assessment practices

Enhancement Themes Conference – Days 2 & 3

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Some notes on days 2 & 3 – by Julie

Alastair has already blogged about the keynote speaker for Day 2 – Professor George Kuh and mentioned his concept of Higher Impact Practices (HIPs).  If Alastair’s blog has piqued your interest, you can find out some more details about these on the American Association of Colleges and Universities webpages.

Honourable mention must to go Lyz Howie and Evelyn Mohammed from UWS where they have been encouraging assessment of trainee midwife personal development through creative activities.  We were treated to poetry and song from their students who had participated in “The Gathering” (as they called this initiative) and the depth of reflection and understanding from the students was evident in their very powerful performances.  An excellent example of embedding creativity and engagement into the curriculum and showing that assessments can also be creative and innovative.

Another interesting project was “The Dissertation Maze”, presented by Jacqueline Brodie and Kay Penny from Edinburgh Napier University.  This is an online Moodle resource for direct entrants into fourth year who often have to hit the ground running with regards to their dissertation.  They conducted interviews with students about their needs and experiences and created an Open Moodle e-toolkit.  This e-toolkit includes a number of topics e.g. “Finding your research idea” and “Referencing” (hyperlinks are to publically available video content from the e-toolkit) to help students through the dissertation process supported by interactive resources and “virtual buddies”.  The researchers have created a WebEx presentation of their research and toolkit and their videos can also be accessed online (google: the dissertation maze napier).  I really liked the look of this and the initial feedback from students seems to be very positive.

The final presentation I attended was by Joakim Palestro and Ulrika Thafvelin of the Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKӒ), talking about the Swedish approach to quality review.  The UKӒ has just finished a cycle of reviewing HE provision which is conducted centrally at a programme level in Sweden.  What was particularly fascinating was their approach to evaluating the outcomes of the programmes rather than processes.  They have a guide on their webpages but the main philosophy is assessing whether students have achieved the programme learning outcomes (which are based on nationally set objectives) by looking at samples of students’ independent projects, interviewing students and a university self-evaluation document.  Quality process issues are not considered as this is felt to be the remit of the institution and it is the student outcomes that are important.  If programmes are found to be of “inadequate quality”, they are given a year to remedy any shortcomings and the UKӒ ultimately may decide to revoke the institutions entitlement to award that qualification.  This focus on outputs rather than processes is an interesting one, particularly given the current reviews of quality frameworks going on across the UK and so a lack of certainty regarding how future reviews of provision in the UK might be done.

The full set of papers presented at the conference (including workshop presentations) can be downloaded from the Resources section of the Enhancement Themes website.