This paper presents the findings from a research study on the implementation of an alternative evaluation strategy into a third-year class, which changed the learning environment by allowing students to choose how they would be evaluated. The specific objective of the study was to determine if the implementation of this evaluation strategy would improve student engagement, the quality of the learning experience and address challenges associated with increased diversity in student capabilities.
During the Winter 2012 and Winter 2013 semesters, PSY3523: Psychologie de la famille (Psychology of the Family) was taught at the University of Ottawa as a course offered to a maximum of 100 students per semester. The course incorporates various teaching methods, including traditional lectures, the use of documentaries and group discussions, as well as student-led mini-classes. The course implemented an evaluation strategy that combined traditional examinations (midterm and final exams) with the option of completing a term project. If students elected to complete a term project, they could choose from two different options (i.e., to prepare a mini-class or to participate in the Community Service Learning program at the University of Ottawa). Additionally, teaching assistant (TA)-led tutorials were scheduled throughout the semester to help students succeed in both the traditional examinations and the term project. Finally, material presented in the tutorials, as well as weekly quizzes, were made available online for students to consult as needed throughout the semester to support their engagement and success in the course.