MatRIC's Computer Aided Assessment (CAA) network will be holding its next workshop-meeting at the University of Agder in Kristiansand on April 11 & 12, 2018. More details about this event are set out below, or go directly to the registration and programme page at http://www.matric.no/events/27.

MatRIC is now linked to two other European groups that focus on CAA in mathematics: The Abacus network that started as a collaboration of university mathematics teachers in Finland to develop a material bank for STEM education (see https://abacus.aalto.fi/); and the international conference on E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences, which is a three-day academic conference organised by Newcastle University in the UK (see https://eams.ncl.ac.uk/). Through MatRIC's CAA network, Norwegian HE mathematics teachers can be linked with Europe's most influential scholars and developers in this field. However, many mathematics teachers question the need to be so connected, or even that computer aided assessment has a place in university level mathematics education.

Strong educational reasons for using CAA in mathematics

There are strong educational reasons for developing and using high quality CAA platforms and resources for supporting students learning mathematics in HE programmes. First among these is the important part high quality feedback on performance plays in learning. This has been known for a long time from many studies that explore the effect of formative assessment (e.g. Black and Wiliam, 1998). However, university mathematics teachers are often required to lecture to groups of several hundred students, thus eliminating almost any opportunity for providing feedback to individual students, except at the broadest and most superficial level of a grade to indicate performance in examinations. Furthermore, engagement with smaller groups of students is often devolved to less experienced teaching assistants, and tutorial groups take the form of working through exercises rather than discussing the conceptual bases for success and failure.

Even if it were not for the very large groups, and the difficulty of proving individual feedback it would be possible to make a strong research based argument for supporting learning with CAA. The learner can engage with a computer without the fear that the computer will be making a judgment about the user's competence or ability (Bork & Gunnarsdottir, 2001). There is no sense of competition with others, who the learner may feel somehow measured against, as being more or less intelligent. Also, set within a well-designed CAA programme, multiple similar tasks can be provided with computer generated values thus proving rich opportunities for developing mastery and procedural fluency. And because it is only transactions between the user and the computer the process is not so dissimilar to that which motivates learners of quite complex computer-video games. However, that should be the point at which the similarity with computer games ends!

Developing high quality CAA in mathematics

Mathematics must be meaningful! Mastery and procedural fluency are important, the absence of these basic competencies creates a serious impediment in problem solving and mathematical modelling. However, even more important, the mathematics needs to be understood by the learner. It is necessary to develop relational or conceptual knowledge of the subject matter. CAA programmes and mathematical tasks set within such programmes that only provide correct/incorrect responses, or multiple-choice tasks that facilitate working backwards to choose a correct answer will not support the development of conceptual knowledge.

Fortunately, there now exists CAA software, such as STACK (https://stack2.maths.ed.ac.uk/demo/ ) and NUMBAS (https://numbas.mathcentre.ac.uk/ ), that opens the possibility of setting mathematical tasks to develop conceptual knowledge. The software can be programmed to examine the stages in the solution of a task, and provide meaningful feedback to the user as errors are caught through the solution process. Setting such tasks makes great demands on the one who sets the tasks (the lecturer), but as explained above the CAA software makes possible the automatic replication of similar tasks with computer generated values, so the effort is rewarded. Furthermore, collaboration between lecturers can share the load of creating tasks.

MatRIC's CAA network

MatRIC's Computer Aided Assessment network provides opportunities for:

  • Learning to use CAA software such as STACK and NUMBAS, and to meet with the developers of these programmes.
  • Participation in workshops to design good tasks for formative assessment in mathematics.
  • Networking with other higher education mathematics teachers to share experience and be informed of latest developments.
  • Gaining access to and contributing to task and question banks.

The next meeting of MatRIC's Computer Aided Assessment Network will be 11-12 April, 2018 at the University of Agder in Kristiansand. http://www.matric.no/events/27

MatRIC's CAA Network is joined by representatives of the ABACUS network from Finland. The principal focus will be on the use of the CAA program 'STACK'. The developer of STACK, Professor Chris Sangwin from Edinburgh University will be contributing.

MatRIC will cover overnight accommodation at Scandic Bystranda Hotel in Kristiansand for up to 30 participants. Participants from outside Norway should first apply by e-mail to morten.brekke@uia.no and receive an invitation. Those requiring accommodation must contact the hotel directly e-mail: Kristiansandbystranda@scandichotels.com or telephone: +47 21 615000 Quote booking code 780UNI100418_003 to ensure the agreed rate. The hotel will hold rooms until March 10, 2018.

In addition to the network meeting above, there will be two workshops at the University of Agder introducing the CAA software:

Monday 9 April – STACK with Chris Sangwin (Edinburgh University),

Tuesday 10 April – NUMBAS with Chris Graham (Newcastle University).

These workshops are open to participants from outside the University of Agder, however MatRIC is not able to offer participants accommodation. Anyone who would like to attend one or both of these workshops should contact morten.brekke@uia.no .

References

Black, P and Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and Classroom Learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5:1,7 — 74

Bork, A., & Gunnarsdottir, S. (2001). Tutorial distance learning: Rebuilding our educational system. Springer.