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Feature: Sean Maw, University of Saskatchewan

This month we are honoured to feature Sean Maw, PhD, PEn. Sean is the Innovative Teaching chair, an associate professor in the School of Professional Development, and an engineering instructor at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

Additionally, Sean is a sports scientist and a Crowdmark enthusiast. Passionate about using engineering and science to improve winter sports, Sean is known for his speedskating research and his innovative crash pad system for skating.

Crowdmark inquired about Sean’s many achievements as well as his innovative teaching and learning methods. He was happy to share some insights and research.

Emerging Technologies and Competency-Based Assessment in Education

In 2020, Sean was recognized by the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA) for his noteworthy service to engineering education. “He is deeply thoughtful about engineering education and (has) demonstrated his interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning,” stated Andy Fisher, associate professor of engineering at Memorial University and Maw’s nominator. “He has made, and continues to make, extraordinary contributions to the CEEA and to engineering education more broadly.”

In service to engineering education, Sean looks for new ways to help students learn and apply their understanding. Inspired by students’ excitement about what they are studying, Sean has experimented with virtual reality to connect the classroom to real-world engineering. One such experiment resulted in Sean leading the team that developed Truss VR, software that helps engineering students understand how trusses work.

Another example of Sean’s innovative leadership in education is his work with competency-based assessment. Thanks to Sean and his team, Fall 2021 marks the inaugural term for USask’s re-envisioned first-year engineering program. The re-envisioned program focuses on supporting student success and mental/physical health. The new design reduces the number of disengaged students while better preparing them for upper level courses and beyond.

To build the foundation for success in the program, students are taught basic skills in the summer preceding their first term at USask. The information learned during this time fills in the gaps between students’ high school education and their first year of education in the engineering program. As students progress through the program, they are taught a broad range of competencies to ensure greater employability.

Curriculum design was a strong consideration when developing the competency-based aspect of this program. The course sequence presents material that is interconnected, so knowledge gained in one course is immediately applicable in another. Additionally, instructors frequently assess student progress throughout each course, so students have multiple opportunities to receive feedback and improve.

To enable an even more cohesive experience, assessments are given on a balanced timetable, so students are neither overburdened nor idle in any given week. Balanced time usage is further supported by consistent schedules, which include a common lunch hour that can be used for extra-curricular activities, social gatherings, or personal time.

The entire program is organized as puzzle pieces that fit together as academic careers transition into professional ones.

Using Crowdmark to Support Your Competency-Based Courses

USask’s competency-based engineering program incorporates basic-skills education and frequent feedback. If you are interested in implementing this type of competency-based assessment in your courses, there are some key Crowdmark features that we recommend you (re)familiarize yourself with.

Sharing Frequent, Valuable Feedback

Sharing valuable feedback can take time, but this is no reason to shy away from competency-based assessment. It is possible to give rich feedback to students quickly. As Sean points out, Crowdmark allows instructors to provide “better feedback to students and is faster.”

Additionally, Crowdmark gives instructors the freedom to individualize feedback for unique situations, which is crucial in an innovative learning environment.

If you are a less experienced Crowdmark user, take a moment to refresh your knowledge on the use of comment libraries and keyboard shortcuts to reduce time spent grading. Expand your knowledge with an in-depth read on how Crowdmark allows you to share richer feedback in assessments via:

  • Diagrams
  • Emojis
  • Mathematical expressions
  • Chemical expressions
  • Links to online resources

This is just the beginning of the ways in which Crowdmark supports competency-based assessment and beyond.

Multiple Choice Question Analysis and Diagnosis

The most advanced of the features that will help you get started with competency-based assessment is Crowdmark’s exceptional multiple choice analytics. Crowdmark’s diagnostic capabilities help instructors understand how effective their exams and assignments are at assessing knowledge gaps.

The Crowdmark platform diagnoses three critical facets of assessments:

  • Difficulty - whether questions are the proper difficulty level
  • Discrimination - whether correct responses to questions are accurately identifying high-performers
  • Distractors - whether incorrect answer choices are appropriately isolating students who may have a weaker grasp on important information, versus those who genuinely understand concepts

Insights gained from Crowdmark’s diagnoses help instructors adapt tests and homework to authentically assess student progress. As Sean observed, when asked about Crowdmark, “It results in more consistent grading and gives more analytics on your grading.”

Getting Help throughout Your Innovative Teaching Journey

Sean has been using Crowdmark for two years for both in person and remote learning. As a dedicated user, he said “Crowdmark is clearly superior to hand marking of papers. Once you’ve tried Crowdmark, you won’t want to go back.”

For even more reasons to never “go back,”continue exploring our online resources. Fuel your innovative teaching ideas by reviewing our help docs and YouTube how-tos. For quick answers, get assistance from Captain Crowdmark in the bottom right corner of our website.

If in doubt, our Customer Success team can troubleshoot issues, facilitate training, or process feature requests.

We are here to help, and we look forward to seeing and hearing what innovative pedagogical practices you develop with Crowdmark at your side.