Assessment Design: types of assessment task

Autobiography

What is it?

An autobiography tells the story of an individual in the first person. Autobiographies can be real or fictitious, and set in the past, present or future. Autobiography can encourage students to uncover context and help them to relate what happens in their discipline to themselves more directly.

Recommended levels:

3-5

Suitable for groups?

No

Things to think about

Autobiography encourages students to reflect on themselves, usually in relation to the course material. For instance, students on a vocationally-oriented course such as social work, physiotherapy or engineering might be asked to reflect on events or experiences which have helped them to develop in those professional areas and identify with the profession. They could also be asked to project themselves forward into the kinds of experiences they expect to have as they progress in their professions. Students in less vocational subjects could be asked to reflect on their own life experiences and life plans and how these are linked to the discipline. What have they learned from the subject, or what tools from the discipline have they applied to other elements of their lives? Autobiographies can be presented in simple written format or could include other media such as film, presentations or photograph albums.

In general, this kind of assignment would be fine for levels 3 and 4 if a fairly descriptive outcome is expected; for level 5 it might work better if students are asked to construct a fictitious autobiography (eg of themselves in the future) or to link their experiences to current practice in the discipline.

Assignment length

As a rule of thumb, assignments should take students around 75 hours for a 30 credit unit. If the biography is worth, say, 50% of the credit, students should be spending around 37 hours searching, reading and analysing materials, planning a structure and writing the autobiography. Level 3 students might manage 1500 words of a fairly descriptive piece, whilst level 4 students might be expected to produce around 2000 words with some more extensive links to the subject material, and level 5 students could produce something of similar length but with much more sophisticated connection to the discipline.

Group work

This isn’t really suitable for group work. The point is to relate the story of the individual and that person’s own reflections on that story. At a stretch, the autobiography of a group could be attempted, but is less likely to be successful because of the number of different perspectives. This may be a positive element for other assignments, but would be confusing in this situation.

Plagiarism issues

It is difficult to plagiarise autobiography, but the possibility of copying and pasting text from others is still there for a purely written submission. The use of Turnitin is recommended. It is more difficult to copy other media, although not impossible, and our opportunities for checking are more limited. The chances of copying are reduced if you ask for regular updates on progress.

 

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