First steps for Freshers Friendly Facilitation

7 Sep

Plenty of universities are wondering what are the most urgent things to do to build a sense of community among new student starting this autumn in the event of another covert surge. My Wonkhe post sets out briefly my thoughts about the five most important steps to take In case campuses have to shut rapidly to make sure freshers can make a good start. The link is here

Authentic Assessment Activities

25 Aug

Today it’s pouring with rain, almost biblical in proportions, but it’s been sunshine in the study where I’ve really enjoyed running a webinar for the Hong Kong Education University together with some colleagues from the Hong Kong Baptist University, on the topic of post-covid-19 assessment. The slides are here: Hong-Kong-keynote-Aug-2020-w.pptx (2039 downloads)

It was really interesting to have questions about setting convincing and secure science and maths open book exams, and on assessing group work in remote conditions, and the most joyous element was a language teaching colleague, Dr Jain, who described having changed her assessment techniques to more authentic ones with the result that the students performed much better. She was worried this might be a problem but I congratulated her and said it wasn’t surprising that better assignments lead to better performance. I look forward to working with colleagues in Hong Kong again in the future, alongside my partner-in-assessment Kay Sambell.


Radical Rethinking and Re-visioning

21 Aug

Further to my 17 August posting, I am delighted to say that SEDA have now published with very rapid turnaround our paper written specially for them on “Changing assessment for good: a major opportunity for educational developers” where Kay Sambell and I argue that the Covid-19 situation provided educational developers with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change assessment long term as a result of the changes that have had to be made in the short term because of the emergency.
We conclude that radical change of the kind we were told was impossible is achievable and desirable in these new conditions we now find ourselves in. We suggest that if we don’t build on these in the future, we betray not only the trust of our students but also the endeavours of hard-pressed staff who have worked around the clock to make assessments in this year happen for students who otherwise would not have progressed and graduated.We have to make assessment in this new era truly represent what research (and our hearts) tells us genuinely works!
SEDA-special-post-covid-assessment-aug15-w.docx (614 downloads)

Swanton’s Sketchnote of Sambell and Sally‘s Stuff

20 Aug

Kay Sambell and I are delighted to see that the brilliant Katrina Swanton of Edinburgh Napier University has done a sketchnote of our latest 22 August article (in my post below this, but link again here:  Writing-better-assignments-in-the-post-Covid19-era.docx (3736 downloads) ). We admire her work so much that we asked if we could use it here!

Raspberries, (w)Riting, Reflection, Rage, Reading, Running around, Ruminating and Relaxing

17 Aug

Designing Better Assignments Post-Covid

Although I haven’t posted for 6 weeks, I’ve been pretty busy over the summer.

  • Participating in the formal defence of her thesis by my dear friend Dr Hetty Grunefeld at Utrecht University. I should have been there in person in the ancient university hall and celebrating with her and other members of the PhD by Publication Group I’ve been convening for years, but it wasn’t to be so I did it from my study in an approximation of academic dress as requested  and was overjoyed to see her graduate;
  • Running a three-day virtual writing residential for PebblePad clients on starting to get published on learning, teaching and assessment;
  • Leading a workshop for Leeds Beckett senior staff aiming to achieve Principal Fellowship of the Higher education Academy;
  • Mentoring half a dozen colleagues pro bono during lockdown to help them keep up momentum with their life and writing goals;
  • Drafting a chapter on doing a PhD by Publication for a volume expected to be published in 2021;
  • Completing and submitting my SEDA Senior Fellowship reflection, which is a condition of my ongoing status retention;
  • Continuing to work with Kay Sambell on our suite of publications on managing assessment during Covid-19 and beyond. We are in particular working on ensuring that HE assessment in the future never reverts to the ghastliness of largely-ubiquitous, traditional unseen time-constrained exams, instead using more fit-for-purpose and authentic assessment approaches. We hope that one of these will be published by SEDA in the Autumn and another will be posted on this site and Kay’s very soon.
  • We’ve also been working on a new post on ‘Writing better assignments in the post-Covid19 era: approaches to good task design’  Writing-better-assignments-in-the-post-Covid19-era.docx (3736 downloads) which I hope colleagues will find useful when moving away from traditional exams. While we’ve been writing it , I’ve been driven to rage and fury at the current UK totally-foreseeable problems our government has inflicted on our nation’s A-level students by applying a flawed algorithm to predicted results for students applying to universities right now, resulting in devastating injustice, reinforcing my strong reservations concerning exams!

Meanwhile Phil and I have been coping with domestic lockdown with plenty of home-based productive activities including lots of fruit harvesting (fabulous raspberries, redcurrants and cucumbers this year) and produce making, reading novels (Ali Smith’s Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer are what I’m reading at the moment), socially distanced interaction with our Newcastle grandchildren including garden yoga classes, much baking and socially-distanced outdoor catching up with friends.

In the Autumn I’m looking forward to more writing with Kay, continuing to work with NUI Galway on their academic promotions scheme, a couple of virtual keynotes (I’m getting better with Zoom but still struggling with Teams despite a broadband upgrade) and working with another university helping them enhance NSS scores, following successful outcomes from my collaborations at Solent University last year.

This is my seventieth year and I had planned to spend much of it traveling abroad, which obviously isn’t happening, but I’m still managing to have a busy, engaging and largely enjoyable time.

PhD event, Publishing , Principal Fellowships and Pootling

28 Jun

I’ve got plenty going on this week and next despite Covid-19.
On Friday I’m participating online in a viva for my friend and colleague Hetty Grunefeld at Utrecht University: technically I am an ‘opponent’ but not a cause of stress for her or me as this role largely means I can ask questions to help her showcase her research in her replies.
I’m devastated to be missing the live event because in the Netherlands these are highly formal but celebratory events but I will do my best to make it a marvellous  event for her. I think all the Dutch participants will be there in person in their majestic Great Hall and even though I am joining in remotely, I am expected to wear full academic dress including a white blouse which I’m having to borrow. I will improvise with various hoods, hats and NTF stole that I have in the house!
And next week I’m running a remote event for Leeds Beckett staff on HEA Principal Fellowship as part of my regular commitment to help them with this area of work, and also running an event for Pebble Pad in Writing for Publication about Learning and Teaching as a replacement for my keynote which was to have been at their annual conference (see slides here: GetPublishedPebblepad-w.pptx (543 downloads) )
Also, I’m working with Kay Sambell on more resources on assessment during and post Covid-19. The three we’ve done so far are co-located in a single place here as some colleagues said they were finding them hard to locate on my site, and we will be adding to these over time.
After that I expect to go back to pootling on peacefully for the next few weeks.

Solstice, Sunshine, Setting questions and Substantial new article

1 Jun

It’s hard to be productive in this lovely sunshine, but I’m doing my best! This week should have been the Solstice Conference at Edge Hill University, but of course this is happening virtually rather than live this year. You might like to catch up via their website on Wednesday with a narrated PowerPoint which Kay Sambell and I have created entitled ‘Building bridges to the future: assessment which promotes learning post coronavirus‘. The hashtag for the conference is #solstice2020, and the link from which our narrated PowerPoint can be downloaded is:

I have also decided to start a new occasional feature called Question of the week. This has come about because people are regularly writing to me with questions of a pedagogic nature, the answers to which may prove valuable to others. Let me know if you have a question or would like to add to my answers. My response to the first question, which is on online replacements for traditional lectures, can be downloaded here: Question-of-the-week-w.docx (532 downloads)

Additionally, Kay and I have produced a new paper called ‘The  changing landscape of assessment: some possible replacements for unseen time constrained face-to-face invigilated exams’ in which we argue that some of the alternatives that universities have put in place for the coronavirus  contingency should be made permanent, and that we should use this as an opportunity to make some radical and substantial reconfigurations to assessment in the future to make it more authentic. A particular feature is the comparison table where we explore the pros and cons of diverse assessments that can be done virtually. You will find our new post here: The-changing-landscape-I-June-w.docx (4325 downloads)

I hope all these will be useful to colleagues. They are all open educational resources so please feel free to share them, but if you do please acknowledge where they came from. We like to hear where our work is being useful!

Travel-free impact, Translation and Tea

11 May

These are strange days indeed when most of what we are doing that might be useful to anyone else is being done at home. Kay Sambell and I have been delighted that people have been using our recent work on alternatives to unseen, time-constrained invigorated exams, and tips for assessing effectively and authentically under coronavirus conditions. Of course we very much hope this thinking will have usability in the future as well as we think about different ways of assessing in optimum ways. You might be interested to note that we have had feedback that this work has been found useful across the UK, in the Netherlands, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and most recently Japan. For those of you who read Japanese, here is a link to our work on the Osaka University website.
And the picture below shows me and Phil at our recent street party, suitably socially distanced.

Complex Coronavirus Challenges and Cheerfulness

24 Apr

Normally I post regularly on this site about the work I am doing, posting all my materials and presentations in case they are useful to others.
Well, like everyone else, I’m not going anywhere for the moment, and probably not for a good while as a stay-at-home 70 year old!
But I am keeping busy with, mentoring, remote support for Galway University (getting better at Zoom!), writing references (as always) and writing still, notably with Kay Sambell (see last two posts on alternatives to unseen time-constrained invigilated exams, and watch this space for our next grand oeuvre), plus chapters here and there on topics as diverse as leaving leadership and PhDs by non traditional routes.
And I do still Tweet, but I’m mainly trying to keep things light (baking, garden, etc) because people don’t need more grief at this time!
But isn’t it interesting how the  current situation is causing us to rethink what we plan to do next?
Phil is currently musing (at on developments in online and distance learning over the decades and I am thinking through my own future.
Do I want to go on trains and planes most weeks? (pretty certainly not). And anyway, will cash-strapped HEIs buy in externals in the future? (debatable). Do I want to review for journals? (leave that for the younger academics for whom there is some career benefit. Writing more books? (ditto). Offering webinars and online seminars? (tempting, but our broadband relies on copper wire at the end of the street with most of our neighbours working online in the day time, so synchronous is out, but it may be better since the tree surgeon has cut off the branches that were rubbing on our cables!).
So quo vadis? Who knows, but at least I’ve got plenty of  time to think it all through. And I’m doing so with a happy heart and good companionship.

Kay Sambell & Sally Brown: Coronavirus Contingency Suggestions for replacing on-site exams

2 Apr

Following on from my posting on 13th March, Kay Sambell and I have subsequently both been asked by colleagues for advice on how to move from having invigilated on-site exams to having students sit written assessments online from home, so we’ve put together a second informal guide as an open educational resource posted here: Kay-Sambell-Sally-Brown-Coronavirus-Contingency-Suggestions-for-replacing-on-site-exams-w.docx (3835 downloads)

Please feel free to circulate and use it. You are very welcome to customize it for your local contexts, but please acknowledge its origins if you do so (and it would be very interesting for us if you let us know how you have used it!)

Meanwhile, Phil and I are staying safe at home and working hard exercising, mentoring, gardening, spring cleaning and using or time constructively: the two photos show one result of my current obsession with sourdough in the form of a pizza and my newly alphabetized fiction shelves!

I hope you can, like us, enjoy any moments you can in these horrid times. Stay safe, keep well and don’t work too hard.