The “Rule of Ten” is an approach to assessment that I originally published on Newlearner.com back in 2008. Essentially, it is an approach wherein the final mark for a senior school course is based on exactly ten pieces of assessment. No more… no less. I believe the Rule of Ten promotes assessment that is timely, engaging, and necessary.
A Caveat… Summative vs. Formative
Under the Rule of Ten, students will invariably complete more than just ten assessments over the duration of a course. However, those other assessments will not count towards the student’s final grade. Rather, the other non-ten assessments will be designed to be formative in nature, occurring within a unit of study (or learning module) in order to provide feedback to the student and the teacher about the student’s progress. Only the ten “rule” assessments employed under the Rule of Ten will be summative in nature and therefore count towards the student’s final grade. As is always the case, formative assessment will provide feedback on how a student is learning, while summative assessment will provide feedback on how a student has learned.
While this Rule may seem radical to those teachers who have traditionally focused on providing numerous assessments in their courses, other teachers have been employing a similar approach for decades. It goes without saying that teachers new to this approach can certainly expect to experience what might be described as a classroom cultural shift when implementing the Rule of Ten.
The Rationale… in the form of a mnemonic
Under the Rule of Ten, the final mark for a senior school course is based on exactly ten pieces of assessment, thus encouraging assessment that is:
i) Timely: A limit of ten summative assessments will tend to reduce the number of time conflicts that occur when a number of untimely assessments pop up within a given student’s schedule. Naturally, this will also tend to reduce the general level of stress associated when such conflicts occur (especially as more instructors within the same institution adopt a similar policy). Providing students with more time to devote towards fewer assessments will invariably reduce due date clustering and therefore reduce the number of occasions where assessments come due at inopportune times.
ii) Engaging: The value or weighting of a summative assessment should be significant enough to fully engage the student: encouraging him to provide each piece of assessment his best effort. After all, marks are collected and recorded under the assumption that they reflect the student’s best (that is to say, “true”) ability. However, large numbers of lower-value assessments can force a student to make trade-offs between assessments that receive his full commitment and assessments that receive less than his best effort. In such cases, it is the lower-value assessments that tend to receive a compromised effort. Sadly, the aggregate effect of numerous lower-value assessments can nonetheless have an impact on a student’s overall grade, and, in cases where numerous smaller assignments did in fact receive less than the student’s best effort, the final grade in the course may not necessarily reflect the student’s true ability.
iii) Necessary: Assessment should be designed to be appropriate and judicious. A limit of ten assessments forces the course instructor to be efficient when determining what material will be assessed as part of the student’s final grade. A limit on the number of summative assessments ensures that these pieces are genuinely required for the course instructor to make an informed decision regarding the student’s ability. Moreover, it reinforces the message that any summative piece of assessment requires the student’s full attention and best effort.
In the final analysis, the Rule of Ten is intended to address one of the most incontrovertible issues impacting on student assessment: time. Ten pieces of assessment will essentially ensure that the effort students direct towards their assessment is more reflective of their true ability and less reflective of the economic choices that students invariably make when confronting an overwhelming number of assessments.
Give the Rule of Ten some consideration when planning out your next senior school course, and let me know how it goes.
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