Evaluation


At the outset, we explained to students that evaluation in this section of the Aquinas Programme would have three primary objectives: to inform the student of her standing in the course; to help her learn ways of reflecting on and assessing her own learning; to help her learn how to acknowledge the work of colleagues who have helped her learn. Of course, it also had the objective of certifying levels of successful completion of the course to the rest of the university community (otherwise known as generating a mark -- in this case, marks in the three first year courses). We agreed that the marks for each student would be the same across the three courses, since we were committed to an integration of the materials and approaches of the three disciplines..

Our beginning assumption was that important learning takes place through active involvement in the ongoing collaborative inquiry. We attempted to gauge the level of that involvement by a straightforward counting of classes attended, reports and reflections prepared on time, "Occasions" attended, etc. (That this attempt simply to get the students actively involved in doing things was in some measure successful is, we think, reflected in the Aquinas Committee's study of the first year experience, where Aquinas students reported significantly higher estimations of the time spent in working on courses, and extremely significantly higher reports of participation in campus cultural activities.)

On the basis of this measure of sheer participation we established a base grade; essentially a student who attended all classes, completed all reports and other tasks promptly, and participated in the minimum number of outside "Occasions," was guaranteed a base grade no lower than B-. Students' final grades were then adjusted upward on the basis of three more qualitative factors. First, a mark, added to this minimum, based on the quality of the student's work as indicated in written acknowledgements her colleagues made of her contribution to their own learning; then, a further potential addition based on our agreed assessment of her acknowledgements of others students' contributions to her learning; and, finally, a further potential increment based on our assessment of her learning, as evidenced in her acknowledgement of others' contribution to it.

Evaluation took place three times: at the beginning of November, at the end of the first term, and at the end of the course. Each time this process occurred, students received not only a mark, but a numerical breakdown of the way in which the mark was determined, an edited compendium of the acknowledgements of others, and a jointly composed reflection from the three teachers.


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