In the subject titled “Environmental Analytical Basics” students have been evaluated for 5 years following a protocol based on the evaluation of: (a) 6 individual problems (b) practical sessions and (c) a final exam to evaluate, on the one hand, the acquired knowledge and, on the other hand, the abilities and competences acquired on problem solving.
The subject, which is 15 weeks long (6 ECTS credits, 60 attendant hours), is divided in 6 parts of approximately the same duration. Field and laboratory practices are proposed at the end of the fifth part. Each of the parts of the subject has novel contents related to the precedent parts. Thus, an incorrect or incomplete acquisition of the knowledge in the first parts results in assimilation problems in the last ones.
The students are asked to solve one individual problem at the end of each of the parts, in which the problem is evaluated in terms of assistance to the master class and tutorship as well as in terms of personal work. The aim of this working procedure is to favour the assimilation process of each of the parts in order to optimize the learning time of the next related parts. The continuous assessment of the 6 parts of the subject represents the 60% of the final marks.
After evaluation of the first 4 parts students are informed about the provisional marks and the previewed final marks. Hence, students are still on time to change their attitude and improve on the following problems.
Before the exams and once the 6 items and practices are evaluated, students are again informed on the current mark, which involves, as mentioned before, the 60% of the final marks. This means that some of the students have already got the minimum marking to pass the subject, but this second check of the provisional marks expects to maintain the motivation to get better final marks in agreement with the acquired competences.
During the five years in which this evaluated methodology has been applied, the subject and difficulty of the 6 individual problems have changed. The first year the difficulty of the proposed problems increased gradually, but after some iteration it has been demonstrated that the final marks are significantly improved when easy and difficult problems are alternated. For instance, in most of the cases after a good mark in the first easy problem, a worse mark and even fails are obtained for a still easy (although more difficult than the previous one) second problem, because students’ attitude is more relaxed. The third problem is easier than the second but the students make a grater effort to solve it and substantially better marks are obtained. The fourth problem is more difficult but the failure level is not as high level as in the second problem. The last two problems are of the same difficulty as the fourth, but they are prepared with a higher motivation after the first check of the current and final predicted marks.
It is remarkable that all students of the five years in which this evaluation methodology has been applied got at least a B in the subject. The participation and implication of the students in their own evaluation process is very motivating as revealed both their final marks and their opinion polls.