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Professor Michelle Mclean.

Academics in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (LMMS) recently attended a stimulating workshop which examined the importance of student assessment.

Led by Professor Michelle Mclean the workshop was titled: “What’s All the Fuss about Assessment?”

A UKZN alumnus, McLean is an Honorary Professor at the University and the Academic Leader for problem-based learning in the School of Laboratory Science at Bond University in Australia, where a renewed curriculum was implemented in May this year. Her current research interests are transferable skills in developing life-long learners and the professional identity formation of medical students.

The workshop highlighted that assessment drives student learning, and Mclean reiterated that it was not possible to design a curriculum without looking at assessment.

She said while institutions worried about whether a student had reached the appropriate level or standard to progress, students worried about whether they had met the expected level or standard.

She encouraged academics to remember that students respect what they detect. ‘They do not respect what you expect, they respect what you inspect.’

It was also important to keep in mind the requirements of accreditation bodies in terms of student competence as well as any specific requirements for employers.

Participants debated whether students were indeed assessed at the appropriate level as sometimes institutions also lacked adequate resources for teaching and learning. Mclean said despite the resources available, whatever academics did had to be robust, defensible and to meet stakeholder needs.

Assessing at the appropriate level involved asking: ‘Who are the learners? What are the intended learning outcomes? At what level should we assess?’

Lecturers also needed to ask questions such as: Could appropriate patients and sufficient examiners get recruited for teaching and training purposes? How was a single lecturer to deal with a class of over 200 students successfully?

School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences Academic leader for Teaching and Learning, Professor Irene Mackraj, said the workshop was vibrant and interactive, and the information provided concerning assessment was invaluable to educators within the College. ‘The College will benefit greatly from similar workshops aimed at enhancing the curriculum design process.’