ARE WE THERE YET? SUPPORTING STAFF AND STUDENTS TO UNDERSTAND EXPECTATIONS AND STANDARDS OF GRADUATE ATTRIBUTES IN DEGREE PROGRAMS
Graduate attributes are an orienting statement of education outcomes used to inform curriculum design and the provision of learning experiences at a university (Barrie et al., 2009). As a requirement of Australian government funding of universities in 1992, all Australian Universities are required to make a public statement of graduate attributes. While all Australian universities make such claims in policy and curriculum documentation, the effective integration of these into programs has been somewhat intangible (Taylor et al., 2009), resulting in students not fully engaging with the expectations of degree programs.
In order to achieve understanding of graduate attributes and the related standards, O’Donovan et al. (2008) recommend a social constructivist approach be adopted. This involves all aspects of learning development, but particularly those relating to achievement standards, be framed by active engagement. Such participation by both students and their educators involves dialogue: first teacher-teacher and then student-student, and student-teacher. This is best achieved by embedding graduate attributes into the learning and assessment activities across a program (Oliver et al., 2007). For assessment there are two key stages : firstly, an appreciation of the criteria and standards required for succeeding in an assessment task, and secondly, the ability to make a judgement about whether work meets these criteria and standards. This ability to make accurate judgements can be demonstrated through self-assessment, which can be described as, “the involvement of students in identifying standards and/or criteria to apply to their work and making judgements about the extent to which they have met these criteria and standards” (Boud, 1991, p.5). In order to encourage self-assessment an online assessment system, ReView, has been developed to facilitate staff and students engagement with graduate attributes. Staff enter performance criteria and the achievement standard for summative assessment tasks into the system, Students are prompted to use these criteria as guidance in their preparation, to self-assess and also used as feedback after grading to guide future development actions.
Boud, Lawson & Thompson (2012) examined whether students who practice making self-assessments become more effective in such judgement. Student self-ratings of criteria were compared with tutor-marked criteria over time. The findings suggest that practice is correlated with convergence between criterion judgements of students with tutors. However they found that this convergence was not uniform over time. The student-tutor difference is pronounced in the initial task in each new subject. Boud et al. posit that this may be due to students needing to interpret the tacit standards of a new set of criteria applicable to a new subject and their graders.
The authors propose that in order to support students in taking a more holistic appreciation of criteria and standards that students should be encouraged to not only engage with the standards for their current stage of learning but also be familiarised with the expectations for the end of the program of study. In this way students are able to self-assess in relation to the set assessment tasks as well as to the expected standards on completion. This paper explores this concept and demonstrates how ReView can be used to foster this understanding of holistic expectations in students.