What better way to end my role as networking lead than to present at solstice 2017. 

Yet, as I listened to the presentations today I became more and more anxious about presenting in front of all the academics that surrounded me. Why would they be interested in what I had to say? And I realised, they should be very interested; after all, I am a student and I have spent the last 3 years experiencing assessments and feedback, the two things that appeared to be the focus today.

During the conference I thought about the assessments I have completed over the course of my degree; these range from the traditional written exam to VLE examinations, presentations, seminars, group research and individual research projects. However, the majority of my assessments have been the traditional essay written in a word document.

Today I thought back and I asked myself, ‘what did I learn and gain from these?’ The answer:

1)    I gained a grade

2)    I am good at memorising information

3)    I am good at paraphrasing

4)    I am dreadful at presentations

But there is one assessment that differs from the above assessments; interactive essays.

Why? Because I decided what to write about, because I decided how to present my work and because I was in charge of my own learning. Since I had control of the assignment, the knowledge I acquired meant more than the memorised content of the other assignments. This meant that I forgot about the one thing all students work towards; the final grade. Instead I enjoyed learning! What an innovation!

Today, someone asked a very good question regarding the student’s acceptance of the interactive essay; this got me thinking about why students are so reluctant to take control of their learning. I realised that as babies we are encouraged to learn on our own; from stacking building blocks, to selecting our own toys, to colouring and completing jigsaw puzzles. Yes we have guidance along the way but our individual interests, our preferences and our individual abilities are all encouraged. But this guidance stops once we attend school; from the age of 5 we are suddenly TOLD WHAT to learn, HOW to learn and then we are ASSESSED on how well we REMEMBERED what we were taught. Forget your interests and forget your abilities, these are no longer significant. Is it any wonder that Higher Education students panic and become anxious at the mere thought of taking control of their learning after years of prescribed education and direct instruction?

As I glanced around the room I wondered how many of these lecturers enjoyed reading and marking essay after essay. How would they feel about embracing something new? Maybe an interactive essay or maybe a video? Would lecturers be as reluctant as students towards embracing something new and innovative?

Thanks to the interactive essay I realised that I have paid for much more than a qualification. Through networking, my eyes have been opened to a world of knowledge that would have remained hidden. The love I had for learning as a child has been re awakened; I love gathering new information, pursuing my interests, making new connections, wondering where these connections will take me and I love having my opinions challenged. The best bit about this? It was all self-taught; how can you assess that?


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