Multilevel papers: guidelines

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At the outset it should be stated that BUGS considers dual level papers to be generally less desirable than single level papers. Nonetheless some departments and programmes have found it necessary to teach papers simultaneously at both the 300 level and the 400 level. It should be noted that no paper may be offered at more than two levels.
Where a proposal for a 300/400 level paper comes forward for approval it is important that there is a clear distinction between what is offered to, and expected of, the two streams of students. In particular, it is important to show that students at each level are learning and being assessed in a way that is equivalent to single-level study. Every effort should be made to ensure that learners, and 400-level students in particular, are not disadvantaged. It is often the case that the point-value of the 400 level paper is greater than the point value of the 300 level paper, but there should be other more important differences.
400-level papers differ from 300-level papers in several respects:

It is expected that a student completing 300-level study will have achieved all the attributes of a graduate. A student completing 400 level study will have developed these attributes to a greater extent and in more depth. Obviously, a student embarking upon the 400-level version of a paper should be at the stage of academic attainment expected of a student who has completed the 300-level version of the paper, although of course the specific knowledge contained in the paper has not yet been acquired. In essence, then, it is important to indicate clearly the differences between the two versions in the following areas.

  1. Learning Aims and Objectives

The statements for the two streams should be quite different, and may need to reflect a higher points value for the 400-level stream. It could be expected that 400-level students will, during the course,

  • take increased responsibility for their own study

  • include a greater amount of individual research and original thinking in their presentations

  • demonstrate a wider range of research techniques

  • display a more knowledgeable and mature critical understanding of the subject studied

The differentiated statements made about the Learning Aims and Objectives will determine the practical differences outlined in the other areas.

  1. Workload Expectations

Given the different aims and objectives for the two streams, the workload expectations will be different. The total number of student workload hours will be the same only if the point value of the papers is the same; where the point value of the papers is different, the increased workload would be expected to be spent in more hours of self-directed learning. While it is to be expected that there will be a common core of lectures, differences can be expected in two other respects:

  • in the contact hours that support the lectures: 400-level students would probably have quite different and more demanding follow-up topics, with different forms of communication and interaction with the tutor/lecturer and with each other;

  • in the non-contact hours: 400-level students will have more hours of self-directed learning, with an increased research component.

  1. Assessment Procedures

Given the different aims and objectives for the two streams, the assessment requirements will be different. While it is to be expected that both streams will have a mix of formative and summative assessment, it can be expected that 400-level students will have

  • more assessment based upon research activity

  • more demanding questions in a written examination

  • more opportunity to show a range of communication skills

In addition, according to Guideline 10.7 of the Senate Policy on Assessment of Student Performance, external assessing should be required at final year Honours and Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and Masters level papers. It should be noted that external assessors should be expected to comment on any issues arising in multilevel papers.

John Drummond

Kerry Shephard

Ruth Taylor
7 May 2009

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