Dynamic reflective assessment and the ‘Insta Generation’

Engaging in the Study Abroad programme (SA) is a truly immersive and potentially transformative experience. It allows students to develop their academic and employability competencies such as intercultural competence (ICC). With workforces becoming increasingly globalised, this has become a key graduate attribute for young professionals. However, unlike other immersive experiences such as the Year in Industry’ where benefits are clear to both students and potential employers, for Study Abroad participants, the onus is on students to ‘make sense’ of this transformative experience in terms of articulating their experience and development to potential employers.  

What did you do? Why did you do it?

Tasked with critically reviewing the module by the Deputy ProDean for Student Education, I took this opportunity to constructively align the learning outcomes to assessments (see: Biggs and Tang, 2011) that would allow students both creativity and an opportunity to critically reflect on their intercultural competence (ICC) development and overall growth at given points in the year.  

After some literature searching, I came across aarticle by Rundstrom Williams (2009) outlining an approach that allowed students to be creative in the way that they reflected on their immersive cultural experience through the use of ‘image, whilst also framing ICC in terms of enhancing employability:  

Students take ‘snap shots’ of a particular event, circumstance or scene that captures how they are working towards a particular learning outcome of the module on their intercultural journey whilst on their study abroad, accompanied by a critical reflective commentaryIn this way, students are able to capture ‘real time’, vivid examples of significant cultural insights at a particular point in time to facilitate deeper, more critical and meaningful reflection. 

Below is an example of a student’s photograph taken as part of the multimodal assessment:

  

This picture taken on the 21st October 2019, on first glance, is a quintessential holiday shot. The calm rippled seas flanked by flourishing palm trees provide an idyllic scene for anyone looking to relax.  Look closer, however, and you will see all the features and paradoxes of Singapore that make it more than a simple tourist destination. The past five months of my year abroad have given me an understanding of the country and culture that, while not complete, allows me to grasp more of what the city-state means to its people.” (Extract from student critical reflective commentary on about photograph [sic].)

What was the impact of your practice and how did you evaluate it?  

After completing just one cycle of the newly aligned dynamic reflective assignments, there is a marked increase in overall quality assignments. Students are able to articulate their experience in terms of ICC and increased employability through critical reflection, drawing on real-life examples from their Study Abroad year through dynamic multimodal assessment. In terms of numbers, 100% of students passed the module, with an increase of 3% to the module average marks and 31% securing a first in multimodal dynamic assignment. 

How could others benefit from this example?  

With reflective writing becoming an increasingly popular mode of assessment, this dynamic, multimodal style of assessing reflective writing is highly transferable across disciplines as it not only appeals to ‘Generation Z’ or ‘Insta Generation students. It allows them to develop their creative digital skills and offers realtime snapshot of their learning journey – a jump-off point for deeper critical reflection. 

Maria HussainM.Hussain1@leeds.ac.uk, Faculty International Tutor and Faculty Academic Lead for Study Abroad at Leeds University Business School. 


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