All posts by isobelgowers1

Screencasts: just do it!

On Monday I took part in the first webinar of a new series being offered by the HEA’s Assessment and Feedback Community of Practice. It was titled: Three ways in which screen capture technology is supporting the student assessment journey across the sector . Emma Mayhew summed up quite nicely why using screen casting can be so important when she highlighted the fact that we have a new generation of students that:

  • Enjoy learning through audio-visual material
  • Use social media as a communication tool
  • And come to university full of expectations about technology in education from their time at school.

I would just add to that being able to use the tools required for screen capture may also help them in their future employability too. In fact one of the reasons we have used screen casting as an assessment method is to help prepare students for future self-employment where they may want to use these skills on their business websites. Two out of the three methods described in the webinar I have already seen in my own institution with screen casts being produced about what is expected from assignments and secondly screen casts being used as an assessment method. We haven’t quite moved  on to video feedback although we have used audio feedback via Turnitin in some cases.

As always it was useful to pick up some ideas about new apps and websites to work with and I am just about to have a look at One of the other things that was discussed was the process of making the screen cast. It was suggested not to over edit and maybe it helps for students to know that we are only humans so don’t cut out all those ums and pauses. It was interesting timing for me as I had started a screen cast the week before on how to access feedback in the new Turnitin Feedback Studio. Taking part in the webinar encouraged me to get it finished and I emailed the link out to students. The interesting thing was that my email prompted two responses from students wanting help with doing peer reviews in PeerMark. So what did I do, I made a rough and ready screen cast, I set up an example PeerMark, captured the process using Camtasia with audio instructions, minimal editing and sent the link out to the students. Yes I could have spent longer on my story boarding in preparation and yes, I could have done more editing and there was more that could have been included but it met the students’ needs and was produced in a timely fashion. So if there was one way in which the webinar changed my behaviour, it was giving me the confidence to just get on with it!


Student engagement: the use and abuse of the student voice

On Friday 20th October I attended a national workshop looking at the use and abuse of the student voice organised by the Student Engagement, Evaluation and Research at Sheffield Hallam University. One of the great things about workshops is to share ideas with others from outside your organisation. Setting up the workshops so that we discussed each scenario with a different group of people provided the opportunity to learn about practices at a far greater number of other institutions than is often the case at conferences. Dr Neil McKay welcomed us to the day and raised the point that the student voice has evolved from something we react to and moved much more towards student engagement. Probably my take home message of the day would be is that the student voice is not something that should just be listened to but should form part of a dialogue.

Although three different scenarios were discussed there were a number of common themes. One was the use of mid-semester module evaluations. These were often quick and dirty methods such as Stop-Start-Continue using post it notes. I have already decided to do this with my students after they have returned from study week. It gives us chance to respond to student feedback before the end of the module so the student’s voice has an impact on their own student journey.

One of the challenges of responding to the student voice is that the voice is not always consistent. Students have many different learning preferences, backgrounds and interests so they will not all be saying the same things. I have seen this first hand in the past where some students liked my handouts whereas others complained about them. In that instance we had a vote and went with the majority. This highlights the issue of managing expectations so that students understand what is happening during their time as a student. This might range from why we use different types of learning activities to when they can expect replies to emails.

Another thing that got me thinking was partly relating to developing a culture of listening and ensuring students use the formal channels for the student voice so their ideas can be acted upon. This only works if students trust the institution and the staff. An issue in many universities seemed to be students were worried about providing critical feedback in case it affected their mark. The second part of this is that something needs to happen in response to the student voice. This might just be a conversation with the students and further investigation or it might be a set of actions that are taken as an outcome. Irrespective of what happens it is important that we close the loop to keep students engaged with the process.

For more information about the event and the work of STEER at Sheffield Hallam see their blog.

Long time no reflection

Well it has been a while since I have posted here. There have been a number of contributing factors. I have been busy volunteering, developing new online materials, completing the SEDA course – Supporting and Leading Educational Change (SLEC) and submitting my application to become a Senior Fellow of the HEA. It does not mean I have not reflected but more my notes have not translated to a more coherent digital form!

Certificate for Supporting and Leading Educational Change course

There is another reason I have delayed posting; I wanted to understand more about some of the longer term implications of the staff development and other activities I reflect on. In the past I have often reflected just after something has happened and I make conclusions about how I think it will change my practice in future. Completing the portfolio for SLEC made me think about the longer term implications of the activities I undertake and do I make all those changes that I intended to when it is all fresh in my mind?

In essence I think I do make the changes I set out to, or at least some of them and of them adapt and change as I try them out. From the point of view of recording my reflections in future I think I need to continue with my immediate reflections but return to these to ensure that I have put the changes into practice or at least tried them out. Watch this space to see how it all works out….

Professional identity – something to think about

On Monday I took part in the Teaching and Learning Conversation facilitated by Paul Orsmond and Rachel Forsyth titled Capturing learning: beyond the acquisition metaphor. A partial recording of the webinar can be found on the TLC webpage.

The main thing that I took from the webinar was that I need to investigate the idea of professional identity further. I am familiar with the idea of professional identity as a teacher but had not considered how the student sees it as they move through university to become a professional. At what stage do they develop their professional identity and what impact does that have on their learning? Does developing a professional identity help communities of practice to form?

It was the first time I had attended a TLC webinar and now I just need to find the time to delve a bit deeper into some of the questions that came out of it.



Really short CPD sessions

I have recently started delivering 30 minute technical training sessions on different apps and software that can be used to support learning. These have included GradeMark, PeerMark, Socrative, Kahoot and Mahara. They seemed like a really good idea at the time as staff kept asking for training on using technology but were having difficulty finding the time to attend sessions. When it came to the first session I was  a little more worried about what I had let myself in for. Would I be able to keep to time? Could I fit in pedagogy and technical in 30 minutes? So timing was one issue I needed to consider and pedagogy was another one and finally I wanted staff to be able to have a go, after all this was supposed to be a technical training. This is why with 15 minutes to spare to the start of the first session I was waiting with a feeling of trepidation. I felt I needed to start on time, 3 minutes late would be 10% of my time gone.

For the first PeerMark session I chose to set the participants an assignment (100 words about PeerMark). The idea was that they would then PeerMark each others. This turned out not to be one of my best ideas. Only one of the eight attendees submitted and although I uploaded something for them to PeerMark they did not have time to complete it. I decided the next time I would do the submission and the PeerMark in the session. I had originally discounted this idea as too ambitious because of time constraints. However, I repeated my PeerMark session yesterday, we did the PeerMark in class and yes I did have to amend the hand in time by 5 minutes but apart from that it worked a treat. Having a go at uploading and using PeerMark from a student perspective appeared to be really useful to staff. Providing this insight should help staff provide the appropriate support to help students use PeerMark successfully.

Bearing in mind my recent reflections on Kirkwood and Price (2013) I felt that it was imperative that I included some of the pedagogy relating to the benefits of using peer assessment. One way I chose to do this by focusing on thinking about how you would set the questions in PeerMark to help students engage with the assessment criteria. Another element that was discussed was how many pieces of work a student should review. I suggested reviewing work of multiple peers and my reasoning from personal experience is that if they only review one piece of work and it is a weak piece they will not get the same benefits as some of their peers. When thinking about it from the receiving feedback perspective Cho and MacArthur (2010) students respond best to feedback from multiple peers so another reason for reviewing two or three pieces of work.

Reflecting back to Kirkwood and Price (2013) again, I wanted to look for the evidence for impact of peer marking on outcomes. When searching the literature I found little evidence for peer marking improving the grades of students, which was the direct finding of a study by van den Berg et al. (2006) but this study also found  teachers were positive about peer assessment and felt it improved students interaction and involvement in the course. This is an experience mirrored in my own practice where I have seen increased engagement and dialogue around assessment, which I see as something very positive.

In conclusion, I am happy with how my quick CPD sessions are going. Having short sessions mean they are easy to repeat and therefore a great opportunity to tweak and refine. Obviously one of the things I need to do now is look at the impact that these sessions are having on lecturers practice. Initial responses from staff have been good and I was copied in to a lovely email from one participant, following a Socrative session, sent  to his colleagues summarising what we had learnt in the session and ending with ‘Thank you to Isobel for an interesting session’. It is the emails like that, which make the trepidation before a session all worthwhile.


Cho, K. and MacArthur, C. (2010) Student revision with peer and expert reviewing, Learning and Instruction, 20 (4) 328-338

Kirkwood, A. and Price, L. (2013) Missing: evidence of scholarly approach to teaching and learning in higher education, Teaching in Higher Education, 18(3), 327-337

Van den Berg, I., Admiraal, W. and Pilot, A. (2006) Design principles and outcomes of peer assessment in higher education, Studies in Higher Education, 31, 341-356

HEA Virtual Reading Group


Last week I took part in my first virtual reading group run by the HEA. It was much like the journal clubs I had taken part in face to face within my discipline but this just happened to be online. The paper we read and discussed was:

Kirkwood, A. and Price, L. (2013) Missing: evidence of scholarly approach to teaching and learning in higher education, Teaching in Higher Education, 18(3), 327-337.

I enjoyed reading the paper in preparation for the webinar. For me it raised a number of important points. The first relates to staff development sessions I provide on technology. Staff have been very keen for me to deliver sessions on how to use technology in a practical sense and so this is what I have given them. The paper prompted me to reflect on this. It made me question do I just provide technical training on how to use the technology or do I include the scholarly background to using the technology, do I include the pedagogical principles that should underpin the decision on how or if the technology is appropriate to what the teacher is trying to achieve. Luckily I think the answer is yes, but it is something I will give greater consideration to as I plan my sessions in future.

The second point that jumped out a me related to undertaking research. Having completed both a PhD and 5 years as a post-doc doing arthritis research I sort of assumed I took a scholarly approach to research. This paper made me question this. When I have done educational research how did it build on previous research? How much did I use previous research in planning the methodology? Or did I just create my hypotheses out of what I was interested in and wanted to see? Did I just design my methodology based on what was available to me at the time without giving further considerations to improving the experimental design? I am not sure if these questions have binary answers. I feel I have used research to plan and design my educational research but have  also used hunches and what was easily available to me at the time. Having reflected on this paper through the reading group I will certainly take a different approach to future research.

Sally Bradley from the HEA did a great job at leading discussions around the paper. One of the areas that particularly interested me was how if you are teaching centred in your general approach to teaching you are likely to be teaching centred in your approach to technology (PowerPoint, webcasts) whereas if you take a more student centred approach to your general practice you are more likely to use a different range of more interactive technology, such as students creating content, producing reflective portfolios and so on. Again I don’t think you have to fall solely within one of these categories. For example, although I use webcasts which are quite teacher focused broadcasting knowledge these are often backed up with students having to respond via a forum to questions or relating to their thoughts on the webcast.

Overall, I found the virtual reading group useful and the paper has provided me with a number of elements to consider as I move forward in my practice. I am looking forward to the next reading group on 22nd March. For more detail see the HEA website.