Staff engagement with e-assessment

More reflections from CAA2013¬†(held in Southampton, just down the road from the Isle of Wight ferry terminal – shown)…

In the opening keynote, Don Mackenzie talked about the ‘rise and rise of multiple-choice questions’. This was interesting, because he was talking in the context of more innovative question types having been used back in the 1997s than are used now. I wasn’t working in this area in the 1997s so I don’t know what things were like then, but somehow what Don said didn’t surprise me.

Don went on to itentify three questions that each of us should ask ourselves, implying that these were the stumbling blocks to better practice. The questions were:

  • Have you got the delivery system that you need?
  • Have you got the institutional support that you need?
  • Have you got the peer support that you need?

I wouldn’t argue with those, but I think I can say ‘yes’ to all three in the context of my own work – so why aren’t we doing better?

I think I’d identify two further issues:

1. It takes time to write good questions and this needs to be recognised by all parties;

2. There is a crying need for better staff development.

I’d like to pursue the staff development theme I little more. I think there is a need firstly for academics to appreciate that they can and should¬†‘do better’ (otherwise people do what is easy and we end up with lots of multiple-choice questions, and not necessarily even good multiple-choice questions), but then we need to find a way of teaching people how to do better. In my opinion this is about engaging academics not software developers – and in the best possible world the two would work together to design good assessments. That means that staff development is best delivered by people who actually use e-assessment in their teaching i.e. people like me. The problem is that people like me are busy doing their own job so don’t have any time to advise others. Big sigh. Please someone, find a solution – it is beyond me.

I ended up talking a bit about the need for staff development in my own presentation ‘Using e-assessment to learn about learning’ and in her closing address Erica Morris pulled out the following themes from the conference:

  • Ensuring student engagement
  • Devising richer assessments
  • Unpacking feedback
  • Revisiting frameworks and principles
  • and… Extending staff learning and development

I agree with Erica entirely, I just wonder how we can make it happen.

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