Dissertation Assessment/alx

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Dissertation Assessment
Contributors Joseph Bergin, Christian Kohls, Christian Köppe, Yishay Mor, Michel Portier, Till Schümmer, Steven Warburton
Last modification May 17, 2017
Source Bergin et al. (2016)[1]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Let the student work until you and he/she agree that it is sufficient.

You are designing the grading structure for a major creative task within a course. The assignment is flexible, perhaps partly designed by the student.


Some work is inherently open-ended.

Sometimes a negotiated completion is appropriate. “Good enough” is good enough.

You can be an informal collaborator in some work without taking ownership.

The goals may change over the course of the work.

You find it impossible to specify in advance what the criteria is for “done”. It may be that quality can only be recognized after the fact.


Therefore: Make the student work iteratively until you and the student are satisfied it is done. . Give good feedback and direction at each iteration. Iterations should be short.

The effort on the part of both you and the student can be large. It is partly contra-indicated if there are many students. Note that the work could be done incrementally, moving from part to part, or alternatively, via repeated drafts of the complete work. Iterations should be relatively short (say weekly). The feedback given at the iteration points may require a conference, but at least gives direction on what is good, what needs fixing, and where to go next.

Note that this is much like Agile Software Development where you are the Customer. Your direction is only for the next cycle. You can, at each iteration point, give quite precise directions for the next cycle so that it isn’t quite as open ended as it might be.

You may expect: You can measure progress at the iteration points and, perhaps, re-estimate the 'remaining effort to done'.

However: This is best used with relatively mature students or in intensive tutorials. It is also contraindicated if time is short. Also note that there is potential for conflict, which is lessened if the directions given are clear but the student gets a say in the direction of the work.


Doctoral dissertations are done this way, of course.

The Pattern Writing activity in Joe Bergin’s Patterns Course is done just this way.

Guiding the development of a student paper written for future publication often uses this.

Guided research where the goal is initially unknown is like this. In Mathematics, for example, you may set out to discover something, but end up discovering something quite different but also valuable.


  1. Bergin, J., Kohls, C., Köppe, C., Mor, Y., Portier, M., Schümmer, T., & Warburton, S. (2016). Student's choice of assessment. In Proceedings of the 21st European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2016) (p. 22). New York:ACM.