The Compassionate Conference transforming learning through pedagogies of care. 

The conference took place on Tuesday 28th June

Conference overview

Hopeful, affective, and compassionate approaches to learning, teaching and assessment offer opportunities for transformational educational experiences for our students and for ourselves (Freire 1992; hooks 2003; Patience 2008; Gilbert et al 2017). These approaches place relationship building and care for others at the centre and highlight the role of teachers in recognising and addressing institutional and classroom practices that disadvantage students (Hao 2011). Thus, these approaches seek to benefit all but critically recognise the importance of compassionate pedagogies for those whose experiences and voices are already marginalised by common teaching, learning and assessment methods in Higher Education. Perhaps more than ever before, the pandemic has foregrounded the value of relationships, the importance of wellbeing, and has highlighted a range of challenges for many of our staff and students. 

The conference will explore how in difficult times we can take hopeful and compassionate approaches to teaching and assessment for transformational learning, both in person and on-line. 


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Conference schedule  

Morning Keynote 10 am to 11 am

Making change for good: using assessment and feedback to foster engagement and effective learning. Speakers: Sally Brown and Kay Sambell

Keynote speakers Professor Sally Brown and Professor Kay Sambell
Keynote session description

Assessment and feedback have a significant impact on the lives of both students and staff: in this keynote, Professors Sally Brown and Kay Sambell will argue that students who engage in authentic assessment tend to have a greater sense of belonging and commitment than those that use only traditional assessment formats.  Universities need to recognise that assessment and feedback processes can have a huge positive or negative impact on students, depending on how they are directed, and that staff engaging in designing and marking assessments need compassionate approaches that don’t result in increased workloads or stress. In this pragmatic session, participants will have opportunities to:   

  • Review how authentic assignments can be systematically and efficiently designed to foster student engagement;   
  • Examine examples of authentic assessment for a variety of different disciplines;    
  • Consider how to redress imbalances between formative and summative assessment;    
  • Discuss how changes can be made incrementally to improve the quality of learning opportunities afforded by assessment activities.

Parallel sessions 11:30 am to 12:30 pm

Teaching that cares and challenges 

  • Building self-awareness, and resilience with a Core Unit for 1st year students Angela Parry-Lowther (School of Management).
  • Intimate, intimidating and interminable? Lecture chat culture verses live Q&A – Annika Johnson (School of Economics).
  • The role of role-play in EDI training Keith Beasley (School of Earth Sciences & School of Geographical Sciences).
  • Proactivity as a route to care in personal tutoring Nienke Alberts (Academic Quality and Policy Office).
  • Opening doors: understanding our intake to support existing and new entry routes to STEM Steve Bullock (Department of Aerospace Engineering).

View the abstracts for this session.

Caring for future generations – engaging students with sustainable futures

  • Teaching sustainability and supporting career development through the medium of sustainable enterprise Rose Murray (School of Biological Sciences).
  • How to embed Sustainable Development in the Curriculum Carlos Shanka Boissy Diaz (BILT Student Fellow).
  • Leadership in the Wilderness: the task, the team and you Trevor Thompson (Bristol Medical School) and Jeremy Le Fevre (Coach, Facilitator & Wilderness Guide).

View the abstracts for this session.

Parallel sessions 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm

Decolonising the curriculum – from theory to practice

  • Led by Alvin Birdi.
  • Decolonising and Diversifying (D & D): Slaying the colonisation dragon within STEMM curricula Alice Robson (Biochemistry), Sara Sulaiman (Anatomy), Bronwen Burton (CMM), Celine Petitjean (Biological Sciences) and Caroline McKinnon (HR).
  • Decolonial themes within the Department of Music: choice, expectation, and diversity Adriel Miles (BILT Student Fellow).
  • Decolonising the medical school Jo Hartland (They/Them) and Gibran Hemani (He/Him) (Bristol Medical School).

View the abstracts for this session.

Wellbeing in learning and assessment

  • ‘Wellbeing in the curriculum: what Bristol students have to say.’ Presentation by Ros O’Leary
  • Staff and student panel discussion:  
    • BILT Associates: Dr Alicia Gonzalez-Buelga (Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering), Dr Rabeya Khatoon (Senior Lecturer in Economics), Dr Christophe Fricker (Lecturer in Modern Languages) and Dr Lloyd Fletcher (Senior Lecturer in Management).
    • BILT Student Fellows – Ellen Graves (Blended learning and online community) and Kai Charles (Experiences of disabled students). 
    • Professor Tansy Jessop (Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education).

View the abstracts for this session.

Parallel sessions 3 pm to 4 pm

Compassionate assessment and feedback

  • Presenting a novel assessment and feedback portfolio – Bex Pike (School of Biological Sciences).
  • Reimaging the MSc Project Ian Craddock (Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering).
  • Audio feedback – A student and instructor perspective – Anthi Chondrogianni (School of Economics).
  • Does use of rubric in marking online assessment help reduce the marking load? Initial findings from a randomized controlled trial Rabeya Khatoon (School of Economics).

View the abstracts for this session.

Nurturing student agency

  • Fostering student agency to enhance learning Sheila Amici-Dargan (School of Biological Sciences).
  • Nurturing agency through choice in Study Skills peer-support groups – Tim Worth (Library Services).
  • Filling our study skills gaps: students’ perspectives on working collaboratively with staff – Bristol Futures Student Advocates.
  • Encouraging autonomy and agency through student research Dan Anthony and Tasha Suresh (BILT Student Fellows).

View the abstracts for this session.

Closing plenary with Tansy Jessop and Ros O’Leary 4 pm to 4:10 pm

Keynote bios

Professor Sally Brown

Professor Sally Brown is an Independent Consultant in Learning, Teaching and Assessment and Emerita Professor at Leeds Beckett University where she was, until 2010, Pro-Vice-Chancellor. She is also Visiting Professor at Edge Hill University and formerly at the Universities of Plymouth, Robert Gordon, South Wales and Liverpool John Moores and at Australian universities James Cook Central Queensland and the Sunshine Coast.

She holds Honorary Doctorates from the universities of Plymouth, Kingston, Bournemouth, Edinburgh Napier and Lincoln.

She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) Senior Fellow and a National Teaching Fellow.

She is widely published on learning, teaching and particularly assessment and enjoys working with institutions and teams on improving the student learning experience.

Professor Kay Sambell

Professor Kay Sambell is widely known internationally for her contributions to the Assessment for Learning (AfL) movement in Higher Education, which seeks to emphasize the ways in which assessment processes can be designed to support and developing students’ learning, as well as measure it. For over two decades she has spearheaded a range of pragmatic innovations, research projects and initiatives focused on improving university student learning via assessment. She is a UK National Teaching Fellow (2002) and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is currently an independent consultant and Visiting Professor of Assessment for Learning at the University of Sunderland and the University of Cumbria. 

Kay combines her longstanding interest in AfLwith over twenty-five years’ experience as a practising lecturer and course leader in the interdisciplinary area of Childhood and Youth Studies, where she specialises in Children’s Literature. She continues to teach undergraduates and enjoys the opportunity to work collaboratively with students on pedagogic action research projects.  

Kay also helped to establish and support a series of international conferences aimed at rethinking assessment practice. She is currently President of the vibrant Assessment in Higher Education (AHE) conference series, ( which leads the development of assessment for learning.  Her interests range broadly, however, and, she has focused on academic literacy, the first year experience, widening participation and student engagement.  

Previous BILT conferences

The resources from the previous BILT conferences can be accessed on the BILT Annual Conference webpage.