Dr Simon Leonard
Faced with the numerous standards, learning outcomes and assessment criteria now typical in Australian higher education, many students survive by adopting a 'checklist' approach to learning. This is inconsistent with the types of powerful professional learning described by Shulman, Darling-Hammond, Shon and others. In response, a cohort of students were asked to complete a single assignment as the major assessment for all four units of study in a single semester. Following models from the authors mentioned, the students were required to identify a significant event from their own time in school during the professional experience component of the course. They were then required to write up the case in relation to the theoretical perspectives of the four units of study, using Shulman's (1987) ideas of pedagogical reasoning to provide an overall structure.
This paper identifies the very significant problems experienced, as well as the great breakthroughs students achieved, by adopting this approach through an analysis of the reflections contained in the assignments themselves, and through a post-assignment survey. We find that many students found this approach to assessment confronting and argue that this was because it challenged their own notions of professionalism as being an accountable actor who regulates her or his behaviour and seeks validation against external criteria (Ball 2003). However we also find that most students were successful in adopting an alternative disposition to professional practice consistent with the idea of a reflective practitioner.
Shulman, L. S. (1987) Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.
Ball, S. J. (2003) The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity, Journal of Education Policy, 18:2, 215-228