Resources: assessing unessays

The IEF seminar on unessays allowed me to present my conception of unessays to a group of interested and enthusiastic staff, all of whom had some excellent input into the assessment of the unessays.

The introduction and presentation of unessays – and my plea for help – are found in the PowerPoint slides: Unessay presentation – assessment

The key take-home messages I had from this exercise was firstly that I was overcomplicating things, it’s important to recognise commitment and engagement, a strong narrative is important, and that it was perfectly fine to have generic, subjective criteria. After a further discussion, a framework for supporting the further development of the assessment into a portfolio approach was set up.

As a result, I have decided on the following approach – one for this year (within my existing assessment framework) and one for next year, where I can change the framework to suit a more integrated unessay approach.

The key messages I want to integrate into this assessment criteria is a set of objective set criteria and a set of more subjective generic criteria. This will allow for students to have a grounding to their approach.

2017/18 Requirements

  • Unessay, one page artist statement and bibliography of supporting literature
  • Mid point informal review, present your idea to the class & get feedback (mid-Feb)
  • Due in class (and filmed if a one-off presentation); photographed for magazine
  • Submit supporting material (e.g. any written components, links to websites, etc.) electronically
  • Unessay show

2018/19 Requirements

In 2018/19 I will remove several other assessments and replace them with a more integrated assessment (remove pilot study write up; remove reflective journal; remove unessay as of 2017/18).

  • Agreement between tutor and student on the approach and topic by end December
  • Unessay, including: portfolio, showing engagement & planning; unessay with 1 page artist statement
  • Midpoint review, initial feedback: 3 min presentation on your unessay idea & plan (mid-Feb); peer reviewed
  • Submission in class (filmed if one-off); photographed for magazine
  • Submission electronically for written components (e.g. lyrics, articles, etc., links to websites)
  • Unessay show (physical items; photographs/videos, etc.)

Requirements for portfolio:

  • Weekly write up of surgery sessions (at least 5) and midpoint review.
  • Production journal for unessay.
  • Any associated material (e.g. drafts, sketches, design documents, photographs)
  • Bibliography of supporting literature
  • Unessay
  • 1 page artist statement

General Marking Scheme (items in brackets for 2018/19)

Objective criteria:

  • Agreed by tutor
  • Accuracy of information used
  • Production quality commensurate with approach
  • Aimed at non-specialists in the subject

Subjective criteria:

  • Artist statement (and portfolio) shows underlying thought and link with the final year project
  • Depth of commitment and engagement (shown through portfolio)
  • Compelling:
  • Critical and active engagement with the source material
  • Clear and insightful connection with research
  • Effective
  • Chosen medium works persuasively with the design and polish of the unessay
  • Strong narrative present

Overall it was a very successful workshop and I would like to thank the participants for their constructive discussion and assistance in applying this approach in my teaching!

January workshop: ‘Assessing Unessays’

Dr Catherine Flick (Faculty of Technology) will facilitate this workshop through active learning in Vijay Patel 1.11 from 1-2pm on Tuesday 16 January 2018.

An unessay, that is, anything that isn’t an essay, is a creative assessment technique that students can use to focus their thinking, explore alternative explanations, and take advantage of their varied skillsets. Unessays have been used successfully in mostly Arts and Humanities subjects, but this year I am trialling the approach with final year business computing students in an effort to get them to explore their final year research project topics in a different way. This talk will explain the philosophy behind and methodology of unessays, their application in a DMU context, and then focus on a discussion around fair assessment criteria.