Freer examinations inspire students

Published Feb 23, 2018

New knowledge via podcasts and brochures – instead of traditional reports. This was the result when a group of Master’s students got to choose the form in which to present their project work.

For four years, teachers Åsa Svenfelt and Ulrika Gunnarsson Östling have used flexible examination formats for a Master’s level course in environmental justice. The course concludes with project work in which the students take a deep dive into a political measure, product or project and analyse it with regard to socio-environmental justice.

“Simply writing something isn’t a good fit for everyone. We’ve noticed that students’ enthusiasm for the subject increases when they get the chance to choose other forms of presentation,” says Åsa Svenfelt.

In the latest course, eight out of ten groups chose a format other than a regular report. These formats included two podcasts, an animated film, a brochure and a presentation made using infographics. Factual bases or analyses were presented in separate documents.

The project work was assessed on the basis of how well the course content was dealt with in the project – regardless of format – and was based on individual reflections on their learning submitted by the students.

Åsa Svenfelt believes that the greater freedom of a flexible examination format has a positive effect on student drive and enthusiasm. Approaching the questions from various angles provides new knowledge in itself, in her opinion.

“Also, it’s fun and inspiring for us as teachers to not only read reports. I’m extremely impressed by the professionalism of the students and their knowledge of new technology.”

Along with three other students, Claudius Mpofu chose to produce a podcast on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for food. The podcast identifies strengths and weaknesses in how the SDG has been formulated.

“Thanks to the podcast, we were able to explain and present a complex subject in an effective way. A podcast also allows you to engage your audience and convey knowledge using humour,” says Claudius Mpofu.

One challenge was to work with the data so that it would suit the primary target audience – which consisted of consumers, decision makers and food suppliers.

“Working on it in this way was immense fun, even if the recording and editing took a long time,” he says.

Åsa Svenfelt would like to encourage more teachers to try out freer examination formats.

“Take the chance whenever you can. Have the courage to trust in students’ creativity and ability to learn what they need to learn. Another advantage of working in this way is that the material is easy to share on social media, for example. What we need to follow up going forward is whether it takes students too long, but so far we haven’t noticed a negative effect on the teaching.”

Text: Ylva Carlsson

Access podcasts and other project reporting from the Ecosystem support and environmental justice course

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