Breakthrough day!

Image source: -RobW- flickr

I feel like today has been a huge breakthrough day for the project. Apart from the very thought-provoking seminar from Dr Adele Flood from the University of New South Wales (which chimed in really interesting ways with the work we’re doing) I’ve also had two very productive meetings with senior managers in two other schools. They’re both considering their EAM strategies at the moment and Paul Buckley and I have successfully convinced both of them to adopt the work-flow design we’re evaluating for the project.

I feel really confident now explaining it to colleagues a) because I’ve done it so many times that I’ve got the snappy patter down and good answers to most of the questions they throw at me and b) because I really believe in it as a design, as a method and as a strategy: to me it just makes sense.

In at least one of these schools we’re now in the position of being able to get really good quality, widespread diagnostic data that could be used to provide  effective individual- and cohort-specific bespoke support; this is something that is simply unimaginable in a paper-based system. If we can join forces with the iTeam project from the University of Hertfordshire and feed this into a dashboard, then we’re really going to be doing something extraordinary!

I’m feeling very satisfied after a busy but very productive day!


Reframing The Way We Construct Assessment

Dr Adele FloodDr Adele Flood kindly agreed to do a last minute seminar for us today. Dr Flood is from the University of New South Wales Learning & Teaching Unit. She is currently managing the University wide Assessment Project. Her current research takes two directions: in the first she is investigating ways of re-framing teaching practice to focus on student action in learning. The second is in response to an ongoing interest in Identity and creativity from the perspectives of both an educator and a practitioner.

Her presentation today focussed on how to create student centred assessment tasks that help position assessment as learning for students. She posed a series of questions that academics should ask themselves when developing assessment tasks for student learning. We explored two models of learning and Dr Flood showed how, by reframing the questions we ask, we can create assessment tasks that focus on student-action centred learning.

This is just good, sound assessment practice and applicable whether we’re discussing assessment via traditional media or in an electronic environment, so we see clear congruence and applicability of the strategies she highlighted with those we are already seeking to develop and evaluate in this project.

A big thank you to Dr Flood for her input today and we wish you a happy sojourn in the UK and a safe journey home : )

You can find Dr Flood’s full research profile here.

Teaching Reflection: Learning Journals

The assessment and feedback for AIE2502 has begun for this academic year. The design, which last year was changed to incorporate formative feedback on reflective journal entries in the first five weeks of term, has already begun. Using a blog to manage student learning journals has brought key advantages:

  • it makes it much easier for us to see whether or not students are reflecting regularly (rather than cobbling together a journal at the end of the year)
  • it makes it possible for us to give formative feedback and the quality and depth of their reflective writing while they are doing it (formatively) as well as at the end of the module (summatively) rather than only at the end
  • it ensures the learning journals are backed up (no more lost journals)
  • it allows students to upload and link multimedia files which they can ‘collect’ and reflect upon in preparation for their final portfolio

There are some disadvantages as well – some students feel less comfortable reflecting with full honesty and attention to their emotions in an online environment than they would in a paper-based format. Others find the technology a challenge even though it’s not much more technical than editing a basic word document.

Over the last two weeks I’ve run three workshops supporting students in better understanding why reflection  is important and what qualities we, as their markers, are looking for in their reflective writing. The three tutors on the module have agreed an assessment criteria rubric for reflective writing and the workshops was designed to support their first engagement with the rubric that will be used to measure their final summative assessment task.


Sharing Strategies

Yesterday I met with Sarah and Huw from Planning and Information Services to explore the technologies we’re using to collaborate on the project. Sarah and Huw will be supporting us with collating some of our large data sets, such as the National Student Survey data and our cohort demographics.

Despite a fire drill in the middle we had a look at both Twitter hashtags and GoogleDocs. The former as a way to give quick updates and share with a wider audience and the latter as a way to simultaneoulsy work on a single central copy of a document. Here’s the demo tweet we sent to illustrate how hashtags work…

image of an example tweet

A really positive spin off of this kind of project is the stimulus to share and try new things and it’s great that the same skills and tools we shared in the meeting will transfer well to another JISC project that Sarah and Huw are working on.

The Elevator Pitch

happy people in a lift

Here’s Cath’s lucid and engaging elevator pitch that we’ll be taking to the JISC Launch of Programme on Wednesday. We were asked to provide a 3 minute precis of the project to share with all the other participants and I think this sums up our project in a very neat nutshell. Nice one, Cath and Birmingham, here we come…

We are out at sea – and there are storm clouds of change on the horizon – funding cuts and an increasingly competitive market. Universities across the sector know they need to reduce costs and improve student satisfaction – but they’re like supertankers – hard to steer in the best of weathers. They are looking for ways to better manage student assessment, well aware that the paper-based systems they’ve been relying upon are simply not going to cut it anymore. They are needing to avoid the rocks of student disgruntlement, staff resistance and institutional inefficiency.

But in order to make good decisions about how to best avoid the rocks: how to manage student assessment electronically, senior managers need evidence of what sorts of electronic assessment management work best, are most cost effective and bring the greatest number of benefits to their students, their staff and their institutions. They also need advice and guidance on what needs to be done to support the implementation of these processes across their own institution.

The yacht Huddersfield has been sailing into the safe harbor of electronic assessment management for the last four years. Our project evaluates our experiences looking at both sustainability (enabling the evaluation of the process in an academic school over a long period of time) and scaleability (evaluating its use in a very large module with over 1000 students enrolled). We’re also evaluating how best to support the implementation of electronic assessment management in terms of student learning, staff development and institutional administrative systems so that the flairs of innovation don’t spark and die but are sustained and supported.

Our project is called EBEAM – the beam from a lighthouse, offering guidance and direction to help other institutions navigate their way into this safe harbor; to enable them to increase their efficiency and their agility, for academic staff to enjoy a reduced workload and increased job satisfaction, and for students to have more satisfactory course management experiences and to feel more supported in their learning.