Friday, 26 February 2010

Supporting Peer Assessment

During the recent half day ESCAPE review meeting we took along our Flipcams and 'invited' modules leaders (we are working with) to record an introduction to their developments. These short videos will provide a really useful resource-bank and will be useful for colleagues both inside and outside UH to see what we have been doing and more importantly consider the adoption of some of our approaches to their own practice. Thanks to all that contributed so positively :-)

Helen Barefoot and I took a Flipcam outside (for a walk) to hear about the recent ESCAPE activity supporting Peer Assessment.


It was good to meet with the ESCAPE module teams on Wednesday - the half day event was a chance to catch up and swap experiences. The fact that we were able to take people away from the university for a day is a real bonus and gives people a chance to take stock and to reflect without distractions.

We were able to capture the reflections using the flipcams - now in their second generation so that they can record for two hours, although nobody took the machine to its limits. Our reflections to camera lasted about five minutes for each participant.

Along with the reflective theme that we were developing we are also looking at the collateral effects that the project is generating. some examples of these are:

  • Plans for the WATS system to be used with the MSc Life Science students next academic year - building on the successes in using it with with a first year Life Science module

  • Working with another three modules from the division of sports science over the coming months - facilitating and supporting a re - engineering approach to their assessments

  • Working with one of the ESCAPE module coordinators on a masters module to support the use of video to assess group work

  • Working with one of the compulsory first year modules in the Business School that has over 1600 students taking it in two cohorts.

  • Being approached by a module coordinator to help to re-engineer the assessment for a large Health & Human module that involves students on placement - assessing them them through the use of group work and a piece of reflective writing.

We are looking at what is the best way to work with people who have approached us and we will probably work with individual teams or areas as and when we are asked to. This approach offers us quite a bit of flexibility in the approaches we use - rather than using a larger " come into the big tent and see the show" approach.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Tomorrow we are running a half day event for some of the modules that we have been working with. Four of our modules have now completed their piloting phase , four are still running and one has just started . Now at the end of semester A is a good time to get people together to reflect on the changes made over the last semester. We have once again become aware of the time pressures that colleagues are under and the fact that it is extremely difficult to find a time when all who need to can attend. Any work that comes out of this project will need to reflect on how this is overcome - we have achieved it by running separate sessions to cater for staff availability.
The event tomorrow will have three themes:
  • Reflecting on the changes made to the module in the light of ESCAPE.

  • Mapping these changes to agreed principles of assessment for learning.

  • Planning for sustainability - ensuring that the changes that are put in place in the piloting phase are built upon.

We are aiming to capture the reflections with the use of the ubiquitous flipcam. We will be exploring:

  1. What went well - share and celebrate your successes

  2. What needed more development

  3. what was the change in the student experience

  4. what was the student response to the changes

Incidentally quite a few of the module coordinators have flipcams and I will blog about what they have been used for soon.

I am looking forward to a really good afternoon - it will be the first chance that many of the lecturers have had to meet with their peers since before Christmas. And hopefully it will provide good opportunities for sharing of experiences and ideas.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Off to Scotland

Helen Barefoot and I were invited by the HEA to talk run a workshop on assessment and feedback at an all day Assessment event at the Robert Gordon University. What follows is a collection of (very quick) thoughts on the day …

Helen and I have run a few workshops together (inside UH) and so it was just great to take our work (much of which is guided by our ESCAPE activity) to colleagues outside UH. For various reasons the workshop did not run :-(. Despite our disappointment we did get to hear some great assessment related presentations.

Dai Hounsell presented a really grounded key-note and, in fact covered, much of what we were covering too. That assessment is not a new challenge, that good assessment is planned activity and that good assessment stimulates learning. We did not need the NSS to get us thinking that assessment is important. Some really useful slides from Dai that I will explore and come back to in a later post. Great start to the day.

A couple of student perspective presentations followed.
A student led campaign that successful introduced a turn-around-time policy for coursework and interestingly a policy to provide feedback on examination scripts. The learning gains to be had from providing feedback on examination scripts seems rather limited to me. I’m always banging-on about feedback creating consequences, and I’m just not convinced I know what consequences flow, or are able to flow, from feedback on end-of-process, high stakes assessment tasks. That’s a post for another day. But just to say, I’m off the fence on this one. I just don’t get it. Another delegate did note they had a similar policy at his institution and only 15% of the scripts (with feedback) were picked up. Surely we would be better placed putting our feedback on work that will be picked up and more importantly attended to, by the students. And relax!

Steve Draper, engaging as ever, had a couple of threads running through his presentation. First, was the interesting anomaly that overall a department was rated 5th against other departments (107 in total) for the NSS question overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course and yet questions relating to feedback were ranked much lower. Feedback on my work has been prompt (ranked 54/107), Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand (ranked 79/107) have received detailed comments on my work (ranked 101/107). Steve asked us to explore what might be going on. Was there a complex weighting algorithm for all the items on the NSS? Should the individual items of the NSS not sum to the overall score? If not, what was missing, what was the missing ingredient? Second, Steve separated declarative and procedural learning and pondered as to where our efforts on providing feedback might prove most effective. i.e. might we get more learning from less or (better targeted) feedback?

Off to Wales

I was invited to present some work on Blended Learning (which included assessment activity) to Glamorgan University. Rather than just present ‘stuff’ I tried to engage those that gave up their lunchtime by asking them to consider their own challenges and also ask what they thought supports learning. Clearly, technology enhanced learning is about learning, not technology, and so I wanted to help surface their own values and pedagogic perspectives. I presented the UH context and gave some examples of Blended Learning in practice.

Following the session I was whisked away to share some of our ESCAPE activity. Glamorgan have a Change Academy project which focuses on assessment . I tried to outline some of the ways in which we (the ESCAPE team)( were working and also highlight some of things worth considering.

I tried to emphasise

* That whilst assessment was the focus of our attention, our project was about change management too.

* the importance of, and benefits to be gained, by considering an Appreciative Inquiry approach to evaluation

* The importance of trying to understand the culture and constraints and of the Schools we were working with

* The importance of working with a principled approach to curriculum design and that we (the project lead) need to bring the principles to the Schools.

* That innovation and change is stimulated by many things and that we need to be alert to the different stimuli and create situations where they can flourish

* That developing educationally effective assessments alone might not stimulate all colleagues. Many staff are experiencing numerous time pressures and so consideration of resource efficiency along with educational effectiveness is important too.

It’s a real shame that I didn’t get more / any time to hear about their work but having established contact I will follow things up to see how they are working and how we might benefit from their insights too.