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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