Active participation

Students achieve a pass in this type of exam by participating actively in the teaching. This means physical attendance as well as virtual hours spent working on assignments set by the teacher during the semester. It could mean hand-in assignments, student presentations, contributions to virtual learning activities (e.g. wiki, blog, discussion forum). The choice of activities and assignments will decide which learning objectives it is possible to test with this assessment method.

The course curriculum (studieordning) states explicitly whether any absence from teaching (and if so, how much) can be permitted. Usually, 80% attendance is required, with completion of between 80 and 100% of the assignments.

At the start of the semester, the teacher must explain which assignments have to be completed in order to achieve a pass in the subject with reference to “active participation”.

Depending on the type of teaching and the type of assignments, the teacher has the opportunity to evaluate all types of learning targets and at all classificatory levels. However, this requires the teaching to be structured in such a way that all students make a significant contribution. 

This assessment method is also suited for group examination.

Learning objective that can be addressed using this assessment method
Knowledge of theory, method and practice (X)
Understanding and reflecting on theory, method and practice X
Applying methods and tools X
Assessing problem definitions and selecting solution models (X)
Communicate and discuss academic issues (X)
Dealing with complex situations – in the context of studying or work (X)
Ability to independently initiate collaboration (X)
Taking responsibility for personal learning and development (X)

X indicates that this assessment method is suitable for testing the learning outcome. (X) indicates that this assessment method is of only limited use for this.

Evaluating the method of assessment

Assessment Criteria
Validity Basically, both content and construct validity can be very high with this type of evaluation, as the student has to be “participating actively” throughout the semester and must therefore engage with the entire course content with reference to all learning targets supported by the teaching. However, this requires the teaching to be structured in such a way that all students are able to continually demonstrate their knowledge, abilities and skill-sets.

A borderline case exists where the teaching is purely in the form of lectures without discussion, and the students do not complete assignments at all, but pass simply by being physically present. In such a case, the content and construct validity will be zero, as the students are not tested in any way, shape or form.
Reliability Reliability depends on what contribution the students are supposed to contribute by way of “active participation”. In terms of reliability, it is crucial that the criteria for the individual assignments are unambiguous and known to the students. For some of the assignments, the students could potentially have a hand in formulating them. If the criteria are not clear, there is a major risk that both teacher and student expectations of the level required for passing will be blurred to the extent that a student’s mere physical presence during lessons could be regarded as sufficient to obtain a pass mark. Rubrics can be a way of helping students and teacher to clarify the criteria.
Backwash effect from testing to teaching There is a definite tendency for checking of attendance and the absence of a final exam to lead students to regard physical presence on the required number of occasions as sufficient effort. If the curriculum states explicitly that 80% attendance is necessary, some students will take it for granted that they can stay away 20% of the time.

If the teaching is not structured in such a way as to make student contributions essential (e.g. in the form of assignments to be completed as part of their active participation), there is a considerable risk that many students will turn up unprepared.

Conversely, the teacher has the opportunity to draw very heavily on student contributions in the form of completing assignments, etc., because they have no choice in the matter of whether to complete the assignments. With this type of evaluation more than any other, the teacher can more safely assume that the students are actually completing their assignments. And there is scope for using the evaluation requirement educationally in the students’ learning process.
Resources This is basically resource-neutral, as active participation is integrated into the teaching time. Depending on the number of assignments set, and how much correction work this demands over and above ordinary teaching preparation (e.g. for large classes), this type of evaluation could nevertheless involve considerable extra work for the teacher. Alternatively, peer assessment can be considered.
Digitisation There is plenty of opportunity to introduce e-learning assignments as part of “active participation”.
Acceptance Teachers’ views are divided with regard to this type of evaluation. Many regard this type of evaluation as too school-oriented and non-academic. Others find it presents an opportunity to experiment with different types of learning activities, and that there is an advantage to being able to use the evaluation requirement educationally to support student learning.


Additional reading

Dohn, N.B. (2010): “Wikis og blogs i undervisningen – teoretiske perspektiver og praktiske erfaringer” [wikis and blogs in teaching – theoretical perspectives and practical experience], Læring og medier [learning and media] Vol. 4, p. 1–31