self-selecting learning, liminal space, threshold concept, assessment, graduate attributes, constructive alignment.
Students need to be encouraged while in the liminal space i.e. the learning journey in the process of mastering a threshold concept (Land et al, 2014) (Meyer & Land, 2003). However, this learning journey can either be a positive/negative experience and the time spent negotiating this space can depend on the learner-educator relationship (Lucas,2008). Students may also experience increased insecurities and doubts during their learning journey (Cousin, 2006). Therefore, rethinking curriculum design and placing the student at the centre of the design process can be used to invite students to enter liminal spaces and to dampen negative experiences thereof (Dempsey & Brennan, 2017). The development of an effective constructive alignment process can underpin the curriculum in a way which:
(a) supports students in achieving learning outcomes and
(b) encourages them in linking assessment with learning thereby showing that assessment can be used to strategically change the way they learn (Gibbs, 1999) (Biggs, 2012).
Indeed, effective curriculum design should focus on ‘fitness for purpose’ learning outcomes (LOs), to provide students with critical key graduate attributes (high levels of cognitive ability, leadership, entrepreneurial, analytical and critical thinking skill etc.). One of the ways of incentivising students to manage their workload, engage with the module and be supported in a holding environment through the liminal space (until mastery of the threshold concepts is reached), is through creative continuous assessment via self-selecting learning tools. This represents a move away from over-assessing students, into more activity based practice where students learn by doing. It also underpins key graduate attribute development and aligns with the four purposes of assessment as outlined by Bloxham (2007); certification, student learning, quality assurance and lifelong learning capacity.
In this paper, the authors present their use of a “constructive alignment” framework in curriculum design which provides a scaffold for student learning. Embedded through on-line resources, it facilitates their transition through liminal spaces in the mastery of related threshold concepts. This framework empowers students to control their learning and use on-line activities up to the point at which they are comfortable with their learning and understanding of the content and have reached a mastery of the threshold concepts associated with each topic. An important aspect of this constructive alignment framework is the technological space reflective of the liminal space through which the students journey.
In order to assess the effectiveness of how this technological space (in this study, on-line self-assessment resources), has been utilised through continuous assessment, 300-450 undergraduate student’s results are analysed annually over a 10 year period. The aims of this analysis were to:
(1) determine the impact this technological space had on student engagement,
(2) elicit whether or not learning through on-line activities was supported by continuous assessment
(3) assess whether or not, the use of a constructive alignment framework resulted in an impact on the final mark awarded
(4) determine the effectiveness of self-selecting technology tools as portals/learning thresholds.
Anecdotal comments from the students will also be used to relate their perceptions of their journey through the liminal space and their views on self-selecting learning tools.