Bolton from the blue……
James Derounian (University of Gloucestershire) muses on external examining in England’s North-West….and beyond:
As I stood on Bolton train station post-exam board, this random stranger said “not too often you get more than 1 National Teaching Fellow in a room”! After the initial shock, Cardiff Met’s Jeff Lewis NTF and I embarked on a whistle-stop conversation around teaching and learning, family disasters and his own specialism of Dental Technology! In case you were wondering, and as Jeff explained to me, such “technologists are the ones that make the things dentists put in your mouth….they couldn’t do their job without us”! So now you know……..
I love external examining, for all sorts of reasons. At the moment I am completing 4 years working alongside colleagues delivering courses in Community & Neighbourhood Studies. As I’ve noted in periodic reports “overall, very full, clear and constructive tutor comments and clear sample 2nd marking of student assignments. The use of words deployed by markers matches the marks awarded e.g. “All the feedback here reflects an excellent piece of work” – 80%. Similarly, glad to see that in-text comments clearly reflect what has been said in the summary for each” assignment/ student.” It can be so rewarding when – as with Bolton – colleagues are open and receptive to constructive critical commentary, (the same is hopefully true of me as EE)! In my experience you learn as much as give, if you engage in dialogue and listen, as an external.
Then there are the places, themselves…..my ‘missions’ have been to such diverse and fascinating places; that I might otherwise have never been able to explore. My very first validation, leading on to becoming external, was for the University of the Highlands and Islands. And I couldn’t believe my luck that I was able to fly up, take part, and then take an extra day as holiday to investigate Inverness and surrounds; and then – for semester 2 – go trekking round the Isle of Lewis/ Stornoway. So on one occasion I did a 10-mile walk across peat bog, from Traigh Mhor beach on Harris, all the way up to Ness, and the Shipping Forecast’s ‘Butt of Lewis’. At the end of which I picked up the Friday evening bus, filled with excited teenagers, all chattering in Gaelic, on their way to a night out in Stornoway. It was magic.
Externaling in Bradford could hardly have been more different; and reminded me strongly of my own upbringing in Haringey, North London. Thence to postgrad EE at Liverpool John Moores, which included vivas with graduating students, against a backdrop of Paddy’s Wigwam/ the Mersey Funnel aka Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral! On to the National University of Ireland minding a Rural Development Distance Learning course, that took me to the cliffs at Moher (it had to be done J); Bournemouth – with a ground-breaking Masters in Green Economy; leading to my current stint in the faded Victoriana, dereliction and rebuilding that is Bolton.
So I would say to NTFs, embrace external examining as a way of broadening horizons, staff development, learning new ways of doing things, fraternising with colleagues, and reflecting n on your own practice. I also love the mix of forensic examination of assessments, marking, feedback…..as well as learning about – as well as suggesting – creative ideas for teaching experimentation; plus hearing from students undertaking the particular course.