On Thursday 5th January, the E-Learning Development Team attended the 17th Durham Blackboard Users Conference.
Keynote – Dr. Susie Schofield
In line with the conference theme, one of the strongest messages that emerged across sessions was the need to explore and optimise assessment and feedback practices. Dr. Susie Schofield from the University of Dundee delivered the keynote presentation.
Schofield offered a context for her session by drawing upon NSS feedback scores which demonstrated a general satisfaction with teaching within her faculty – but reflected much less favourably on assessment. Schofield surmised that, ostensibly, through wider-reading, proactive and resourceful students were able to subvert the effects of inadequate teaching, but they were unable to avoid poor assessment – thus highlighting its importance.
Drawing largely on the 7 Steps to Assessment and Feedback outlined by Nicol, D. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006), Schofield provided an overview of the cycle of developing, implementing, evaluating and improving the assessment strategy employed in The School of Medicine at the University of Dundee.
Dr. Schofield emphasised the benefit of developing dialogical feedback strategies where students were treated as partners in assessment rather than mere stakeholders. Through this approach, she argued that feedback could become more useful for both educators and students, especially when threaded cohesively across and between discrete assignments – something which is, perhaps, problematic to implement in anonymised submission workflows.
Drawing upon a use–case from the University of Dundee’s Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Education programme, she presented an example where an online forum had been used to facilitate a two-way dialogue between a student and a marker, wherein the student had been encouraged to ask questions that related to their feedback and invited them to reflect on the steps that they could take to improve their work. This builds on the dialogical approach between marker and students which Rola Ajjawi presented on at ALT-C 2013 (see here for our report on this partnership approach to the discussion of feedback and assessment methods).
Screen capture as a visual channel for feedback to students
Emma Mayhew from the Department of Politics & International Relations at the University of Reading presented on her Generating Resources and Access to Screencapture Software (GRASS) project initiative in supporting the academic adoption of screen capture software for the delivery of feedback to students. Emma reported on a controlled study of feedback delivery methods to students for essay assignments, contrasting audio feedback (3 minute audio clips) delivered through GradeMark to students with screen capture video feedback, using a different software solution. Emma noted that students valued the personal touch that video contributed to the feedback process – specifically enabling them to see the marker and interpret his/her body language when listening to the summary feedback on an assessed piece of work – getting a better sense of what the marker was seeking to convey to them. Whilst Emma conceded that the time taken to record video feedback was no quicker than the preparation time for standard written feedback, she believed that it was worth the effort, with students valuing this delivery method and NSS scores increasing as a result.
Assessment and Feedback at York
Wayne Britcliffe of the E-Learning Development Team delivered a presentation entitled ‘Context is Key: Strategies and Tools for Assessment and Feedback’.
The paper outlined the many ways in which academic staff at York are utilising online tools to support assessment and feedback practices, from computer delivered closed invigilated exams through VLE to use of WordPress or Google Tools, and explored both the affordances and issues of the various platforms being used. Slides for the presentation can be found here.