A LEARNING ACTIVITY DESIGNED FOR A LARGE GROUP OF STUDENTS IN A MECHANICAL ENGINEERING SUBJECT USING PEER-ASSESSMENT TO ENCOURAGE DEEPER LEARNING
The design of learning activities that are able to develop and to assess both the technical-scientific competences (the specific ones) and the generic ones makes them not only useful to grade the students but also very interesting to promote their learning experience. After some experiences conducted in the recent years using different teaching-learning methodologies and evaluation strategies, the authors have come with a new proposal for this year. This proposal has been used in a course of Mechanism and Machine Theory in a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering within the Technical University of Valencia (UPV).
There were about 80 students enrolled in this course and only one teacher responsible for the subject. So, from the experiences aforementioned, one of the first issues to consider was to come with an activity that would make grading not very time-consuming. Second, the activity should be challenging enough to make it motivating for the students, but not too difficult so that they could do most of the work by themselves, without asking for too many office hours. Finally, it should be planned carefully with various checkpoints along the semester so that the feedback could be provided on time.
Moreover, our university is committed in an institutional pedagogical innovative project to develop and to assess generic competences, such as problem-solving skills or the ability to work in a team, for instance. Therefore, any learning activity should always consider some of these competences.
With all these requirements on mind, a learning activity was designed to fulfil as many of them as possible. This activity involves the analysis of a real mechanism, consists of a set of deliverables during the semester, and is done in teams of four students. The main objectives of every deliverable are related to the contents of the lectures that are being taught at that time, but the students have to put some additional skills into play in order to successfully prepare a good report. This provides some opportunities to work on and to assess their generic competences.
As a way of assessing the activity, a set of peer-assessment questionnaires were devised. The students answered these questionnaires after reviewing one report from another team. In the first deliverables, the grades and comments of the students were compared with the ones given by the teacher. Then, the students were provided with the feedback necessary to improve their final report, which would comprised all the deliverables. For the next deliverable, an analysis of the discrepancies between the grades given by the students and the ones given by the teacher was done. This analysis was very interesting because of some reasons. First, it showed if the students were understanding the questions, or if any of them should be re-written; second, it allowed to better distribute the reports among the students, as a function of their performance in the learning. And finally, it helped to grade the development of some generic competences.
In this work, a full description of the activity is presented, together with the assessment tools and the results for this course.