Reflections on transforming assessment and feedback: complexity and collaboration

National Teaching Fellow Professor Debbie Holley shares her experiences of preparing for, and delivering, an online keynote

Keynote Lecture by Bournemouth University academics Debbie Holley and Anne Quinney to the Medway universities’ Creative and inclusive assessment and feedback Festival September 2020.

Medway Learning and Teaching festival is an annual event which has run since 2014. Because of the unique set-up of three universities; Kent, Greenwich and Canterbury Christ Church, on the Medway site, the festival organisation is shared by a small committee of representatives from each of the three universities.

Below, Louise Frith, Learning Adviser and co-organiser of the three University festival,  offers her insights on running a complex conference in an engaging and interactive format, with a wide range of speakers and participants, some digitally expert and others less so.

“Our staff were initially a little hesitant about having an online Festival ; but these comments show how, with careful design, we were able to make it an engaging, inclusive and informative day.”

Participant feedback:

  • Extraordinary! Full commitment with the cause.
  • Interesting and innovative.

Planning for the festival always starts a year in advance, so back in September 2019 we planned our event with the usual considerations of conference theme, key note speaker, venues and refreshments. The theme chosen was ‘Creative and Inclusive Assessment and Feedback’ and we decided to invite Professor Debbie Holley because of her innovative work in these areas.  By March 2020 a physical conference was looking unlikely, so we decided to go online. This decision was conveyed to our keynote speaker and potential contributors. Although an online festival was not what we had planned, all of the contributors embraced the new format and in some ways it presented new opportunities; for example, Debbie suggested that she invite a colleague, Anne Quinney, to co-present with her, making the session more interactive and enabling smoother online management of the keynote. We decided to use MS TEAMS as the presentation platform because it is the most familiar platform for all three institutions and it is free to use.

Debbie and Anne now pick up the narrative, and share their reflections:

Learning to teach and present online has been a steep learning curve for most staff in HE, but by September 2020 it was beginning to feel like the ‘new normal’. Some sessions were perfectly suited to online presentation; such as, one from the School of Sports and Exercise Science on the use of a chatbots and another from the University of Greenwich on feedback literacy for prospective students. Other sessions were harder to imagine online; an example of this was the session on mindfulness. This session was presented by a collaborative team from the Kent’s Student Support and Wellbeing Service and Student Learning Advisory Service. The aim of the session was to introduce participants to the aims of mindfulness and some of the mindfulness initiatives which exist at Kent and then to deliver a 10-minute guided mindfulness practice. Despite the challenges of delivering this session online, the presenters were able to create a sense of group cohesion and a moment of clam within the busy conference environment enabling participants to experience mindfulness remotely. Feedback on the session was very positive one participant commenting,

You got me to stop checking all of my screens/phones for 30 minutes and actually breathe and relax a little. My shoulders especially appreciated it!”

Overall, our first experience of running an online conference was successful. We have learnt a lot through the process; such as, the need to provide presenters with support and reassurance regarding the technology, the importance of building in enough breaks for participants to have some time away from their screens and the value of having a clear website with simple joining instructions. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive one participant commented that it was, “Thoroughly interesting and applicable!”

Reflections from Debbie Holley and Anne Quinney – keynote speakers

This was a first for us – a joint keynote, separately and online. We have delivered several conference papers and workshops together in person (Quinney et al 2019; Quinney et al 2018) but since Covid-19 restrictions meant that travel to conferences was no longer possible we had gained experience of delivering joint conference papers separately from our own homes online (Holley and Quinney 2020, Goldsmith, Holley and Quinney 2020),  and learnt ‘on the spot’ what worked well and what to have contingency plans for.

It was important to consider how to create social presence, particularly important for a Keynote which will set the scene for the day and link to conference themes and the concerns of the delegates, without being present and without the energy generated between us when presenting in person. We suggest an icebreaker, setting scenarios for participants to consider, following up afterwards to close the feedback loop by sharing materials and resources.

Link to the BU Assessment and Feedback Toolkit

Link to blogpost on designing assessment principles

Link to the presentation here

With thanks to Louise and the Medway team for inviting us.

Aspiring National Teaching Fellows: report on webinar one

Facilitated by Prof Debbie Holley on behalf of the Association of National Teaching Fellows Committee 

L-r top: Dan , Debbie, Leonie, Kirsten below as the participants start to join us  

The NTF award scheme went live on the 5th October, and AdvanceHE, working with the ANTF, are arranging for monthly webinars to support those interested in the applying for this prestigious award. Plese do share the links widely – we warmly welcome applications from those in FE colleagues and under-represented groups. 

Webinar One: Getting Started 

This webinar covered the new guidance, highlighted useful AdvanceHE resources, and our invited guest was Dr Kirsten Hardie, a previous ANTF Committee Chair who shared her wonderful ‘object based learning’ materials, in her session, ‘the joy of the NTF’. Kirsten showed how she had used this body of work to develop herself, develop others and build international links. We stopped for regular Q&A, and Dr Nicola Watchman Smith and Dan Amin summarised the chat and answered questions as we went.   

Main Q&A themes: 

Links between UKPSF and NTF? 

Draw upon the underpinning evidence, but schemes designed for different purposes 

Who do I talk to in my institution? 

Each UK HEI working with AdvanceHE has a ‘institutional contact’ who has the final responsibility of uploading the final claim, securing the VC (or equivalent supporting statement) 

How can I get an idea of what to write about? 

Contact NTFs in your institution, discipline or who just look friendly! There is a ‘rogues guide’ on the AdvanceHE pages! 

Professor Sally Brown, one of the original scheme developers has written extensively with NTFs in co-published books and chapter; she also has a comprehensive set of powerpoint slides on her webpage (search NTF).

Other example publications from NTFs 

Bilham, T. ed., 2013. For the Love of Learning: Innovations from outstanding university teachers. Macmillan International Higher Education. 

Bilham, T., Hamshire, C., Hartog, M. and Doolan, M.A., 2019. Reframing Space for Learning: Excellence and Innovation in University Teaching. UCL IOE Press. UCL Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL. 

Broughan, C., Steventon, G. and Clouder, L. eds., 2018. Global perspectives on teaching excellence: A new era for higher education. Routledge. 

Sheridan, M.J., 2017. Learning with the Labyrinth: Creating Reflective Space in Higher Education, by J. Sellers and B. Moss. 

Useful links: 

AdvanceHE NTF 2021 Guidance pack, videos and benefits  https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/awards/teaching-excellence-awards/national-teaching-fellowship#2021 

Information on the seminar series – all recorded and available on the AdvanceHE platform. 

Facilitated by ANTF Committee Events co-ordinator, Prof Debbie Holley and Daniel Amin from the AdvanceHE events team, these webinars will offer insights and guidance through the NTF application process. All the sessions will be recorded, and available on the AdvanceHE platform; please contact the events team if this is a concern, we respect your privacy.  

Webinar One: Getting Started 

This webinar will cover the new guidance, highlight useful AdvanceHE resources, and have a closing panel of National Teaching Fellows sharing their journeys and an AdvanceHE representative on hand to take any questions 

Date: 15.10.2020 

Useful links: 

AdvanceHE NTF 2021 Guidance pack, videos and benefits   

Webinar Two: A conversation with successful NTFs 

This webinar will offer a brief re-cap of the scheme and highlight updates; and feature some personal journeys from existing National Teaching Fellows. There will be lots of time to ask our AdvanceHE/NTF panel questions  

Date: 4th November, 9-10am

Book here

Webinar Three:  Institutional/Individual perspectives 

This webinar will briefly re-cap the previous two sessions, and the panel will include a representative from those tasked with staff development in our institutions, to offer the institutional viewpoint about the scheme, as well as NTFs happy to share their experiences  

Date: 3rd December, 1-2pm 

Book here.

NTFs salute Prof Sally Brown

Caroline Coles, Aston University, Chair of the Committee for Association of NTFs with Mark O’Hara, Birmingham City University, CATE Co-Ordinator CANTF, presented Professor Sally Brown with a ‘thank you’ present for her continuing inspirational support for CANTF and the entire NTF/CATE Community – at the Manchester 2019 Annual Award Event.

Association of NTF representatives – Caroline Coles and Mark O’Hara – celebrate Sally Brown’s contribution to teaching and learning in HE; and to teaching colleagues

BIG CONGRATULATIONS Sally B