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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

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 (70 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 (75 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
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.

Authentic Assessment in August

13 Aug

Here we are nearly a whole year after we posted our piece on ‘Writing better assignments in the Post-Covid19 era: approaches to good task design’ on August 17th, 2020, since when we’ve refined our approach further and collected many examples of excellent practice to be found in our compendia and guest posts. Many have asked us to talk about work and have helped us to find contributors to illustrate our approach. We are delighted therefore to post today our third compendium Episode Three: Authenticity Strikes Back!  Compendium-Three-ww.docx (314 downloads)
The photo here is a still from the video we posted as part of the Advance HE torches relay event, that is bringing together creative ideas on assessment from around the world.
Our next steps will include an article bringing together the theory underpinning our approach which might be useful for colleagues on PGCert and similar courses (available soon) plus workshops and keynotes in Hong Kong and Yorkshire and a global webinar in the ‘Transforming Assessment’ webinar  (ASCILITE e-Assessment SIG) led by Mathew Hillier of Macquarie University Sydney, Australia.
Meanwhile we are still both individually and collectively enjoying family, fun and fruitfulness (it’s now full-on jam-making season) so plenty to keep us busy.

Summer Sunshine, Silliness and Serious thinking about assessment

7 Jul

June and July have been busy months with lots of work with Kay Sambell on authentic assessment during and after the pandemic. We are told our resources have proved useful for people and we are really happy about that.

We staged a PhD ceremony in my garden for a successful PhD student of Kay Sambell’s who won’t get an actual one this pandemic year. Lucas was here so we capitalised on the occasion by presenting him with a cucumber Kay had grown.  He rose to the occasion and made a very nice acceptance speech.

We were also delighted to be part of the launch of the Advance HE torch relay event that is bringing together creative ideas on assessment from people all around the world. A link towards our little introductory video is here:

Vlog – Interactive map torch relay


In this vlog, Professor Sally Brown and Professor Kay Sambell launch the interactive map torch relay and discuss why it is so important to promote authentic learning in different environments such as assessments done virtually.

Watch the vlog >

It was such fun to create this video on a gloriously sunny day in our garden: I haven’t laughed so much in years.

We are also delighted to be contributing to an event to launch AdvanceHE’s latest publication on assessment edited by Patrick Baughan. Our article is called “Changing assessment for good: building on the emergency switch to promote future-oriented assessment and feedback designs”; Kay Sambell and Sally Brown, In Baughan, P (ed) Assessment and Feedback in a post-pandemic era: a time for learning and inclusion. York Advance HE.

Most recently in the last fortnight I’ve been working with the Physiological Society on a series of workshops and linked one-to-one sessions on providing evidence for promotions on the grounds of learning and teaching. It’s been fascinating to talk to so many physiologists who are doing such interesting work, including on dry labs and assessment.

After this week things are looking much quieter: it will be lovely to have a few peaceful weeks over the summer and a chance to spend time with the grandchildren, with a little writing with Kay of course on some resources for Heriot Watt university.


Mechanics tales: Motivating Mathematics learning through assessment

9 Jun

In the time Kay Sambell and I have been producing resources for our Covid Collection on assessment during and after the pandemic, many people have mentioned the difficulties of using authentic assessment processes in Maths to bring to life the creative possibilities and excitement of the subject. Here today we are delighted to offer you a special account by NUI Galway’s President’s Award winner Dr Giuseppe Zurlo in which he outlines a fascinating approach to engaging Maths students now and for the future.  Authentic_Assessment_gz-w1.docx (323 downloads)

Another Authentic Assessment Array

3 May

In March, Kay Sambell and I provided in our Covid Collection of articles on how to undertake assessment better this year when we’ve all been dealing with the backwash of the pandemic. Here we post a second collection which we are terming, after the terminology of the Star Wars films, the Authentic assessment compendium: Episode Two – the saga continues!  This contains a plethora of further examples of good authentic assessment, fifteen which have followed our established format that has proved of value to lots of people globally plus six more which were sent to us in different formats, but we thought still merited sharing. Even during the editing of this collection, we have been receiving more suggestions so it is possible that, in due course, we may well put out a third collection, potentially entitled Authentic Assessment 3: the Innovative Approach that Strikes Back at Boring Traditional Assessment (or something snappier!) Do let us know if you are finding these useful. (Corrected versions of this download added from time to time)  Authentic-assessment-compendium-Epiosode-two-the-saga-continues-2-may-w2.docx (733 downloads)

Excellent Examples Exemplifying Authentic Assessment in Practice

19 Mar

(Thanks to Jim Edwards: for allowing me to use this wonderful image of the Great North Run on the Tyne Bridge with the Red Arrows flying by in the presentations Kay Sambell and I do together).

In March, April and May, Kay Sambell and I are leading a whole series of workshops designed to support staff who have made the complex transition in the last year, once face-to-face on campus assessment was not possible. A whole range of approaches were adopted and adapted by academics globally not only to cope with the contingency but also to improve assessment long term by ensuring that assessment is fully part of learning. Through the articles and presentations in our Covid Collection, we have argued that we can’t ever go back to former ways of assessment and so we propose approaches that fully integrate assessment and feedback with learning, leading to improved outcomes for students. To support these workshops, we have collected together a compendium of brilliant lightly-fictionalized examples collected from National Teaching Fellows and others in the UK and internationally, of what such alternative assessments might look like in different subjects, based on the approach we describe in our paper on 17th August in the Covid collection on this website. Thanks to everyone who has helped us with this. Its first iteration is here,  Authentic-assessment-examples-compendium-w2.docx (981 downloads) but we anticipate this will be added to over time as we encounter more similar super examples from different disciplines. Indeed, successive versions of this download are being added as corrections and additions are received – hence the change in ‘number of downloads’ field. Please note that example 3.2 was kindly provided by Thomas Broderick of Munster University of Technology.


Staff Development, Steady Recovery and Snow

10 Feb

Today I really enjoyed doing a virtual workshop on assessment and feedback for nearly 100 colleagues at NCG, which is an HE in FE provider in Newcastle, Carlisle, Lewisham, Southwark, Skelmersdale and Kidderminster. It was lovely to do a session for colleagues, many of whom live relatively close to me here, and to engage in a productive conversation. The slides for the session are here: NCG-Masterclass-10-Feb21-w.pptx (173 downloads)

Friends and colleagues of Phil Race will be delighted to know he is making steady progress in his recovery from a hip replacement three and a half weeks ago and he is looking forward to extending his walking range beyond the house and garden, currently constrained by snow. But it’s an ill (and chill North East) wind that blows no good, so instead of a photo of Phil striding up the street, here is one of our grandson Lucas eating porridge and doing elementary science in the garden, weighing snow (and then using the snow as giant snowballs!).

Hip hip hoorah!

28 Jan

Just over a week ago Phil had his hip replacement and I’m pleased by how much progress he is making! He is doing all his exercises  and walking further and further outside every day. In the meantime life rolls on and I am currently finishing a chapter on doing a PhD by publication using a home-based networking group. Phil is now back on posting duties on my website so here are the slides used for a session today on demonstrating evidence of excellence and innovation in teaching and learning. NUIG-LT-IMcLSB27Jan21.pptx (203 downloads)