The eAssessment Scotland conference in Dundee was a good way to begin the new academic year. With keynotes from David Boud, Russell Stannard and Cristina Costa, and no conference fee, the conference was very popular and there were over 300 delegates. David Boud gave a great keynote on feedback, pulling no punches about potentially complacent attitudes to feedback “Sometimes students manage our feelings so that we don’t realise what a crappy job we’re doing” and encouraging the audience to think about doing things differently rather than trying to do more and basically encouraging people to think about feedback strategies in which “Students can learn to calibrate their own judgements”. (For more on developing a feedback strategy at MMU, see this article from Learning and teaching in Action). David suggested that we need to judge feedback in term of effects and Focus on what learners, not teachers, do, to ensure that we get better. He also has a new book coming out shortly, on feedback – Feedback in Higher and Professional Education: Understanding it and doing it well.
I then went to workshops by the FASTECH team, and people from York St Johns and Leeds Met. The FASTECH team are a JISC Assessment and Feedback project, like TRAFFIC, and are looking at technologies to achieve changes in assessment and feedback. It was interesting to hear from students taking part in their project and how they saw their role, and trying out an activity they use with programme teams for problem-solving around feedback. My group looked at ‘how we could speed up the process of giving feedback’ – it was interesting to work through some of these issues with the group of medical educators who were at my table. I look forward to catching up more with the project at the Programme meeting in October.
Mark Dransfield and Nikki Swift talked about how they’d supported the introduction of onscreen marking. This was probably the session of most interest to me, as it’s generated fairly fierce debate for us. I thought they were very crafty to offer people a choice of technologies tailored to their needs: iPad, Kindle, digital pen, laptop or a second screen for their desktop. The best (and cheapest) solution was the second screen – well worth knowing! You can read their interim project report here.
Graham Hibbert from Leeds Met described a really effective (and beautiful) home-grown system for feedback/dialogue/personal tutoring in the School of Art. I really liked it but I can’t see how it would be scalable to the kind of numbers of assignments we have at MMU.
PS – We were invited to send in a poster at short notice, to be printed by the organising committee. For some reason it didn’t print properly and had big black blobs instead of our attractively coloured assessment lifecycle – for those who would like to see the proper version, here it is.
PPS the photo is from the riverside in Dundee, taken on the morning of the conference.
PPS Sheila MacNeill has done a much better critical summary of the conference over on her blog, worth a read!