Don Vandergriff IV: Assessing Students in Courses that Use the Adaptive Leadership MethodologyA section of the blog post by Don Vandergriff and Fred Leland that I cited yesterday is devoted to explaining how students in classes using the Adaptive Leadership Methodology (ALM) are assessed and graded.
Vandergriff and Leland describe a couple of assessment methods:
- Short-answer tests "These examinations place [the students] in a specific tactical scenario and require them to make decisions. They must then explain the reasons behind their decision in writing. For example, student might be told that he is the commander for a convoy of vehicles that [must] travel to an assigned destination within the next several hours. After being presented with information about the composition of the convoy, a map, the nature of the enemy threat, and the specifics of the mission and Commander’s Intent,1 the student would have to determine which route he will take and then explain why he selected that route. The instructor then grades him on how he approached solving the problem using the information at hand and how well he communicates his reasoning. This gets to the point of examining 'how' the student is thinking, not 'what' he is thinking."
- Graded Tactical Decision-Making Exercises (TDEs) "Just like the short-answer tests, these are scenario-based and require students to make decisions. This technique is virtually identical to a standard in-class TDE with the exception that students are required to write out or brief their solutions to their instructors who, in turn, grade those solutions. In many cases, these examinations require students to produce a concept sketch with short hand-written notes concerning exact guidance for individuals, their teams, the sequence of events, and most importantly the purpose behind various actions."
Regardless of the technique or format of the assessment, the tactical scenario must allow for multiple “correct” ways to solve the problem. For the assessment to be truly effective, students must have the freedom to actually make a decision on their own and formulate a plan rather than being forced to regurgitate a pre-determined “template.” If tests fail to allow room for creativity, students become focused on identifying the “approved solution” rather than thinking for themselves. In order to permit freedom of thought, scenarios must have a significant amount of ambiguity. The situation must be such that one could reasonably interpret the available information in multiple ways. Of course, this does not preclude the existence of “wrong” answers. Violations of the Commander’s Intent, unethical conduct, poor communication, or an unrealistic course of action all constitute an automatic failure. Additionally, if the student is unable to make a decision in the face of the time and information constraints of the test (the worst of all possibilities), he is assigned a failing grade.To ensure that different instructors are applying comparable standards in grading students,
... all instructors must participate in a free exchange of ideas regarding the key concepts that are the focus of the upcoming assessment. ... [T]hese group discussions ... begin with the instructors actually taking the test followed by an open discussion regarding the content of the exam and how to approach grading. At the end of this exchange, the Course Director compiles the applicable notes from the session into a short set of general guidelines.According to Vandergriff and Leland, this approach has produced satisfactory consistency in grading.
1 An August 14, 2009 post on the Combined Arms Center blog quotes the following definition of "commander's intent" from paragraph 5-55 of the Army Field Manual 3-0, Operations (February 2008): "The commander’s intent is a clear, concise statement of what the force must do and the conditions the force must establish with respect to the enemy, terrain, and civil considerations that represent the desired end state. The commander’s intent succinctly describes what constitutes success in an operation. It includes the operation’s purpose and the conditions that define the end state. It links the mission, concept of operations, and tasks to subordinate units. A clear commander’s intent facilitates a shared understanding and focus on the overall conditions that represent mission accomplishment. During execution, the commander’s intent spurs individual initiative."
The following paragraph adds, "The commander’s intent must be easy to remember and clearly understood two echelons down. The shorter the commander’s intent, the better it serves these purposes. Typically, the commander’s intent statement is three to five sentences long."