Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title TRIADS Applications: Computer-Based Assessment of Recent Field Experience
Originator Don M Mackenzie & Julia F W Stowell
Department Division of Earth Sciences, School of Environmental and Applied Sciences, University of Derby, UK
Tel. +44 (0)1332 621720
Fax +44 (0)1332 622747

Formal assessment of students' field skills can be difficult to achieve whilst actually in the field. The reasons for this range from logistical to climatological. In an attempt to address this problem an assessment strategy has been developed which places emphasis on attention to detail and accurate recording of data whilst in the field, followed by subsequent recall and interpretation for a computer-based assessment some weeks later. Field notebooks are collected at the end of the field course and assessed for clarity and presentation but are returned to the students for use in the assessment.

The computer-based assessment uses the Tripartite Interactive Assessment Delivery System (TRIADS) which is soon to be released to HEFCE-funded Departments as part of the Assessment of Learning Outcomes Project. A large range of question types may be used, from simple multiple choice, to questions which require the student to label and draw key structures onto a field photograph. Live examples of part of the test may be viewed on the Web at URL:

The test commences with a brief multiple choice assessment of the students' knowledge of basic principles of field identification of metamorphic rocks and then tests their knowledge of the relationship between observed lithologies and protoliths. The test then moves to a quarry face and checks that students can distinguish bedding and recognise the fold. They are asked to indicate joints and cleavage using the polygonal hot-spot question type. Students must then draw the orientation of the cleavage on the screen as a check that no guesswork has been involved in the previous question. Students would have examined this exposure in the field approximately three weeks prior to the test.

This question moves on to give information about the mineral assemblages of different portions of a single graded bed and asks the students to determine the way-up of the sequence. A correct deduction from this information requires that the student understands the relationship between mineral assemblages in metamorphic rocks and the protoliths from which those rocks have been derived. The student is then asked to relate this to the larger outcrop by using the TRIADS draw-arrow question facility to indicate the younging direction of the strata. Students are then in a position to be able to give the structure a formal name, selected from a multiple choice array.

The essence of this style of computer-based test is that students are encouraged to take good, coherent notes and sketches whilst in the field together with explanations of the interpretative deductions they make. The field exercise must be highly structured in order that students have covered the work to be tested. By conducting the formal test at a later date we are able to spend more time teaching students the skills they need, allowing them to practice their new skills under staff supervision and guidance. One small but useful advantage this assessment method has over tests conducted in the field is that students see the benefit of high quality notes when they are asked to recall their field experience some weeks later.

In conclusion, we see the TRIADS computer-based field assessment as a useful addition to the range of assessment methods available but add that we do not regard it in any way as a substitute for field-based tests or exercises.


Computer-assisted assessment
Fieldwork skills

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Page created 5 June 2000
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