Benefits of assignments (and project assignments)

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they allow you to create an effective relationship with future professional practice, something that tends to motivate students;

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suitable for assessing the integration of knowledge, skills and attitudes;

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suited for testing higher cognitive abilities and professional skills;

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students become aware of quality criteria in the professional field (by being required to deliver products that meet professional standards);

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give students insights into the development of their own skill level (provided that it is sufficiently well organized).

Disadvantages of assignments (and project assignments)

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it can be difficult to give a detailed explanation of how skills (or component skills) are tested (and how the various project components are weighted);

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it is difficult to draw a line between pass and fail;

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an overemphasis on the product itself, and on the presentation of the product, can distract attention from the knowledge, understanding and skills gained in a project;

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in group assignments, ineffective cooperation within the group can cause progress to stagnate.

Composing assignments

Assignments can focus on:

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product (research report, design, prototype, etc.);

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process (research process, development process, task process, group process);

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individual skills (academic skills, professional skills, communications skills, personal skills, etc.);

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cooperation skills.

An assignment design chart is a useful tool for formulating effective assignments (or project assignments) as part of practice-based questions or assignments. Here you set out those characteristics of the assignments that are likely to elicit the desired performance (as stated in the subject’s objectives), together with the criteria that underpin the assessment of performance. You can ‘prepare’ an assignment design chart by asking questions. Moerkerke et al. have prepared a list of questions which, while not fully comprehensive, can be useful in completing the assignment design chart.

Key issues

Before the start of the semester, the following aspects should be clearly set out in Blackboard:

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details of the elements that count towards the final assessment (e.g. action plan, product, accountability in the report, presentation, process, report, knowledge test, reflection assignment) and of the criteria used;

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the assessment points involved (e.g.: knowledge test after three weeks, action plan after four weeks);

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(in the case of group assignments) details of each student’s mandatory share of the assignment;

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the importance of satisfying the customer (person or organization who commissioned the project)

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(if applicable) how group grades and individual grades are determined;

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details of the make-up of the final grade (the scores for each of the various assessment elements);

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rules and procedures for resits.

Detecting and preventing plagiarism

In many cases, the products used for the purposes of assessment will include a written report. This document must substantiate the choices made with theoretical and methodological knowledge, and with insights within the domain. It must clearly distinguish between the ideas of the student him-/herself, and those taken from others. At an early stage, when compiling the assignment, you can take steps aimed at the prevention of plagiarism later in the process.

Sources:

- Romme, S. Toetsen van schriftelijke werkstukken (Assessing written assignments). In: Berkel, H. van & Bax, A. (2006) Toetsen in het hoger onderwijs. (Testing in higher education.) Bohn Staflue van Loghum

Moerkerke, G., Roode, F. de and Doorten, M. Toetsen met vaardigheidstoetsen (Assessment using skills tests). In: Berkel, H. van & Bax, A. (2006) Toetsen in het hoger onderwijs. (Testing in higher education.) Bohn Staflue van Loghum

- http://www.score.hva.nl/d_projectopdracht.html

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