Reflections on TEL sessions at Assessment Week

Stuart Hepplestone facilitated a number of sessions during the Assessment Week (30 April – 3 May 2012). These development sessions examined good practice for integrating assessment and feedback in the curriculum through the use of technology:

Using e-learning technologies to facilitate effective feedback practices [presentation]
Participants worked in small groups to identify the appropriate use of technology to support assessment and feedback, and to design principles and suggest inspirational ideas for curriculum delivery. Some ideas suggested included consistent use of marking rubrics, scaling up the use of electronic voting systems, and regular small-scale type tasks that feed into the final submission (e.g. feedback on weekly wiki contributions, weekly online tests giving instant feedback, and peer-feedback on blog postings). All ideas will be taken forward and developed into resources that can inform course planning.

Visualising assessment in curriculum design and review [presentation]
Participants were introduced to existing visualisation techniques (i.e. the paper-based ‘assessment patterns’ and timelines from the ESCAPE project and the electronic ‘Map My Programme’ tool developed at the University of Greenwich). We also put forward a more tactile approach to collaboratively designing assessment patterns and to provide a holistic view of the student learning experience by using coloured counters representing tasks on a multidimensional grid representing academic weeks.

The session concluded that visualising assessment patterns had benefits to the course design process where making links across modules is important in ensuring that the student experience of the course is consistent, avoids duplication and is manageable.  Participants indicated that all approaches presented had potential benefits, however in order to effectively use them to support course planning at a local level minor modifications will be necessary.

Giving feedback on exams [presentation]
The new Assessment Framework stipulates that feedback will be given on all exams.  This session presented models of exam feedback in place at other institutions in order to stimulate discussion among the participants. In most of these examples, generic feedback or model answers are provided (often electronically), however without access to their scripts students find such feedback unhelpful. Participants were keen to explore the Newcastle Law School model, whereby students receive marks within three weeks of taking the exam, followed three weeks later by generic feedback posted online. At the start of the next teaching session, students can review their scripts and request dialogue with their tutor about their performance.

Changes to Assignment submission in Blackboard
Participants were given the opportunity to discuss the transition from SHU Assignments back to regular Blackboard Assignments. Participants learned about the features gained as a result of the transition and the minor changes to their practice in order to fully exploit the re-adoption of Blackboard Assignments, including allowing additional attempts without deleting the original submission, rubric-based grading (available after the July upgrade), and changes to managing the release of feedback and grades. As this workshop took place on the day that Blackboard Assignments were enabled again, participants were given a supported opportunity to set them up in their sites, and further supported time opportunities are available.

Innovating together – or not: addressing barriers to implementing good practice
Colleagues engaging in marking electronically and providing online feedback reported at a recent ‘roundtable development’ session that their attempts to meet student needs were stifled by a lack of buy-in from the teaching team and collaborative CPD time. Participants discussing possible resolutions to ‘stifled innovation’ proposed ideas and suggestions to be taken forward for further exploration. Having access to a physical or virtual common-room space and ‘getting away from their desk’ was seen as important for the ‘chance conversations’ and peer-sharing of innovative ideas, as was finding a common time when colleagues were not timetabled to teach in order to participate collaboratively in LTA- or CPD-type activities.

Experiences of electronic assessment and feedback
Promoting the use of electronic assessment and feedback, a colleague from HWB shared her experience of why this was working well in her area. It enables student satisfaction in terms of convenience and flexibility of submission, and online storage of feedback for future retrieval; and staff satisfaction due to flexible working (can mark anywhere, work is safely stored and backed-up, immediate comments for students online), student work stored safely and backed-up, ability to refer back to previous student work, and exploit efficiencies of electronic tools to generate feedback. Suggestions were offered for making the process of electronic assessment and feedback fail-safe, and techniques and technologies for marking electronically presented: Track Changes, Comments and QuickParts for annotating Word documents; screencasting feedback, audio feedback – personalised and voice can convey more than writing; Excel-based marking grids – speeds up the feedback process, though students may get the same feedback comment more than once.

During the Week, a feedback toolkit was launched. This is a growing resource bringing together a collection of briefing and guidance documents, good practice case studies and links to other useful materials from Sheffield Hallam and beyond.

Stuart  welcomes any comments or feedback about any of these TEL-facilitated sessions, and he would be willing to negotiate running any of these for your subject or course team.

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