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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.

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.  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 (851 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 (898 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 (2648 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 (1285 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

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 (1026 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 (488 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 (1949 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.