In this short THE Campus piece, Warwick’s own Elena Riva shares some helpful practices that can boost student well-being in the online teaching and learning environment:
November 21, 2022
Maha Bali is an educator who writes and speaks frequently about social justice, critical pedagogy, and open and online education. You can find her blog on this webpage. She is co-facilitator of Equity Unbound which, in collaboration with OneHE, has curated a range open educational resources focused on community building activities that educators can use with their students. You can also watch Maha’s keynote address at our recent TEALfest 2022 event by following this link: Building community online with equity and care.
November 14, 2022
Isabel Fischer (WBS) and Leda Mirbahai (WMS)
One year ago we created an open WIHEA Learning Circle on Diverse Assessments. Since we seem to be building a reputation as the ‘godparents of assessments’. In addition to contributing to diversifying assessment strategies across Warwick we aim to work towards providing equity in our assessment practices and to improve student experience. Assessments, if used effectively, are key to promoting learning for our students.
To encourage reflection and to drive change in how we use and view assessments in our programmes, we hosted a series of keynote speeches to start our regular meetings. Here one example from Kerry Dobbins, Academic Development Centre, on How to create an effective assessment strategy (drilling down – or up – from institutional, via course, to module level)
My aim for this presentation was to highlight the conflation that often occurs between assessment ‘strategies’ and assessment ‘methods’. The term ‘strategy’ is often used when we are actually referring to the mode of assessment, e.g. ‘our assessment strategy is coursework or an online exam’. It is important to disentangle these terms so that we can take an explicitly strategic approach to designing assessments that supports inclusion at all levels, i.e., module, course/programme and institution. An assessment strategy develops a shared and holistic view of the course/programme between students and academics. At a macro level, there needs to be constructive alignment between module learning outcomes (LOs), course/programme LOs and graduate attributes. In this way, a programme level view is taken to what LOs are being assessed across modules and how. For diverse assessments this is extremely important because it ensures that a holistic view is taken in relation to how comfort with, skills for and literacy of different types of assessment methods are developed and scaffolded for students as the programme progresses. This strategic and holistic view also recognises the various transition points of the students’ journey; so first year assessments may start to introduce elements of doing things differently, that are built on in the second year, etc.
In essence then, a strategic approach is vital for inclusive assessment practices as it provides an explicit framework for developing assessment literacy skills and for assignment feedback to be clearly directed towards feeding forward into future assessment activities. Taking a strategic approach also provides greater opportunities for teams to develop a coherent view about the purposes and values of assessment; and how those shared values are threaded through the course or programme. Assessment is not value-free as we are always conveying value messages to students about what we assess and how. A programme strategy allows us to really consider our values and what we are trying to achieve with our assessment practices and processes overall.
Assessment strategy also occurs at the module level. Again, at this level the strategy is not the mode of assessment but how support to achieve within the assessment is structured into the module. For example, how is assessment and feedback literacy designed into the module curriculum? What does the pre and post-assessment support look like? What is the rationale for the mode of assessment being used? How is assessment (formative and summative) being used within the module to support learning, not just quantify it?
You might find the attached presentation and some of the texts below useful to review:
Boud and Associates (2010) Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education
Brunton et al (2016) Designing and developing a programme-focused assessment strategy: a case study
Scholtz (2016) (PDF) The assessment strategy: An elusive curriculum structure (researchgate.net)
If you are interested in this area, I would welcome you to get in touch: Kerry.Dobbins@warwick.ac.uk
For our learning circle we have also managed to secure funding to undertake a research project to capture both student and staff views of diverse assessments. Although the project is still ongoing, our student project officers, Molly Fowler and Pula Prakash, have managed to gather valuable data with an aim to feed into institutional considerations around assessment strategies.
Finally, if you want to find out more about our Learning Circle you can visit our webpage and you can read our previous blogs here:
Blog 1: Launch of the learning circle: https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/interested_in_diverse/
Blog 2: Creative projects and the ‘state of play’ in diverse assessments: https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/creative_projects_and/
Blog 3: Student experience of assessments: https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/wjett/entry/a_student_perspective/
If you would like to join this learning circle please contact the co-leads: Leda Mirbahai, Warwick Medical School (WMS) (Leda.Mirbahai@warwick.ac.uk) and Isabel Fischer, Warwick Business School (WBS) (Isabel.Fischer@wbs.ac.uk).
November 07, 2022
The discussion in this podcast focuses on how we can embed and bring ourselves into all aspects of our teaching practices, including student-facing artefacts like course documents and handbooks. The presenters offer some practical tips on making initial connections with students through their first encounters with written module documentation. All resources discussed in the podcast can be accessed from the episode webpage.
October 31, 2022
Over the last two years I have completed 21 assessments of approximately 10 different types - I am a seasoned consumer of assessments. Truly diverse assessment should use a range of valid assessment types that stimulate learning and provide opportunities for learners with varied needs and capabilities.
Assessments where I have synthesised information mined without time pressure, have resulted in the deepest learning. I overcame an irrational fear of epigenetics by writing an essay on the topic. I have been wondering whether real time information acquisition and synthesis could form an equally valuable assessment modality. My recent work experience showed me the readiness of healthcare professionals at all levels to access and deploy ambulatory online information in real time on the ward and in the clinic. As far as I can see, assessment methodologies have yet to catch up with this new reality.
It is perhaps a truism to say that assessments should be a learning methodology. Assessment can be a stimulus to learn content but can also model useful skills and behaviours. I have found that assessments with low ecological validity are less enriching, and regrettably invite purely strategic learning. The best example I have is my French GCSE in which I achieved an A grade without being able to speak a word of the language. The nature of the assessment meant that I did not need to engage with the content or the objectives of the course. I was able to prevail by memorising and regurgitating chunks of text which I promptly forgot after the exam.
Of my recent exams, the methodology that strikes me as most at fault in this respect is the MCQ. This is a highly artificial assessment construct, relying crucially on recall of memorised information, in a specific and stressful environment. I accept that there may be other skills involved such as prioritising options, but this is barely possible without the memorising and recall.
Group assessments might seem to reflect real world behaviour, but I have not always found this to be the case. With no agreed hierarchy it is very difficult to distribute responsibility or manage group members who are either overly assertive or who fail to contribute. This is particularly tricky when all those involved are required to be equal contributors with equal status. Surely this is an unusual circumstance in any working environment. The contrived dynamics of group assessments can introduce an uncontrolled variable that impacts the results of even very good students.
I feel it is of critical importance that students have the opportunity to thoroughly rehearse assessment methodologies that they will face in the high-stakes final year. For example, having done two poster presentations, previously unfamiliar to me, I feel less daunted by the prospect of doing it again for my dissertation module. I now appreciate that this is a common way of disseminating information at scientific conferences so it may be an important skill for me to have in my career.
Personal lives are complex and we are all subject to sudden or dramatic change in our circumstances. Assessments by essays can more easily accommodate and mitigate unforeseen events through flexibility, but fixed assessments such as exams or in-person presentations are much more difficult to rearrange. An advantage of continuous assessment over end-of-year assessments is the feasibility of allowances for such happenings as fewer assessments would be affected. It is also true that students with a reported disability tend to do less well than students with no reported disability (Office for Students, 2022). This raises important questions around equity, and whether the available reasonable adjustments are good enough.
Properly diverse assessment could serve many purposes. Within the mix of assessments should be opportunities for different students to demonstrate their individual proficiency at their preferred method. Diverse assessment should be inclusive of students with reasonable adjustments, but they should also allow for unpredictable adverse events. Finally, where possible, assessments should engender learning and embody activities that will be useful in later life.
Office for Students (2022) Access and Participation Data Dashboard [online] Available from: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/data-and-analysis/access-and-participation-data-dashboard/ (Accessed 8 October 2022).
Molly is member of the Diverse Assessment Learning Circle. If you would like to join the LC please contact the co-leads: Leda Mirbahai, Warwick Medical School (WMS) (Leda.Mirbahai@warwick.ac.uk) and Isabel Fischer, Warwick Business School (WBS) (Isabel.Fischer@wbs.ac.uk)
October 24, 2022
This short THE Campus piece offers advice about simple things lecturers can do in their lectures to enhance students’ feelings of belonging and inclusion from the very start:
October 17, 2022
Equity Unbound and OneHE have developed a values-led initiative that curates community building activities for educators to use with their students. Their Introductory activities section includes creative ways to undertake student introductions in your first week of classes. The Setting the tone activities section outlines approaches that you can use throughout the term to let students know that you care.
October 10, 2022
By Isabel Fischer, Zhewei Zhang, Lichuan Xiang, Aiqi Jiang, Yiran Xu and Joe Nandhakumar
Three years since its first conceptualisation, we are pleased to introduce the “AI Essay-Analyst”, an academic-writing-tool in support of the mission of Warwick Business School (WBS) “to enable our stakeholders to realise their full potential” and the University of Warwick’s 2030 strategy “to ensure that, irrespective of background, disability, faith, gender, race and sexual orientation, all students have access to equal opportunities to thrive and progress at Warwick”.
A recent WBS survey showed that the majority of students perceive poor academic writing as their main barrier to success. In response, a group of WBS faculty and students developed and piloted a machine-generated automated formative essay feedback tool in-house which is now being made available to an increasing number of students on an optional basis.
Academic writing feedback tools have the potential of providing students with “personalised feedback that is currently only available to a privileged minority” and can enhance students’ self-determined learning: Formative assessments are seen as “one of the most important mechanisms for improving student learning. Self and peer-assessment are particularly effective in formative learning as they require students to engage more fully with the assessment process”. Currently, students of select modules are being offered the opportunity to trial the software by submitting their draft essays or dissertations prior to their submission deadlines. Participating students receive a personalised AI-generated feedback report of approximately 15 pages. The report includes images, charts and graphs which students are encouraged to review prior to the formal submission of their assignment.
External providers, such as Grammarly, Turnitin Draft Coach, Bartleby, Writefull, and Hemingway Editor also offer feedback to students, however, most of these tools focus on grammar and spelling. In addition, in most cases, students have to agree that external providers can use their data. The “AI Essay-Analyst” does not use student data and is substantially more comprehensive. For example, by also including the CABS ABS ranking we can check the quality of the journal articles that are cited and referenced. In addition, we offer visualisations such as word clouds and argumentative zoning, which are expressed as PIE charts and knowledge graphs. These visualisations are very much appreciated by students.
Students who opted to take part in the project so far were very satisfied, commenting: “The overall feedback is very useful for the general understanding of your academic writing skills”, “It is quite cool and it is a new approach I never tried before”, “I have enjoyed the visualisations most since they are interactive and easy to understand” and “Grammar suggestions are useful since they show some spelling and small mistakes that I ignored before.”
Detailed student feedback on specific features included:
- The most useful are grammar suggestions, because it helps me revise the essay most directly.
- The spider graph is useful to help me understand where the essay is lacking.
- The Word Cloud is useful to help me check if the essay is on topic.
- Systematic stages of negation is helpful as it let me know if my critical thinking has been fully applied.
- For readability, this is an aspect that I usually find difficult to notice, because everything is readable in my own mind. So that is very helpful.
- The knowledge graph allowed me to see the bigger picture at a time when I was too focused on the detail. It helped me to break down my essay and also showed the correct as well as incorrect relationships between key concepts.
For comments or questions please contact the project lead Isabel.firstname.lastname@example.org
October 03, 2022
In this short (20mins) video, Julie Taylor from the Centre for Teaching Education (CTE) shares the work that she and her colleagues have done in CTE to embed a values-laden approach to teaching and learning. The key messages shared are relevant to any discipline or department. The resources she refers to in the video can be accessed below:
- Character education in universities: a framework for flourishing
- The Jubilee Centre framework for character education in schools
- Statement on teacher education and character education
- PowerPoint slides used in the video
September 26, 2022
Jane Bryan from Warwick shares lessons in handling people’s names with respect and sensitivity, ensuring correct use and pronunciation to boost feelings of belonging within institutions: