Self-reflection as an assessment for Public Administration students: have we reflected on why we are doing it?

Date

2021-09

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Peer reviewed

Abstract

The use of self-reflection as part of an assessment component, or a summative assessment, is becoming widely utilised, across many academic disciplines. In professional courses, such practices are long-established. There is a suggestion, however, that self-reflection may mean different things to different academic disciplines. What is often unclear, for example, is why such an assessment is included in the learning strategies of a given module. It could be part of the learning package undertaken by students - to encourage them to reflect upon why they have undertaken particular aspects of study and what has been achieved as a result. This is a type of reflective questioning. Alternatively, for undergraduate students, it could be about developing a particular skill for use in a future work environment - we all undertake some type of appraisal. Finally, for some academic colleagues, it may be about the perception of reducing the marking burden, through self-assessment and self-rating.

There are many things to consider here. Are the aims of these assessments explained clearly to the students? Can the students make the links between conducting self-reflection and applying it to another arena? Do the students take such assessments seriously? For many professional courses, such questions may elucidate much more positive answers. In this respect, the emphasis of this paper is very much upon our experiences in politics and public administration.

There is also the issue of the perception of reducing the academic burden by undertaking such assessments. The reality is that - to do the job properly - it is likely to take longer to facilitate the assessment. The marking may also take longer if there is a need to examine the 'evidence'. This message will permeate throughout the paper.

This paper will examine the issues around 'why' self-reflection may be a valuable part of assessment for both students and staff. It will include the case studies of two second-year modules in the Department of Politics, People and Place, which have forms of self-reflection embedded in their assessment strategies. The self-reflection aspect of these modules assessments comprises different modes and assessment weightings. There are variable experiences in these modules as to the value of these assessments.

This paper will not be uncritical of the strategies undertaken in the modules with self-reflection as part of the assessment. The aim is to give careful consideration as to why such a form of assessment can be a valuable tool in developing a student's academic development and enhancing their potential employability, while also highlighting the drawbacks. Self-reflection is not the "all singing, all dancing" assessment that many may consider it to be. The context of the assessment needs to be explained clearly for the students to gain the maximum possible benefit from undertaking such an exercise. It could be questioned as to whether or not self-reflection is fit for purpose? To address this question, consideration must be given as to the purpose of the assessment.

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Keywords

self-reflection, teaching, assessment, Public Administration

Citation

Jones, A. and Lishman, R. (2021) Self-reflection as an assessment for Public Administration students: have we reflected on why we are doing it? Paper presented as part of a Roundtable discussion on Teaching and Learning at the Public administration Committee (PAC) annual conference, De Montfort University (online), 7-8 September 2021

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Research Institute

Local Governance Research Centre (LGRC)