FEATURE ARTICLE Linking the Doing to the Thinking using criterion-based assessment in role-

This paper uses a case study to show how we developed a criterionbased assessment instrument in the context of a postgraduate level module in a South African University.The module's pedagogy is based on three inter-linked active learning strategies.The 'Af

Planet No.13 December


This paper uses a case study to show how we developed a criterion-based assessment instrument in the context of a postgraduate level module in a South African University.The module's pedagogy is based on three inter-linked active learning strategies.The 'African Catchment Game' is a role-playing simulation game and is the focus of this

article.The other activities were a portfolio and a computer simulation.The assessment was designed to promote conceptual understanding after each activity and so can be positioned within Kolb's experiential learning cycle.Evaluations from the learners in 2003 showed that the module had been successful in developing their ability to relate experiences from simulations to the theoretical literature.


This paper examines the development and implementation of a criterion-based assessment tool for a shared postgraduate level module.The Rural Development and Land Degradation module 1combines web-based and face-to-face methods in presenting three inter-linked active learning tasks:a role-playing simulation (the focus of this paper,shown in Figure 1);the preparation of a portfolio;and a computer-based simulation.Preliminary

scaffolding for the learners consisted of theoretical educational and geographical readings before these activities took place,and creation of a concept map (see Box 1).Additional readings were introduced later in the module when appropriate.Figure 1 shows how the assessment instruments were positioned to link the learning activities.

Figure 1: Structure of activities on the Rural Development and Land Degradation Module

The criteria we developed ensured that understanding was consolidated after each activity,since the learners were required to describe and reflect on what they had experienced,connect their experiences to the theoretical literature and update the concept maps they had devised (Novak 1998).This type of assessment,therefore,was an integral part of the sequence of learning activities and of the process of understanding.Rapid feedback (within 48 hours) from the instructors to the learners was a consequence of using a web-based platform to hand-in


Linking the Doing to the Thinking: using criterion-based

assessment in role-playing simulations

Roddy Fox and Kate Rowntree

Rhodes University,South Africa

Box 1. Concept maps

The use of concept maps as a teaching strategy was first

developed by J.D.Novak of Cornell University in the early 1980's,and was derived from the learning theory of David Ausubel:“the most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.” Thus meaningful learning results when a person consciously and explicitly ties new knowledge to relevant concepts they already possess.Mind Mapping is a popular related technique,invented (and copyrighted) by T ony Buzan in the UK.

A concept map is a tool for organizing and representing knowledge,somewhat similar to an organization chart or a flow diagram.Concept mapping can be done in order to:G generate ideas (brainstorming,etc.);G design a complex structure (long texts,hypermedia,large web sites,etc.);G communicate complex ideas;G aid learning by integrating new and old knowledge;G assess understanding or diagnose misunderstanding.

The technique is easily taught and has been shown to be a valid and reliable measure of what students understand.

Concepts do not exist in isolation.Each concept depends on its relationships to many others for A concept map demands clarity of meaning and integration of crucial details.The construction process requires one to think in multiple directions and to switch back and forth between different levels of abstraction.In attempting to identify the key and associated concepts of a particular topic or sub-topic,one will usually acquire a deeper understanding of the topic and clarification of any prior misconceptions.

One big advantage of using concept maps is that it provides a visual image of the concepts under study in a tangible form which can be readily revised any time when necessary.During the formulation process it consolidates a concrete and precise understanding of the meanings and inter-relations of concepts.Thus it makes learning an active process,not a passive one.A wide range of computer software for concept mapping is now available for most of the popular computers used in education.A concept map about a plant

(Source:Novak,J.D.,The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct Them .at http://cmap.coginst.uwf.edu/info/ accessed November 2004)

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