Assessment in higher education conference

Assessment in Higher Education Conference 2019

This event will be the seventh international Assessment in Higher Education conference. This research and academic development conference is a forum for critical debate of research and innovation focused on assessment and feedback practice and policy. The themes for our 2019 conference will invite a wide range of papers, practice exchanges and posters. Themed poster presentations, accompanied by a short pitch from the authors, have been a particular strength of the conference and have encouraged networking by delegates.

Keynote Speakers

Phil Dawson: Associate Professor at Deakin University

Bruce Macfarlane: Professor of Higher Education at University of Bristol

Thumbnail image of Humphrey Bourne

“Write my essay for me!”: Rising to the Challenge of Contract Cheating


Abstract
Reported incidents of ‘contract cheating’ or ghost writing are increasing along with the number of ‘essay mills’ – the providers of bought essays, projects and even dissertations – whose marketing is becoming ever more sophisticated.  In this seminar, we will explore the extent, nature and responses to this threat to academic integrity before suggesting ways in which we can alert and inform students and staff, counter the threat, and develop ways of minimising the occurrence of contract cheating in assessment.

Bio
Humphrey Bourne is Education Director (PGT) in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law.  He teaches strategy in the School of Economics, Finance and Management and his research focuses on values in and around organizations, extending into research in organizational identity.  He chaired the University working group on academic integrity and misconduct, reporting in October 2017, and has since been closely involved in the implementation of its recommendations.

LeapForward logo

LeapForward Project: Learning for Practice; Feedforward to support transition to the workplace (workshop)

Open to all staff at the University of Bristol who are interested in how to improve feedback conversations in the workplace.

This workshop will be based on the resources created as part of the LeapForward project “Learning for Practice; Feedforward to support transition to the workplace”.

The LeapForward project drew on the experiences of staff and students in healthcare, social work and theatre studies settings at the University of Bristol. Three, one-hour sessions have been developed, along with a resource Toolkit, which can be used to help staff and students understand their role in feedback (feedforward) processes within workplace learning environments. This session will be an opportunity to experience the workshops that have been developed, provide feedback on them as training resources, and consider whether the workshops might be useful for your own teaching.

This workshop is suitable for any staff member working with undergraduate students in workplace settings, and for those with responsibility for training staff/students in workplace assessment processes.
The workshop will be led by Sheena Warman (CHSE assessment lead), Annie Noble (CHSE staff development lead), and Sarah Kelly (LeapForward project Research Associate).

Tea and coffee will be provided for attendees plus lunch (sandwich selection). Therefore please email the chse-admin@bristol.ac.uk mailbox at the time of booking your place if you have any special dietary requirements so that we can ensure you are catered for.

Part of a series of sessions organised by the Centre for Health Sciences Education.

500 Words, Uncategorized

Informal exploratory writing: three activities you can try with your students

Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between the amount of writing a learner completes and their attainment (Arum and Roksa, 2011). John Bean, in his book ‘Engaging Ideas’ (2011), outlines a number of methods to increase the amount of informal writing your students undertake. He groups these under the theme of ‘thinking pieces’, and he highlights a number of benefits. He believes thinking pieces:

  • Promote critical thinking.
  • Change the way students approach reading – with an increase in writing down their thoughts it forces them to consider alternative and opposite arguments to the piece they are reading.
  • Produce higher levels of class preparation and richer discussions in class. Similar to the point above, if informal exploratory writing is done at the point of reading, students are more prepared with arguments and counter-points in discussion classes.
  • Are enjoyable to read, and make a nice change for markers from the normality of essays
  • Help to get to know your students better as you can see how their arguments are formed and where their beliefs lie.
  • Help assess learning problems along the way. Like any increase in formative work, the teacher can see any gaps in learning at an earlier point and assess whether this is the case for others in the cohort.

Bean describes 22 different exploratory writing tasks, which you can find in his ‘Engaging Ideas’ book; we have selected three to share in this blog.

Bio-poems

This task is easier to apply to some disciplines rather than others (philosophers, historians and politicians come to mind first) and is designed to make students think about the personal dimensions of a subject being studied in a course. A bio-poem is semi-structured and goes as follows:

  • Line 1: First name of the character
  • Line 2: Four traits that describe the character
  • Line 3: Relative of (brother of, sister of, etc)
  • Line 4: Lover of (list three things or people)
  • Line 5: Who feels (three items)
  • Line 6: Who needs (three items)
  • Line 7: Who fears (three items)
  • Line 8: Who gives (three items)
  • Line 9: Who would like to (three items)
  • Line 10: Resident of
  • Line 11: Last name

(Gere, 1985:222)

Not only does this make the subject more human and therefore more memorable, but it also provides a great revision tool when it comes to exams. If this is done as a task before the class, each person’s poem can be discussed to see differences they have found in their perception of the subject.

Writing dialogues between two different theorists/ arguments

This task asks students to write an ‘meeting of the minds’ piece (Bean, 2011:136), where they conjure a script between two theorists arguing different sides (e.g. Hobbes and Locke arguing over the responsibility in a state). This encourages the students to truly consider each side of the argument and also prepares them for discussion in class. This can be done as an individual task or in small groups, and suits many disciplines.

Writing during class to ask questions or express concerns.

Less creative than our other two suggestions, this piece asks students to ‘freewrite’ during a break in the class. You could ask students to summarise the lecture so far, or write down any puzzlements or questions they have. At the end of the freewriting time (which should be a maximum of five minutes), ask a couple of students to feedback. Not only do student practice writing, but it also means you can get real time feedback and allows students to ask questions part way through the lecture.

References

Bean, J., 2011. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking and Active Learning in the Classroom. Jossey Bass, United States of America.

Gere, A. R. (ed.), 1985. Roots in the Sawdust: Writing to Learn Across the Disciplines. Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English.

Arum, R. and Roksa, J., 2011. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

News

Should all assessments be inclusive?

The following post was written by Emilie Poletto-Lawson, an Educational Developer and BILT Fellow. 

I am a BILT fellow based in Academic Staff Development where I work as an Educational Developer. I have been working on the BILT theme of assessment – focusing on inclusive assessment since February 2018. I am undertaking a literature review with a view to making recommendations around inclusive assessment principles that we can embed into our units and programs at the University of Bristol to work alongside our institutional principles on Assessment and Feedback.

From my reading to date the  main take away is that inclusivity is predominantly discussed as a means for supporting students with disabilities. It is very much viewed as a deficit approach to considering assessment, however, I strongly believe it is far more than that, we want to be inclusive of all learners and for inclusive assessment to actually be more inclusive.

As part of my BILT fellow role I recently attended an event at the University of Leicester called “Making IT* Happen: from strategy to action (*Inclusive Teaching)’, led by Pete Quinn and Mike Wray (blog available here). The focus was very much on supporting disabled students in our institutions and ensuring universities are legally compliant with the Equality Act. In preparation for the event, the experts highlighted good practice in the work we do at Bristol, for example we received positive feedback on our institution website regarding inclusivity (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/disability-services/study-support/reasonable-adjustments/) and in particular videos created by Louise Howson from Academic Staff Development (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/staffdevelopment/academic/resources/learning-and-teaching-resources/learning-and-teaching-videos/ ).

Regarding the literature review I am working on, when researching the key words “inclusive” “assessment” in “higher education”, I obtained 9596 results in ERIC and yet, going through the abstracts not that many articles encompass all three parameters. It appears there might be a gap in the literature here despite inclusivity being key to university strategies in the UK and beyond for a number of years now. So far, the key emerging themes from my searching can be seen below.

Inclusive Assessment in Higher Education map created by Emilie Poletto-Lawson
Created with Mindmeister 21.09.2018

In the US literature the Inclusive aspects of articles relates to the idea of an inclusive campus and looks at inclusivity from the selection process (access) to the students completing their degree (success). In the UK, the literature shows there is an acknowledged need for policies, strategies and processes as well as professional development to bring about inclusive practices.

Initial readings suggest there is a rhetoric of inclusivity as a given good, but it is difficult to identify concrete examples, especially when it comes to assessment. The literature review is the first step to articulate a clear definition before focusing on what inclusive assessment means for us at the University of Bristol.

If you are interested in this topic why not read “Against being Inclusive” by Jeffrey Carlson, interim provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Dominican University? I appreciate it might be an odd recommendation since this post advocates that all assessments should be inclusive, but I think this article, published in 2016, does offer food for thought and reinforces the need to clearly define what we mean by “inclusivity” before we move to making recommendations at Bristol.

Meet the BILT Student Fellows

Meet the Student Fellows… Zoe Backhouse

We asked our Student Fellows to write us a short blog about their background and what they are doing as part of their BILT role. The following blog is from Zoe Backhouse, who has been a BILT Student Fellow since December 2018.

My name is Zoe Backhouse. I’m a fourth year Liberal Arts student newly appointed as a BILT Student Fellow. I’ll be working on a project called Improving Students’ Understanding of Assessment.

This marks my fifth year trying to shake up education practice here, which either makes me an education practice nerd or suggests there’s a lot to change at Bristol. Just kidding! I love Bristol Uni 😊.

When I started in 2014 I needed a part-time job and overheard that the Students’ Union was a great place to look (its Living Wage Employer status meant high £££ for first years). By my second week, I’d landed a role as an Administration Assistant with the Educational Representation team. Without realising, I’d found a passion. I worked with student reps and academics from across the University, supporting them to challenge the curriculum and change degrees from the grassroots. Inspired, I went on to become a course rep, a faculty rep and then took a year out after second year to work as the Undergraduate Education Officer.

I learned a huge amount over those three years. I encountered diverse opinions and practices and, although overwhelming, this taught me that there was no one way to experience this University. Despite the difference, there was something that became consistent to me – whether it was as a high or a low, most students’ time was defined in some way by their experience of assessment.

Just as I began to develop a detailed picture of student needs and was putting together a manifesto for the University to help address this time-old problem, my term ended at the Students’ Union and I had to go to McGill University in Montreal, Canada for my year abroad. What a shame!

I ended up having probably the best year of my life there. Although this was of course because I was in one of North America’s most exciting cities, I have to be honest in saying that the year was special in what it gave me educationally.

Suddenly I was at a University where I wasn’t just studying disciplines I’d encountered in school. I was being educated in Indigenous Studies, Jewish Studies, learning about contemporary Canadian history through Fine Art and historic Islamic law through English Literature. I was assessed through volunteering, creative writing, building real-life grant bids for a project I’d set up in the city, and, yes, through formal research papers. I felt I’d never learned so much in my life.

Coming back to Bristol, a university with many of the same qualities and challenges as McGill, I saw only opportunity in terms of where we can go. I love what BILT does and think it’s already had a huge effect in supporting academics to take risks with their teaching practice and experiment with whole new concepts in Higher Education.

Now I’d like to see how this applies to students. What is the potential of us co-creating assessment? How can we cross disciplinary boundaries and be assessed on, or even beyond, our programme? And, perhaps most importantly to me personally, how can we understand our mental health in the context of our learning and assessment (not just in the context of support services)?

Prepare for focus groups, debates and more blogs over the word limit. I can’t wait to start!

 

News

Tensions with Programme-Level Assessment

The following post was written by Helen Heath, a reader in Physics and BILT Fellow. 

I am a reader in the School of Physics at Bristol and currently 1st year coordinator and head of the newly formed Physics Education Group (PEG), which is a group for the pathway 3 staff within the School of Physics. I’ve been a BILT fellow since September 2017 with a focus on programme level assessment and this has been renewed for the next academic year.

While looking into programme level assessment I have felt that there are significant tensions. The move to more formative and less summative assessment should help student development but fewer summative assessments inevitably means that these assessments are higher stakes. Devising good innovative assessment methods that are targeted at testing the learning outcomes is desirable but too many different types of assessment can be confusing to students.

As part of the University move towards programme level assessment several Schools took part in assessment labs and have been working on moving their assessment to a more programme level approach. I am in the process of interviewing those involved with these pilot projects. I would like to understand the challenges they have faced in the programme design and the institutional changes, e.g. to regulations, that need to be made to enable the implementation of the revised assessment schemes they have proposed. I am also interested in how the perceptions of what programme level assessment is vary across the University.

Although the content of courses varies, the principles of good assessment design should be applicable to all programmes however it seems clear to me, from the first interviews, that there are structural differences between programmes that can hinder or help the adoption this approach. Joint honours programmes, for example, can pose a challenge. The programme level approach can offer the chance of an assessment which brings together the strands in these types of programmes, but this then requires clarity in the management of a joint assessment. Schools that have very many different joint honours programmes need to avoid a confusing range of different assessments.

Schools piloting programme level assessment are also in very different points in their curriculum review cycle. Adopting a programme level approach where a review is underway anyway is much more natural than making large changes to assessment when results of a previous review are still working their way through programmes.

As a second strand of my work I have been thinking about what programme level assessment might look like in my own School. We have joint programmes with Schools in our own Faculty and outside as well as several “Physics with” programmes but we have a well-defined Core in all programmes which could be assessed at year level. The “straw person” proposal for a way forward is submitted to our next Teaching Committee. Hopefully it promotes a lively discussion.

andy penalun portrait photo

Teaching and Assessing for Enterprise


A seminar held in collaboration with The Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

Speaker: Professor Andy Penaluna, Professor of Creative Entrepreneurship at University of Wales Trinity Saint David
How do we best teach and assess skills like creativity, opportunity recognition, self-awareness and self-efficacy, and taking action to implement ideas? In this open talk for educators in all disciplines, Professor Andy Penaluna will set out the principles that underpin his work with the QAA and the European Joint Research Centre, to help educators in every discipline teach and assess students’ enterprising competencies.

Bio:
A former Chair of Enterprise Educators UK, Andy was described by UK Government as the World’s first Professor of Creative Entrepreneurship. He conceptualised and chaired the Quality Assurance Agency’s Graduate Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Group that developed national UK Higher Education guidance, and led its five year review. Now referenced across Europe and beyond, it has even been translated into Mandarin.
Andy is also an expert at the United Nations in Geneva – where he supervised research that led to ‘for innovation’ curriculum development for 37 developing countries. He writes for the European Commission and helped to develop their ‘EntreComp’ framework. He also led the development of entrepreneurial teaching and learning modalities for 8 countries in South East Europe and writes for the OECD on developing entrepreneurial schools and colleges as well as HE level creativity. Funded by the World Bank, he led a team in what is believed to be the world’s first compulsory school curriculum for innovation and entrepreneurship (in Macedonia – FYROM).
In 2014 Andy’s contributions were recognised by the Enterprise Sector Skills body ‘SFEDI’ in the House of Lords, and in 2015 Andy received the Queens Award for Enterprise Promotion at Buckingham Palace. In 2016 he was named as one of the UK’s top Maserati 100 entrepreneurs.

Andy always acknowledges that his approach to teaching enterprise is heavily reliant on his extensive 30-year network of alumni, and that they motivated him to become a more entrepreneurial educator.

Two students recording using a video camera and boom microphone
Education Enhancement Funds

Developing a guide to support the use of video in undergraduate assessment

A Teaching Innovation Grant was awarded to Dr Emily Bell, Dr Rose Murray and Dr Andy Wakefield for the academic year 2017/18 – you can find a summary of the project they undertook with their grant below. If you would like to read the full report, please contact bilt-info@bristol.ac.uk

Project summary

Project members (PMs) (Bell, Murray and Wakefield) are developing an open-access framework to enable the easy implementation of innovative and creative assessment. This includes an interactive guide for teachers and learners which supports the creation of video as a means of assessment. This guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to use audio-visual production/editing software as well as helpful advice on suitable equipment. PMs are also creating an appropriate, transdisciplinary framework for evaluation of the students’ video projects. By focusing the assessment of the video at group level and embedding this within a portfolio of supporting tasks the PMs hope that their guidance will be applicable to a greater number of disciplines within higher education.

This novel assessment method was embedded into a field course module (June 2018), with 20 students working in groups of three or four. Students were instilled with a wide range of transferrable skills as well as having the opportunity to stretch their creative legs. In tandem, and via the same processes, students’ confidence was evaluated in four key skills areas (academic self-efficacy, groupwork, communication and digital capabilities) via data collection from pre-post questionnaires and student reflective critiques. Preliminary data analyses suggest that student confidence increased over
the course of the week in these areas.

Conclusions

Despite only preliminary analysis of the data gathered thus far, it is apparent that participants who took the filmmaking course perceived an increased level of confidence in several different skill areas; academic skills, social efficacy, communication sk ills and digital capabilities. The qualitative responses corroborate findings from the quantitative responses, and the authors look forward to evaluating the reflective critique data later in the year. On reflection, one of the main themes identified from the data was the increased confidence particularly in social efficacy. This was highlighted as a particular cause for anxiety or apprehension prior to the course by the participants, yet by the end, it was clearly an area in which participants had grown in confidence. This will be explored further as the project progresses. As this was a single field course from a collection of ~15 courses which run each year, it would be interesting to evaluate other courses to explore whether this increased confidence of participants is replicated, or whether it is a unique quality of the film making course. The authors hope to repeat this study in the next academic year with the following cohort of students to test the robustness of these findings.

Digital classroom
Education Enhancement Funds

Building Confident Engaged Researchers Through Active Partnership and Problem Based Learning

A Teaching Innovation Grant was awarded to Dr Chris Kent and Dr Jess Fielding for the academic year 2017/18 – you can find a summary of the project they undertook with their grant below. If you would like to read the full report, please contact bilt-info@bristol.ac.uk

Project Summary

This project was designed to assist the redevelopment of our research methods provision at Year 1.

The newly developed course will focus on active learning in small groups and continuous, low-risk, assessment. Specifically, it will address four main aims in our Year 1 teaching:

1. Enable students to programme and conduct their own experiments within TB1

2. Provide weekly continuous formative feedback on knowledge and understanding

3. Enable effective small group peer support via ‘homework clubs’

4. Embed a culture of student participation in lectures via interactive smart-phone response systems (SRS).

The BILT grant facilitated the redesign and comprised two main work packages

(WP). WP1: development and evaluation of a self-contained series of lab sessions designed to deliver design, programming and analysis skills to Y1 psychology students (meeting aims 1 and 3). WP2: developed a set of home and class activities for summative and formative assessment (meeting aims 2 and 4).

Conclusions

We feel the grant was extremely helpful to us. We have meet our aims and are in a much better place to implement our redesigned research method training courses.

Students, who undertook the pilot, showed a keen interest and disposition to research methods once they were exposed to a hands-on approach to building experiments and understanding why programming and statistics were important (via problem-based learning and active participation in work shops). The students left with a positive disposition towards further exploring research methods and we highly positivetowards the way in which the material was delivered. All students managed to develop their own independent research question, programme an experiment to test it, collect and analysis the data; this is quite impressive given the short six week time scale!

The research skills we developed by actively engaging students in research from the get-go, by showing them they could develop their own simple experiments and analysis with a few simple tools. The problem-based approach to introducing new software was successful and students felt confident in exploring the software.