Using narrative fiction as a means of assessing and learning in a history of social welfare module

Authors: Parker, J.

Start date: 6 July 2015

Journal: Social Policy in the Spotlight: Change, continuity and challenge, Social Policy Association Conference

Pages: 112-113

Publisher: Social Policy Association

This paper reports a pilot assessment project in which Sociology & Social Policy students were asked to write, as a group, a fictional narrative concerning one of a number of characters set within one of a choice of time periods.

Students were able to decide on the character, setting and story from a range of lecturer-provided scenarios and time periods which reflected many of the key areas covered in lecture and seminar classes. The knowledge to be uncovered by the project brief aligned with the summative assignment for the module. Students were expected, in their narratives, to identify and make explicit reference to legislation, social policy information and sociological/anthropological concepts pertinent to the period and chosen character. They were also advised to draw upon reading of literature contemporary to the period and the characters chosen in a way that would inform their narratives and help them develop a credible plot and storyline. A 2-3,000 word fictional narrative was to be produced by each group covering the period in the character’s life denoted by their age and situation.

The project was assessed in a formative way but did not attract marks towards the summative assignment for the module. However, all students taking this core module played an active part in the construction of the narratives and encouraged to consider aspects of meta-learning including how they can work with others and cooperate as a member of a team. Students who undertook this module gained a rich and deep understanding of social welfare, policy and sociological understandings of the human condition that could be transferred to other aspects of the students’ degree, despite some feeling aggrieved that the work attracted no marks. As a result of the pilot’s success, the project has been developed into the core mode of assessment for this module in the future.

Advantages and disadvantages of the narrative assessment are reported, examples provided, and suggestions made for the future use of this mode of assessment.

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