The main teaching innovation of my course is a creative and original way to evaluate (assess) students taking a course on Political Leadership. The module has a coherent design and it is sustained by two teaching philosophies: competency-based learning (Gervais, 2016; Draganidis and Mentzas, 2006) and compassionate interactions. Since this is a third-year module, I apply a competency-based approach which main focus is to develop a skill set through the course and prepare students for the work-life. I compliment this with compassionate interactions during seminars to allow students to explore the issues that matter the most for them and also to find their personality traits, interests and skills that can help them to develop their leadership style. The final form of assessment (video of the delivery of a persuasive speech) is the last stage of a series of intertwined activities.
The assessment task
This module is the only one in the Politics Department that uses a video as a form of assessment, allowing students to express their creativity by exploring issues they care deeply about. The assessment asks them to advocate for a particular issue and deliver a persuasive speech to convince others to support their idea of how to solve such an issue. Students choose elements of their personal life and explore them applying all the concepts learned in the class. This teaching innovation shows students that different concepts of politics manifest in our everyday life and affect us all, that they have the power to change the word and uses self-motivation as the main driver to deliver a successful speech on video.
My innovation focuses on students with special learning needs and is particularly appreciated by BAME and female students. Research has shown BAME students experience a sense of insecurity that can be present even before they started university (QS 2019), that women much less likely to ask questions in academic seminars than men (Carter et al, 2018) and that HE students with dyslexia often experience a lack of confidence can affect their performance, especially in social situations, such as reading and writing in front of others (Pino, 2014). The video assessment is the final step in a chain of activities oriented to help these groups of students build their confidence and explore their interests and leadership.
Multiple opportunities for practice
During the term, I encourage students to present their work in the weekly seminars to receive feedback they can later incorporate in the video recording of the speech, they can also go to my office hours to prepare this as intensively as they want and I provide them with a template of the presentation to help them improve the structure. I explicitly apply compassionate interactional strategies (Gilbert, 2016) during our weekly seminars where we explore different elements of leadership. My stepping stone is the premise that we all can become leaders, that leadership can be learned and that we can tailor all leadership skills to our personality and circumstances. As a female BAME lecturer myself, I encourage my students to share their own experiences on how their characteristics play into their leadership styles.
A video assessment follows naturally from this approach as it let them explore the issues they care about and analyse them through the lens of leadership and their own experience. They have multiple opportunities to meet with me and explore this space to write a persuasive speech where they can propose a solution to this problem. The fact that they can record the speech multiple times, rehearse and edit until they are satisfied contributes to building confidence and to express their creativity much more clearly and persuasively than they will do in a more traditional assessment such as an essay.
The innovation in the assessment and the approach received a specific mention during the staff/students committee. Moreover, student evaluations suggested that students are definitely satisfied with the high quality of teaching, with the assessment and feedback and with the learning opportunities of the module. The praise is further registered in the open-ended comments when they say that ”the presentation and speech are two different ways of being assessed and I think this is interesting. Sofia is also good at answering questions and explaining things” and “I was extremely pleased with this module and enjoyed it. Sofia provided some of the most engaging lectures & seminars I have participated in. I would recommend the module going forwards, and I am pleased to have taken part in her classes in my final year”.
Carter, A. J., Croft, A., Lukas, D., & Sandstrom, G. M. (2018). Women’s visibility in academic seminars: Women ask fewer questions than men. PloS one, 13(9), e0202743.
Draganidis, F., & Mentzas, G. (2006). Competency based management: a review of systems and approaches. Information management & computer security.
Gervais, J. (2016). The operational definition of competency‐based education. The Journal of Competency‐Based Education, 1(2), 98-106.
Gilbert, T. (2016). Assess compassion in Higher Education?. University of Hertfordshire (http://tinyurl. com/y8h9f828).
Pino, M., & Mortari, L. (2014). The inclusion of students with dyslexia in higher education: a systematic review using narrative synthesis. Dyslexia (Chichester, England), 20(4), 346–369.
QS’ second UK Domestic Student Survey https://www.qs.com/portfolio-items/uk_domestic_student_survey_2019/