Validating a Unit-Based Learning Progress Report as an alternative method of progress assessment for distance learners in higher education
Jian Niu, Hong Kong Polytechnic University , Hong Kong
Hong Kong Polytechnic University . Awarded
Progress assessment aims to assess students' performance and progress during a course of study. Its purpose is primarily developmental—to help students improve learning. Progress assessment is of special value in distance education in that it can motivate or pace distance learners to study throughout a course. It can help the tutor monitor the learning process of the distance learners, diagnose their problems and provide prompt feedback and help. However, there are generally few empirical studies reported in the literature that address the specific issue of how progress assessment can be appropriately administered in a distance education context, especially in the world's largest distance education system of China Radio and Television Universities (China RTVUs), the Open University of China.
This study aims to explore and validate an alternative method of progress assessment for the distance learners at China RTVUs. The proposed assessment tool is termed ‘Unit-Based Learning Progress Report’. It was derived from a preliminary study in this research. The report consists of 3 sections in design: ‘Evaluating Yourself’ (students' self-assessment), ‘Your Problems and Tutor Feedback’, and ‘Talk to Your Tutor’ (a dialogue journal between student and tutor). The purpose of the report is to facilitate students' pre-tutorial self-study, tutors' pre-tutorial lesson planning and in-tutorial teaching and student-tutor communication and interactions. Through the report, it is expected that distance learners will command a reflective learning method and will develop an autonomous learning habit and capability whereas distance tutors will develop a learner-centred instructional approach and a problem-solving tutoring style. The ultimate goal of the report as an instrument of progress assessment is to facilitate successful distance learning and successful distance teaching.
The research question of this study is: Can the proposed Unit-Based Learning Progress Report be suitably used at China RTVUs as an alternative method of progress assessment?
The Unit-Based Learning Progress Report was validated three times at China RTVUs, in a pilot study, main study and supplementary study respectively. The subjects were the students and tutors involved in the open B.A. English programme at China RTVUs. The programme was launched in September 1999. The progress report was validated based on the perceptions of the participating students and tutors in line with four validation criteria: validity, reliability, practicality and washback effect. Empirical data were collected through interviews and questionnaires. The results of the study showed that both the student subjects and the tutor subjects generally reacted positively to the progress report as a new method of progress assessment. They reported that the instrument was valid, reliable and practicable and that it had beneficial washback effect on distance learning and distance teaching. They concluded that the instrument could suitably be used by the distance learners at China RTVUs. In addition, the results of the study also indicate that although the subjects in this study were language students, the progress report could be applied to students in other subject areas at China RTVUs. More broadly, it is of application value to the conventional universities and to the distance teaching universities in other countries as well.
While contributing to the method choices for progress assessment in distance education, this study has found the great value of listening to the voices of students in conducting educational research. In a huge educational system like China RTVUs, listening to the distant voices of adult students appears especially necessary and valuable.
Niu, J. Validating a Unit-Based Learning Progress Report as an alternative method of progress assessment for distance learners in higher education. Ph.D. thesis, Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.
For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or https://dissexpress.umi.com