UNIQUELY INDIVIDUALIZED ASSIGNMENTS - AN OBJECTIVE AND ACCURATE ASSESSMENT OF STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE
Yezreel Valley College (YVC) (ISRAEL)
This paper describes one segment in a chain of studies that aim to measure the effects of uniquely individualized assignments on the students' learning habits. The current students' generation (Millennials or Generation Y) is sometimes defined as the generation whose members are "friends with everybody and shares everything". This phenomenon that has been analyzed and researched by many scholars affects Millennials’ behavior; however when it is applied to the students’ learning habits it has a negative impact. This negative impact was demonstrated by a large, at that time unexplained difference between the students’ assignments’ grades and their final exam’s grades. Although some variation is perfectly normal, a large difference may represent a deeper hidden problem. A possible explanation for the phenomenon was that the students may share parts or even their whole assignment. In such cases it is clear who submitted the assignment, but it is not clear who prepared it. Modern learning tactics use assignments for both measuring the students’ understanding as well as building additional layers of knowledge gained by the time and effort spent on solving the assignment. The large grade difference, however, implies that the assignments' grades cannot be considered an objective, valid and real representation of the students' knowledge. In trying to address this issue a long action research was conducted and as a result a method of uniquely individualized assignments was developed. The approach chosen as part of this method resembles a seminar in which each student (or team of students) works on a different case study. As part of the uniquely individualized assignments each student receives a different assignment, so sharing the results becomes impossible. Furthermore, each assignment is divided into two stages. The first stage consists of preparing and submitting the assignment itself and as part of the second stage the student has to assess an assignment submitted by a peer. This dual stage, un-sharable learning has reduced the large gap between the assignments' grades and the exam grades. As part of the study, one of the assignments was a "standard" assignment in which all students received the same one. In this case the average grade was very high and the above mentioned gap reappeared. As a result and for re-evaluating the method once again, the year later the uniquely individualized method was re-applied once more. The above mentioned gap reduced as well. Most of the modern research into effective learning is aimed at collaborative experiences in which the responsibility is transferred from the teacher to the student. Using uniquely individualized assignments enhances the students' accountability and does not undermine the collaboration importance. The paper describes the study the results obtained, and concludes with a short discussion. The assumption that students who have a high degree of responsibility towards their learning will be better collaborators and will contribute to the team they are part of will be addressed in a follow-on study.