Friday, 23 April 2010

JISC Conference 13th April 2010

Last week Mark Russell and I presented at the JISC Annual Conference, which this year was held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London. The opening keynote speaker was Martin Bean, Vice Chancellor of the Open University. One of his Keynote themes was that students are often well able to find information - there certainly is enough of it out there, but are less adept at assessing the veracity of the information they do find. He spoke about teaching students to not only discover, but also to teach them to "triangulate" the information. He then went on to challenge the audience - always a good thing(" I'm an Australian - you can't offend me!" was one of Martin's opening gambits). He spoke of the different perspectives between British and Australian textbooks in dealing with the Galliploi campaign of the first world war. This is still clearly an emotive topic after over 90 years and brings into sharp focus the concept of triangulating knowledge - and the need for students to develop their own understanding and perspective.

All in all a really challenging and informative keynote address

It's Quality Time!

One of the things that has struck me this week is the how often subtle changes to a modules delivery can have quite wide ranging changes to the learning interactions that take place. The example I am thinking of is the Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Marketing Module. The module coordinator - using his experience from previous years, has posted a set of FAQs on his module Studynet site. The questions address points and issues that were raised by students last year and were generated from the experiences of the whole module team.
As a result, module team's interactions with students - both face to face and online, been able to focus more on developing the students understanding of the material covered in the module . Students can be pointed in the direction of where to find specific information. This leaves the team time to develop the "high quality " dialogue and interaction with students that can really support and personalise the students learning. This simple strategy(one of a number adopted by the team) of using a well primed bank of FAQS has acted as a filter so that the more complex and interesting questions that students generate can form the basis of meaningful discussion with the module team.

Here comes the data (2)

A previous post (Here comes the data 1) outlined the use of technology to collect feedback from students engaged in a peer assessment activity. In the previous post I suggested that was a real win-win. Better learning and time savings.

Here are some of the findings. Click the image to read the responses.

Here comes the data (1) ...

We are now starting to see the fruits of our labour on the ESCAPE project. Some of the 'fruits' arise when we talk to staff about their assessment practice and resulting experience whereas other 'fruit' arises from observations of student performance and their engagement with their studies. I thought I would share some of what we are finding ...

A new module (not one of the original ESCAPE modules) wanted help with Peer Assessment. The member of staff was already engaging her students with peer assessment and hence were reaping numerous learning gains.

* Students were able to see how their peers responded to the same task
* Students were able to engage more with the marking criteria and standards

Previously, however, she was kept very busy after the peer assessment by dealing with more than expected students questioning their marks. Whilst it is highly appropriate that the students are exposed to a fair and reliable assessment, many of the efficiency gains made by the staff member were lost due to the need to deal with students on a one-to-one basis.

With the help of the ESCAPE project we were able to re-purpose a web-based data collection facility (developed to support computer based assessment). Using the web based data collection facility we posted to the students a series of questions (asking them to reflect on their own submission and the peer assessment process. This was an addition to the work previously done and hence created addiction learning gains. Importantly, we also included an opportunity for the students to 'comment on their mark' and note that if they were over or under marked to provide evidence where this was the case -with reference to the marking criteria used in the peer assessment process. The result was of which a vast reduction in 'additional' time required by the staff member to look at the concerns.

This addition was a real win-win. Students were now reflecting on the process (and sharing the reflections with staff) and the staff were reaping efficiency gains.

Slightly self-promoting but this typifies exactly the type of things this project is about. Using technology (led by pedagogy) to reap learning and efficiency gains.

I can't see this technology-supported intervention stopping when the project finishes.

Friday, 2 April 2010


We have sought numerous opportunities to collect feedback throughout our project and not just at its end. In fact, we are awash with data and feedback. It will be a real challenge to use the data and feed it into our final evaluation. We have so many threads of activity and so many things we would want to share.

But I do want to post here one of the observations made by one of our ESCAPE partners. In many ways the quote captures everything we're trying to do. Support our partners, help them with their practice and allow them to take the work we are doing with them into other modules. i..e Spreading the learning and benefit.

The quote came from a conversation between our ESCAPE partners and was not solicited in any way. You can imagine my scrabble for a pen and paper!

The ESCAPE project has made me think about the way I give feedback and it has changed my practice in all modules.

She went on to say that
I now organise myself such that I am able to give feedback straight away. I now plan my diary around large coursework to free up 2-3 and re-arrange teaching sessions so that I can get a chance to give feedback.

Arguably, the above quotes demonstrate the transformative nature of the project and shows that the learning and benefit is not constrained to the modules we are working with.

Great stuff!

Learning from the slopes!

I'm not a skier. I have never been skiing, until recently that is.

But as I was learning to ski (or rather learning how to pick myself up from the white stuff) lots of my time was spent thinking about my learning (on the slopes) and the things that supported my ability to learn and get going.

I'm really interested in notions of personalised learning.
Personalised learning requires personal activity and learning activities that are adaptive to the demonstrable needs of the learner. This is true in the classroom and on the slopes. Personalised learning does not throw the learner in too far at the deep end but develops the learners confidence and hence their inquisitiveness and willingness to progress. Personalised learning does not swamp the learner with feedback nor provide fedback that is inaccessible to the learner either.

All of these things were so beautifully reinforced to me as I tried to ski. Putting ourselfs in situations that make us the novice (skiing in my case) was great to see some of the things about learning relate to me.

Being a novice and thinking about learning was just great.