There are two components to Kim's assessment. The main aim prior to the exam is to help students acquire the practical skills of attracting and recruiting staff. Assignment 1 is an essay tied to a case study, for example the staffing of a restaurant. Students must use critical analysis to present an argument. For assignment 2, students develop a job description, person specification and recruitment advertisement from the raw data that Kim gives them. She prepares an assessment schedule at the time of reviewing the course specifications about 12 months in advance of the course delivery. It is at this time that she can alter topic and assessment weightings from year to year. Whilst it appears to be quite a simple document, Kim says it is essential for ensuring that she can appropriately balance the assignment topics and examination questions. This assessment plan is provided to the students so that they too are aware of the way in which each module will be assessed and the weight attributed to it. A copy of the 2007 assessment plan is available below.
Learning goals and objectives
The two assignments are designed to complement each other. Human Resources is a very hands-on environment and assignment 2 is designed to reflect the practical nature of the work. The essay component in assignment 1 is designed so that students can demonstrate higher order thinking.
MGT2000 (Staffing and Remuneration) forms part of the HR major in the Bachelor of Business. There are 300 students on the course, about 60 on campus, about 100 in a partnership university in China, and the rest scattered throughout Australia and overseas. They are usually in their second year when they take this course.
The students in China have their own tutor who is given some scope to take into account cultural differences and to adapt the material so that it is culturally appropriate. All students are sent lots of emails, the discussion board is partly used for student questions and clarifications, and Kim makes it clear that she will be there to answer any queries. In the case of incarcerated students taking the course they may not be able to access necessary material so Kim sends hard copies and makes allowances for the number of additional citations required in their essays, taking into account the limited resources available to the students.
Both the assignments are due on the same day as Kim finds this helps her to organise timely feedback. Firstly, Kim researches and writes the essay herself at the same time as the students to give them the opportunity to see how she would have completed the assignment. In this way she can also see where the difficulties and challenges are. She also sends a model essay to the markers for their reference. A copy of the model essay is returned to each student with his/her marked assignment. She finds that preparing the essay takes 10-12 hours and it pays off in terms of time because it reduces enquiries about their marks and feedback.
Secondly, Kim prepares a marking guide for the markers. This is an outline of the key elements the essay needs to contain. It also includes copies of lecture slides, etc, that Kim has given to students as part of preparing them for the assessment. The idea of this is to give the markers an idea of how Kim has ‘tutored' the students for the assessment. She also includes a copy of the Harvard referencing guidelines downloaded from the USQ library website. The students and markers are given the marking criteria sheet which is used as the scoring sheet for the essay. Markers must complete the criteria sheet for each assignment as well as mark qualitative feedback throughout the essay. The marking criteria sheets for the essay and the job descriptions/job advertisement are available below.
Finally, she has a team of markers consisting of 2 people from Heritage Building Society human resources and a marker at the Fraser Coast campus, as well as an overseas tutor in China who marks those essays. Kim marks one or two essays and sends out these as samples to markers so they can see the standard and level of feedback required. In addition, Kim holds markers' meetings in which each person in preparation for the meeting scores the same assignment. At the meeting they discuss the assignment and determine a consensus mark. This provides the opportunity to discuss challenges and positives each marker found in marking the essay, develops the marker's understanding of the essay, and provides a benchmark for the remainder of their marking. Kim emails the Chinese tutor with the results of this meeting.
In order for feedback to be timely, Kim says that she is really at the mercy of her markers and for this reason she is lucky that she currently has a reliable marking team. This, however, is not an easy thing to maintain because markers tend to be quite transient and it takes a number of semesters for a new marker to be confident with their marking and move from making merely process-related comments to giving content related feedback.
Kim is the lecturer and course examiner. For the students she allocates 40 hours to their assignments. Kim finds that her workload is high and much of what she does is not recognised in workload models; for example, finding case studies that are free to use can be time consuming; the extensive liaison with overseas tutors and preparing materials for teaching schools is repetitive as the tutors generally change each year, so Kim feels that there is no continuity or developmental sequence occurring with them.
After the assignments are marked she reads a sample and checks the markers' comments to ensure that they are at the right level and that they strike an encouraging and constructive note. She also runs statistical analyses of all the marks to ensure that the scale and range are equitable across markers. This process has resulted in the adjustment of some marks, either up or down. On the occasion that a marker is thought to have been too generous, she sends each student a letter to explain why they see a lower mark given by the moderator. See below for an excerpt from such a letter.
Kim feels that this assessment scheme achieves what she designed it to do in giving students some practical experience as well as writing a more traditional essay. From the qualitative comments she has received through student feedback Kim says the students have found it enjoyable, felt that they have had a taste of the job, and had previously underestimated the difficulty of the task, so they have found it a good learning experiences. An excerpt from the 2006 course offering showing questions relevant to the assessment is provided below. Kim notes the frustration with the lower score for the first question pertaining to assignment feedback and explains that the survey is conducted before students assignments are marked and returned, thus she does not rely on SETS/SELTS to indicate student opinion on the quality of feedback for their assignments.
Problems and advice for others
Kim says the challenge in producing this sort of course is to be prepared to get students to understand the remit of the assignment and to make sure they are clear on the difference between copying/adapting a format for the documents and plagiarising the documents when it comes to developing a job advertisement and job descriptions.