Speaking Specifically about Seminal Assessment Influences

18 Jul

In this podcast, you can hear me talking about assessment with Kevin Merry of De Montfort University. In this episode of a great series compiled by Kevin, you can hear me discussing the key people who influenced my writing in the early days, something about my current work with Kay Sambell on authentic assessment, my thoughts about where assessment will go in the future and much more. Thanks Kevin for asking me to do this.

Highlights of AHE, Horoscopes, Huddersfield and Happy Holiday

3 Jul

Today, as the penultimate working session for my academic year, I have been contributing to a session at Edge Hill University as part of the annual Solstice Conference and sessions of CPD and staff development, with guest inputs from Kay Sambell, Phil Race and Peter Hartley. Our topic was using a crystal ball to look into the future: “What’s going on with HE assessment and feedback right now?”.  The slides we used are here. Solstice-1-July-2022pm.pptx (77 downloads) I identified 12 issues I’ve been seeing, particularly in my work with Kay over the last two years in our global virtual sessions, which have included working in Chile, Ireland, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia and Italy as well as in 20+ HEIs in the UK. Our thinking was substantially expanded last week at the excellent Assessment in Higher Education Conference in Manchester https://ahenetwork.org/  If you’ve never been to @aheconference, do have a look at the tweets #aheconference2022 and consider coming along to next year’s event in June.

We did our first face-to-face event on Wednesday at Huddersfield University contributing to their annual T&L conference and it was great to interact with people in a live context again. They have some fabulous new buildings since I last went there.

Next week on 5th July, Phil and I are hosting an afternoon tea for National Teaching Fellows attending the AdvanceHE conference and some other local HE practitioners: contact me if you are local and want to see if we have a spare place so you can join us.

Meanwhile, Kay and I are already getting busy with plans for our virtual workshops: it looks as if our hot topics are likely to be assessing students in groupsdesigning and managing feedback so as to contribute to self-efficacy and make the process integral to learning and actively designing assessment for learning from the outset.

I hope this summer will be productive and fun: but also with plenty of time to regroup, take a breath and appreciate what we have to enjoy.

Teaching, Thinking and year of the Tiger

1 Feb

Today is Chinese New Year and it’s also my 72nd birthday, which I am thoroughly enjoying.  It’s a time for reflection and looking forwards and backwards over a blessed life.

Eating a Chinese meal tonight to celebrate the year of the Tiger with the family.

Kay Sambell and I created a short resource for Birmingham University staff in their micro CPD series for their HEFI centre   They have been kind enough to allow us to share it more widely. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/university/hefi/news/2022/01/towards-authentic-assessment.aspx

Gratefully Giving Forward Guest Blog

14 Jan

Happy New Year (although it’s another weird way beginning, what with Omicron and politics and Environmental anxieties and all! Although as I write some of the over-privileged and self-entitled of this world seem to be getting their come-uppance which seems like a good thing to me!)

I am delighted to start the new year on a positive note: Sarah Allsop from Health Sciences at Bristol university asked me to contribute to her website called the Grateful Academic, which is all about how sharing positivity and gratitude can support successful working in academia and higher education. https://www.thegratefulacademic.com/post/guest-blog-gratefully-giving-forward-by-sally-brown  I thoroughly recommend​ having a look at it and gaining some joy from the approach adopted, which aligns strongly with mine.

When she asked me to do a guest blog for the site, I was only too happy to oblige! You should get this in the link above, or you can download it directly here. The-grateful-academic-w.docx (284 downloads)

I’m hoping that 2022 includes many more opportunities like this for us all to focus on the best bits of academia rather than the challenges and drudgery.

Pithy Positive examples from the Post-Pandemic Pivot

1 Dec

It’s been another tough year in the world of teaching and learning in higher education, so to cheer myself and others up, in the spirit of appreciative enquiry, I have compiled this collection of some of the positive benefits of teaching and assessment in higher education that have accrued as we’ve had to pivot fast into new ways of working.

I’m tremendously grateful to all the contributors and also to Kate Cuthbert of Nottingham Trent University who prompted me to do this as my contribution to their annual seasonal advent calendar. Pithy-positive-post-pandemic-pivot-w1.docx (374 downloads)

To those who celebrate it, a very Happy Christmas, and a peaceful, positive, enjoyable and compassionate New Year to everyone.

Cornucopia of compendium examples

17 Nov

It continues to be a lovely Autumn in North Tyneside, which cheers me up as it defers the worst of the winter weather! And it also cheers me up that we can here present a fourth compendium of great authentic assessment ideas in a special Hong Kong Edition from colleagues at the Education University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University at HKSAR, with whom Kay Sambell and I have been working this year (see the picture of a screenshot from our latest webinar with them in August). The diverse disciplines represented here include Language Studies, English, Education, Multiculturalism,  Finance, Chinese Medicine, Multimedia Journalism, Music, Forensic analytical chemistry, Medical Ethics and Visual Arts practice. It’s exciting to see how our ideas are translated into practice and used globally: we are really grateful to Professor Siu Cheung Kong of the Education University of Hong Kong and Dr Theresa FN Kwong of the Hong Kong Baptist University for helping us create this original and very useful set of resources. HK-Compendium-4-FINAL.docx (1037 downloads)

Gorgeous golden gardens and Garnham Guestpost

11 Nov

As the Autumn leaves fall in the UK and the nights are drawing in, universities are continuing to think about how to make assessment more authentic to engage students and make the process all about learning, building on the innovative approaches developed during Covid closures.  In our most recent guest post, Kay and I are delighted to welcome a thoughtful piece from Wendy Garnham of Sussex University in which she writes about how she and a colleague Heather Taylor are moving away from simply setting an essay and leaving students to produce it, towards their more innovative approach to essay writing that actively fosters their students’ information retrieval and reflection skills as well as deconstructing the tasks into manageable objects. Thanks Wendy and Heather for enabling us to showcase this approach.

Wendy-Garnham-Blogpost-version-w.docx (557 downloads)

Here be Dragons!

6 Oct

Recently Kay Sambell I participated in a marvellous online conference run by Chris Headleand of Lincoln University on Practical Pedagogy https://chrisheadleand.com/practical-pedagogy/

Practical Pedagogy – Chris Headleand

As part of Pedagogy and Pancakes we will be hosting a conference on “practical pedagogy”. A day-long session of advice, tips and tricks that can be applied directly into your practice. The Practical Pedagogy conference focuses on the practical implementation of teaching and learning strategies.


I went to a session run by Gaby Tobin and Laura West-Burnham of Cardiff Metropolitan University who were talking about how, in times of Covid, there has had to be flexibility in managing changing assessment needs while still assuring quality. Kay Sambell and I were so impressed by their thinking that we asked them to write a guest post for our Covid collection which you can read here entitled “Here be dragons: The challenges of balancing quality assurance and pedagogy”. Sincere thanks to Gaby and Laura for sharing their ideas here: Balancing-quality-assurance-and-pedagogy-w.docx (526 downloads)

Practical Pedagogy People

15 Sep

NTF Dr Chris Headleand of Lincoln University rocks! Congratulations to him for organising the terrific Practical Pedagogy conference attended by hundreds of people and engaging so many of us in engaging conversations. I learned loads in the day, not least from the many contributors who helped me create my crowdsourced keynote including Mark Glynn, Theo Gilbert, Mick Healey, Ruth Healey, Phil Race, Becky Sellars, Ale Armellini, Kay Sambell, Nick Freestone, Suzanne Fergus, Peter Hartley, Mark Childs, Sue Beckingham: the basic slides I used are here: practical-pedagogy-SB-keynote-w.pptx (284 downloads)   The recordings of the whole conference will be available in due course from Dr Chris Headleand.

Next stop, the PGCE Research conference at Sunderland on Thursday where I am presenting with Prof Kay Sambell!


September so soon!

2 Sep

Today is the first day at big school for my granddaughter Poppy, which seems unbelievable!  And yesterday was her brother Lucas’s eighth birthday: where do the years go!
And it’s the season of mellow fruitfulness round here that heralds much jam making  (currently plum and blackberry and apple but I have 5kg of redcurrants in my freezer ready to make redcurrant jelly!)  (Photo of plum jam at the foot of this post).
Meanwhile my work with Kay Sambell on authentic assessment rolls on and colleagues may wish to view the session recording and chat from the ‘Transforming Assessment’ webinar (ASCILITE e-Assessment SIG) led by Mathew Hillier of Macquarie University Sydney, Australia that we ran yesterday which can be viewed at on authentic assessment http://taw.fi/1S2021
We were delighted that we had 160+ participants from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and beyond, who commented very positively on the value of our approach and resources.

You might also like two new guides we’ve produced for Heriot Watt University, the first of which offers a step-by-step approach to writing authentic assignments, following the format used in the compendia examples in our Covid Collection,  and the second of which is about thinking programmatically about assessment and feedback practices. See:

We are very grateful to Alex Buckley and Martha Caddell for enabling these resources to be made available as Open Access Resources which we hope will be widely used.