Tag Archives: dissertations

255 – Understanding and tackling the barriers to adopting Portfolio-based dissertations at level 7 – Paul Crowther, Peter Lake

The computing department at Sheffield Hallam have been successfully trialling MSc dissertation by portfolio for over a year now (Crowther and Hill, 2011). The trials have been seen by all the participatory students as a success. Nonetheless a number of issues remain, not least of which is the relatively low numbers of students who select portfolio over traditional approaches. Whilst we there are some obvious hurdles which we can do something about, such as supervisors feeling unprepared for the change of approach, some hurdles are harder to recognise or understand.  From the supervisor’s perspective, some of these issues may well be to do with long standing pedagogic beliefs about what a dissertation should be. From the students perspective there may be cultural differences in the acceptance of what a dissertation should be. The courses involved in this proposal recruit >80% of students from overseas. Another reason may be that in attempting to be scrupulously fair to all students the marking scheme used is identical to those traditionally used. There is some concern that this may be helping to confuse both students and potential supervisors in that it does not allow the portfolio to have its own identity as a valid method. We need to identify, understand and then address these hurdles since the evidence so far points to the portfolio approach being a useful addition to the assessment toolkit. The focus for this project will be the identification and understanding of these hurdles.