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Capture

Volume 3, Spring 2011

Conversations about pedagogy and teaching underpinned by research enquiry


Editor Tansy Jessop Assistant Editors Nicole McNab & Laura Gubby A publication of the Learming and Teaching Development Unit II


Contents Page 3 Foreword

Page 61 Becoming a teacher in Primary education: teacher identity and professionalism

Yaz El Hakim, Director of Learning and Teaching

Page 5 Editorial

Vasiliki Tzibazi, Mark Jenkins, Emma Morley, Karen Phethean & Sandy Stockwell

Tansy Jessop, Senior Fellow Learning and Teaching

Research Articles

Conversation Starters

Page 7 What is effective feedback? – the academic perspective

Page 69 WRAP: a neat package

Page 73 T  he Kyoto Exhibition – coming soon to a school near you?

Page 17 In search of formative assessment: a study of programmes at Winchester

Tansy Jessop, Fiona Handley, Nicole McNab & Laura Gubby

Page 29 Developing a community of practice in blended learning: theory, practice and reflection

Bex Lewis

Page 39 Plagiarism – worth the gamble?

Penny Lawrence

Sabine Bohnacker-Bruce

Nicole McNab

Page 49 Assessing dyslexic students: a review Caroline Bate

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Andrew Melrose


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Foreword The launch of Capture in its third year, demonstrates that the journal is growing an interested and varied community of practice. However, it is difficult to ignore the context within which we find such communities of practice within Higher Education; a painful increase in student fees, a devastating cut to public funding for HE, cuts to staffing across the sector and an increasing level of workload for the staff remaining. All in all, the picture looks bleak, although there are many examples of the all important passion and intrinsic value in which staff express great pride.

I am sure many will find the articles of great interest and will go on to spark many more ideas and projects in the future. The secret to an institution flourishing in such a context is through optimism, enthusiasm, and most importantly being open to ideas and innovations, following periods of critical reflection. This edition provides a very timely boost of critical reflections with some ideas for going forward within such a period. The journal has been excellently compiled and edited to provide the reader with an informative and refreshing read.

When reflecting on the successes that staff have experienced and the challenges which have been overcome in order to complete projects and evaluations, I feel a similar sense of pride. Winchester has always been a place where I have felt quality is woven through the fabric of the institution and that quality seems to have been captured in another wonderful edition of this journal.

Well done to the team and contributors once more, such work is 100% dependent on your efforts through the year and the preparations leading to the launch of the journal. Yassein El Hakim Director of Learning and Teaching

Those who have submitted to the journal should be proud of their interesting and varied contributions to the community of practice.

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Editorial (WRAP). Only one paper relates to a large Learning and Teaching Fellowship. The other difference in flavour of this volume is an intentional one, and relates to the absence of interviews. In the past we have sought to profile academics who have undertaken creative and dynamic projects, or experimented with new pedagogies, but we decided to reel in this element of Capture on the basis of tighter resourcing.

The third volume of Capture celebrates the maturing culture of research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Winchester. Published at a time when universities in the UK are experiencing massive challenges, particularly to centrally funded Learning and Teaching budgets, Capture demonstrates Winchester’s commitment to ensuring an evidence-led approach to pedagogy. Within the pages of this volume, the reader will find snappy and informal vignettes of practice linked to Research Informed Teaching, reflections on embedding leading edge technology more widely, articles which speak to the moral and principled dimensions of being a teacher, debates about inclusion, and a substantial cluster of papers themed around assessment and feedback. In the assessment cluster, one paper on lecturer perceptions of feedback showcases a different research methodology to good effect, and another uses survey monkey and film clips to gather and disseminate student perceptions on plagiarism. A third paper gives texture to the institutional emphasis on providing programme level data through the lens of formative assessment, influenced by the TESTA project which Winchester leads.

New trends in the size, authorship, and scope of research projects provide examples of colleagues doing small research projects in robust ways on valuable topics. Since its inception, Capture has reflected institutional L&T themes and priorities, which the direction of internal funding has generally followed. The papers in this volume demonstrate some of the research, innovation and practice that fellow academics are engaged in, but these represent only a few sketches on a much wider canvas. I hope you will take time to savour some of the excellent research and practice taking place at the University of Winchester, and that Capture will generate more conversations and questions about the researchteaching nexus, related to that bigger canvas.

Looking back over the previous volumes of Capture, there are several noteworthy trends. In the first two volumes, most articles were based on research carried out through fairly large internal L&T fellowships, the variety of topics was high, and the volume of research completed by core L&T staff, whether centrally funded or in faculties, was relatively low. The trend in this volume is that most papers have been generated by the central Learning and Teaching Development Unit or by faculty-based Research Informed Teaching staff; the majority of funded research published here is based on small fast track fellowships or specially designated funds, for example the Winchester Research Apprenticeship Scheme

Finally, thank you to all the contributors: Tim Griffiths of the design team at Winchester for his high design standards; Laura Gubby and Nicole McNab for assisting with the final editing, and the University for continuing to support the student learning experience at Winchester by encouraging academics to research and reflect on their practice. Dr Tansy Jessop Senior Fellow Learning and Teaching

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What is effective feedback? the academic perspective Sabine Bohnacker-Bruce Faculty of Business, Law and Sport

Abstract

These studies, and other surveys such as recent annual National Student Surveys (NSS 2008, 2009), also establish that students are frequently dissatisfied with the feedback they receive. Responses in the 2009 NSS indicated that only 40% of students in Business and 42% in Sports in the Faculty of Business, Law and Sport at the University of Winchester agreed with the statement “Feedback on my work has been prompt”. 58% (Business) and 47% (Sports) of students agreed that “Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand.” These two statements attracted the lowest levels of satisfaction in the section on Assessment and Feedback (Unistats, 2009).

This paper discusses a research project on effective student feedback carried out with academic staff in the Faculty of Business, Law and Sport at the University of Winchester. The perspectives of academics on what constitutes effective feedback were investigated, using the Nominal Group Technique. The findings indicate that much of the responsibility for the effectiveness of feedback is seen to lie with students, specifically depending on their willingness to engage with and respond to the feedback provided. Academics’ contribution to the effectiveness of feedback was seen to consist of the provision of encouraging, formative and timely feedback. Themes that were considered of low importance in the effectiveness of feedback included dialogic feedback, self and peer feedback and legibility.

The NSS results were a cause of considerable frustration for academic staff and management in the faculty, as a number of policies for improving the quality, quantity and timeliness of feedback had been implemented over previous years. In a discussion of the NSS results at the faculty’s Learning and Teaching Committee the consensus amongst staff was that feedback provision in the faculty was actually good overall, and that the real problem was students’ lack of engagement with the feedback provided. One academic described the experience of having invested much time and effort into writing detailed and specific feedback on a student’s work, only to be met with the response: “Just give me my grade” when attempting to discuss it with the student collecting his work. This experience, colleagues agreed, was by no means unusual.

Keywords effective feedback; student engagement; encouraging; formative; timely; nominal group technique

Introduction The importance of feedback for student learning has been established in a number of studies (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Gibbs & Simpson, 2004; Weaver, 2006). In particular, several studies have made recommendations on good feedback practice, focusing on approaches that support self-regulation for learning (Gibbs & Simpson, 2004; Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006; Rae & Cochrane, 2010).

The Committee asked the researcher to investigate staff and student perspectives on feedback in the faculty, establishing their 7


respective views on what constitutes effective feedback and on how feedback should be delivered. The aim of the research was to develop recommendations on making feedback in the faculty more effective and therefore more satisfactory to both staff and students.

parameters of the method. In addition, data analysis is a timeconsuming process due to the volume of data generated (Potter, 2004).

Findings show that academics consider the most important requirements of effective feedback to be that it is encouraging, formative and timely.

This paper discusses the findings of the first part of the research project, a staff focus group, which was aimed at establishing the perspective of academic staff on effective student feedback.

Methodology

In this study, data collection using NGT consisted of a fourstage process: At the first stage, taking about five minutes, every participant worked individually and without consulting with neighbours. An open-ended statement, containing the research question - “Student feedback is effective when…” - was displayed on a flipchart and read out. Every participant was given a pad of post-it notes and a pen and wrote down endings for the statement on their post-its. Each post-it note could only contain one ending – a separate note was to be used for each different ending.

Data was collected during a faculty staff seminar, which 19 members of academic staff, including several from other faculties, attended. A particular focus group format, the Nominal Group Technique, was employed to determine what aspects of feedback staff consider most important in making feedback to students effective. The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is a mixed methods approach used to collect both qualitative and quantitative data. The technique was originally developed to facilitate group decision-making processes (Delbecq, 1971) but has since found a wider range of applications, including problem identification, development of solutions and establishing priorities.

For the second stage the group of participants was split into smaller sub-groups of six to eight individuals. Each group was given a sheet of flipchart paper headed with the open-ended statement and each individual read out their endings to other members of their sub-group. The post-it notes were stuck down on the flipchart paper in clusters of similar statements and these clusters named by the members of the sub-group.

Potter (2004) considers that the main advantage of this technique is that it gives all participants an equal opportunity to contribute. It allows people who may be hesitant about speaking out in a larger group to express their opinions. In addition, it allows various aspects of an issue to be addressed simultaneously and is therefore efficient in terms of time and cost. Other advantages include minimal preparation for participants, high levels of participant satisfaction due to task completion and immediate dissemination of results to the group as well as minimised researcher-bias due to the structured nature of the process. The disadvantages generally associated with this method include only being able to address one issue at a time, the lack of spontaneity and the need for a certain amount of conformity on the part of the participants, who need to be prepared to work within the

At the third stage participants worked individually within their sub group. Each participant was given coloured stickers in five colours: red, orange, yellow, green and blue. Participants were asked to mark what they individually considered the five most important statements out of the large number of statements produced by their sub-group by putting the stickers on the relevant post-its. Red was used to mark the most important statement, followed by yellow for the second most important, green for the third, blue for the fourth and orange for the fifth. While the order of the colours is not significant in itself, it is generally useful to follow some logical system – in this case the order in which the coloured dots 8


Findings

are arranged on the backing sheets they are supplied on was used. On other occasions the researcher has successfully used the order of the colours in the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue). Either way, it is advisable to provide a list of the colour order used either on the flipchart at the front or as a note to each sub group.

In response to the open-ended statement “Student feedback is effective when…” academics commented on a range of themes. The findings show that academics consider the most important requirements of effective feedback to be that it is encouraging, formative and timely, while at the same time effectiveness is seen to be dependent on the feedback being read and responded to by students. The researcher merged data from the three sub groups and coded statement endings according to emergent themes. These findings are presented in Table 1.

For the fourth step the response sheets were placed in the middle of the room to give participants an opportunity to compare different sub-groups’ contributions and to discuss and comment. At the end of the sessions, the researcher collected and retained the sheets for data analysis.

Number of comments

Points indicating importance

Encouragement (i.e. positive, acknowledging strengths)

20

32

Formative - work (i.e. develops student’s work )

16

32

Timeliness of delivery

12

29

Format of Delivery (i.e. oral/peer/ reflective/formative etc)

12

5

Quality

10

9

Formative - person (i.e. develops personal qualities)

9

14

Reflects marking criteria

8

9

Individualised

7

12

Student response (i.e. students act on feedback)

7

33

Student engagement (i.e. students actually read the feedback)

6

17

Clarity (i.e. students understand the feedback)

6

24

Legibility (i.e. students are able to read the feedback)

6

8

Other

5

4

Theme

The qualitative dimension of the analysis involved the researcher interpreting the data according to traditional qualitative approaches by clustering data into themes (Miles and Huberman, 1994; Cousin, 2009). During Stage 2 of data collection each sub-group of participants had grouped their individual statements into named clusters. The researcher formalised these participantgenerated categories into themes addressing different aspects of participant feedback that appeared to be the strongest elements in the data. Individual statements not fitting into these themes were included in the ‘other statements’ category. As this method produced a large amount of data, a significant element of data analysis was more quantitative in nature and involved recording and counting statements, logging participants’ weightings of individual statements, assigning value and finally ranking statements. Statements were ranked in order of importance based on the participants’ marking of statements with dots as described above in Stage 3. The overall number of points for each statement was calculated as red dot = 5 points; yellow = 4 points; green = 3 points; blue = 2 points; orange = 1 point. The rankings were determined by the total number of points scored by a statement. The researcher placed all statements within a theme in order, beginning with the statement with the highest ranked importance.

As is evident in Table 1, the theme supported by the largest number of comments – 20 comments from 19 participants – was “encouragement”, expressed in comments such as “highlights the

The data analysis generated a rich picture of the staff perspective on what makes student feedback effective. 9


positives in the student’s work”, “it says what is good as well as what can be improved” and “it is constructive & positive”. This theme also attracted one of the highest numbers of points (32), indicating its importance to academics as a pedagogic principle that has been accepted and integrated into professional practice.

“they pick up their assignment” (5), “it is read by the student” (5) and “they engage with it” (4). Considering that the two themes together attracted 13 comments and 50 points, by far the highest number of points of all the themes, it is surprising that one of the groups did not comment on this theme at all. It was notable that several of the other themes were also referred to by just one or two of the three groups: only two groups referred to the need for the marking criteria to be reflected in the feedback given, and only one group referred to the theme of individualised feedback.

The second-largest number of comments referred to feedback being formative regarding students’ work. Comments included: “areas for development/improvement are clearly shown”, “it highlights exactly what the student needs to do to improve” and “it includes clear direction on how to improve work”. Although this theme attracted slightly fewer comments (16) than the first, it achieved an equivalent number of points (32), again clearly indicating a central principle of lecturers’ approaches to feedback.

Feedback needs to be delivered in time for students to act upon suggestions the next time they complete an assignment.

The third largest number of comments (12) referred to the timeliness of the feedback. Most of the comments simply stated: “it is timely”, while some were more explicit , suggesting “it is given early in the learning process” and “it is delivered in time for students to act upon suggestions the next time they complete an assignment”. None of the participants’ comments referred to a specific time frame even though this aspect of feedback is considered very important, as is indicated by the 29 points assigned to this theme.

Other noteworthy aspects of the findings concerning the remaining seven themes include the high importance assigned to the need for clarity in feedback, where a comparatively small number of comments (6) attracted a large numbers of points (24). Also worth noting is the comparatively low importance assigned to the theme of legibility by academics, considering that legibility is frequently raised as a problematic issue by students.

Discussion The two themes of “student response” and “student engagement” could be considered a single theme, however, the two groups who commented on these themes placed their comments in different clusters, so the researcher followed their lead. Student response attracted seven comments with 33 points, including “the student learns from it” (13), “it helps to inform future assignments” (10), “the information is subsequently acted on” (5) and “the student reads it, learns from it and acts on it” (5). The second of these comments could have been placed in Theme 2: formative – work (see above), however, the participant who gave this comment clustered it with other comments relating to student response, which indicates that the comment refers to the way the student uses the feedback rather than the way the lecturer gives it. Student engagement attracted six comments with 17 points, including

As suggested in the introduction, the perception exists amongst some academics that students are only interested in the grades they receive rather than the feedback provided. While this is often acknowledged to be a reflection of the prevailing culture in Higher Education and, perhaps, wider society in general, many academics find this attitude highly problematic and counterproductive to student learning. This is reflected in the findings of this research, which show clearly that for many academics the strongest influence on the effectiveness of feedback is students’ engagement with and response to feedback. This could be seen to imply that much of the responsibility for students’ dissatisfaction in this area is perceived to lie with students rather than academics.

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Even though academics strongly emphasise the importance of student engagement with feedback, there is little evidence in the data of feedback being viewed as a mutual or dialogic process.

Even though academics strongly emphasise the importance of student engagement with feedback, there is little evidence in the data of feedback being viewed as a mutual or dialogic process. Many of the comments relating to student response and engagement such as “student reads it, learns from it and acts on it” or “they act on the advice” indicate that staff tend to view feedback as a transmission transaction, where staff members give feedback and students receive it. Equally, many comments on the formative aspects of feedback such as “it includes clear direction on how to improve work” and “it highlights exactly what the student needs to do to improve” show a trend towards this transmission model. Overall, there were just three comments that could be seen to refer to an ongoing dialogue: “when it encourages the student to contact the tutor for further feedback if necessary“, “it is continuous i.e. not just summative “and “repeated”. Only one participant explicitly gave consideration to the implications of feedback for staff, suggesting that feedback is effective if “it informs future teaching sessions (e.g. where the same mistake is made by all students)”.

However, this position is not taken by all academics. As indicated in the findings above, student engagement and response are amongst several themes proposed and their importance stressed by just some of the groups but not others. As the three groups formed during the focus group session were self-selecting and participants tended to cluster with departmental colleagues, this may well point to disciplinary or departmental patterns. However, since responses are anonymised and personal or professional data about participants is not available, there is no firm evidence to substantiate a connection. This is one of the limitations of the Nominal Group Technique and in order to investigate possible disciplinary or departmental patterns a different methodology would need to be employed.

The research findings also suggest that with regard to their own role in giving feedback academics are most concerned with the tone and emotional content of feedback. The high ranking and weighting of encouraging feedback reveals an acute awareness of the significance of feedback for students’ motivation and selfesteem. The potential emotional impact of feedback has been observed in several studies (Nesbit & Burton, 2006; Falchikov, 2007; Poulos & Mahony, 2008) and academics clearly appreciate this aspect of feedback.

Nicol (2010) describes two different perspectives on feedback observable in the research literature on written feedback: In one of these approaches teacher feedback is considered an “input message” which is transmitted to students and which may be deficient in various ways. This message can therefore be improved by making certain changes, for example in the timeliness, quality and quantity of the feedback provided. The other approach focuses on the conceptualisation of the feedback process and the role of the student in it. In this approach students are seen as active agents in learning and therefore active constructors of feedback information. In this approach the quality of students’ interaction with the feedback is considered critical. Nicol proposes that “feedback should be conceptualised as a dialogical and contingent two-way process that involves co-ordinated teacher-student and peer-to-peer interaction as well as active learner engagement” (2010, p.503).

An aspect of the findings that raises further questions is the theme of timeliness. Current faculty guidelines require work to be marked and returned within 20 working days and this is achieved in the vast majority of cases. Even though none of the participants committed to a specific timeframe, academics clearly see timeliness as a very important aspect of the effectiveness of feedback. On the other hand, as mentioned in the introduction, the promptness of feedback attracted the lowest level of student satisfaction in the NSS. This may be indicative of a discrepancy 11


The high ranking and weighting of encouraging feedback reveals an acute awareness of the significance of feedback for students’ motivation and self-esteem.

between students’ and staff ’s respective definitions of timeliness. In order to be able to confirm this hypothesis, a methodology which quantifies, or at least more closely describes, the definition of timeliness by staff and students would need to be employed. At the recent University of Winchester Learning & Teaching Blue Skies Day, the keynote speaker, Professor Graham Gibbs, stated, slightly controversially, that “If feedback is not given in ten days, then it’s not worth doing” (Gibbs, 2010). Taking into account student numbers and the workload of academic staff this is clearly not achievable in most cases using traditional approaches. What constitutes timely feedback and how it can be achieved in the current context of Higher Education in general and this institution in particular remains a subject requiring further exploration.

Another theme that was barely mentioned nor rated is the role of self and peer feedback. Although there are several recent studies that indicate their importance for student learning (Nicol & McFarlane-Dick, 2006; Falchikov, 2007; Tan, 2007) academics involved in this study did not seem to consider them an important aspect of effective feedback. The reasons for this position may include concerns about students’ capability to deliver quality feedback and whether self and peer feedback in some cases might prove confusing, or even counterproductive. Difficulties with peer feedback in particular may be mistaken as quality or marking issues. There may be concerns about the practicalities of managing self and peer feedback processes with implications for time and resources. These concerns, incidentally, may well be shared by the students themselves. Self and peer feedback may not meet students’ expectations of feedback delivery by the lecturer; students tending towards a consumer outlook may not consider them to deliver value for money and may resist their increased use.

While the themes of student engagement and response, encouragement, the formative quality of feedback and its timeliness played an important role in academic’s’ perspective on effective feedback, it is also interesting to consider what aspects of feedback were either not mentioned at all, or, if mentioned, not considered very important. Although there were several comments referring to the link of feedback to marking criteria, it is notable that academics did not assign much importance to this theme. Considering that there is a perception amongst academics that students “just want their grade” a stronger emphasis on this link might have been expected. It would take further investigation to confirm whether lecturers in fact do give feedback with reference to marking criteria but just did not consider this aspect very important, or whether academics do not reference feedback to marking criteria, perhaps as an expression of the broader academic aspirations they have for their students, away from the narrow, grade-focussed outlook many deplore. Referencing feedback to the marking criteria may actually help students understand feedback better and informal conversations with colleagues indicate that in other faculties and at some other universities feedback is structured around marking criteria as a matter of course. Further discussion of the use and value of linking feedback to marking criteria should therefore be encouraged.

Conclusions This research investigated academics’ perspectives on what is effective feedback. Although limited in scale and methodology, the research produced a wealth of data. Findings indicate that academics view effective feedback as being encouraging, formative and timely as well as dependent on students engaging with and responding to the feedback provided. The research suggests that academics generally view the feedback process within a traditional transmission paradigm. At the same time they are surprisingly engaged with the emotional content of feedback, indicative of a more relational paradigm. Engagement with Nicol’s proposed model of feedback as a dialogic and contingent two-way process could prove a fruitful way of 12


integrating the two paradigms, building on academics’ evident commitment to provide effective feedback.

References

The research suggests that academics generally view the feedback process within a traditional transmission paradigm. At the same time they are surprisingly engaged with the emotional content of feedback.

Cousin, G. (2009) Researching Learning in Higher Education: An Introduction to Contemporary Methods and Approaches. New York and London: Routledge

Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998), Assessment and Classroom Learning, Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7-74

Delbecq, A. and Van de Ven, A. (1971) A Group Process Model for Problem Identification and Program Planning, The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 7(4), 466-492

A substantial question which the research raises is the absence of a discourse around self and peer assessment. It would be useful to further explore whether and to what extent self and peer feedback are currently employed in the faculty and what concerns academics may have about their use. Utilization of both feedback modes may be indispensable for achieving timeliness as expected by students rather than as currently defined by university guidelines.

Delbecq, A., Van De Ven, A. and Gustafson, D. (1975) Group Techniques for Programme Planning: A Guide to Nominal Group and Delphi Processes. Harlow: Longman Falchikov, N. (1995) Peer Feedback Marking: developing peer assessment, Innovations in Education and Training International, 32(2), 175-187 Falchikov, N. (2007) The place of peers in learning and assessment in Boud, D. and Falchikov, N. (eds) Rethinking assessment in higher education: learning for the longer term, 128143. London: Routledge

Although the focus group research produced a significant amount of data on academics’ perspectives, the limitations of the methodology left some important questions unanswered. The focus group research was therefore followed up with a semistructured questionnaire, in order to clarify opinions, quantify some of the findings and allow a greater number of colleagues to participate. It is hoped to report on the findings from this survey in due course. As mentioned in the introduction, this research is part of a wider project on student feedback, and forthcoming research with students will provide an interesting complement to the staff perspective.

Falchikov, N and Boud, D. (2007) Assessment and emotion: the impact of being assessed, in Boud, D. and Falchikov, N. (eds), Rethinking assessment in higher education: Learning for the longer term, 114-127. London: Routledge Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C. (2004) Conditions under which assessment supports students learning, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1(1), 3-31 Miles, M. and Huberman, M. (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook 2nd Edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

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Rae, A. and Cochrane, D. (2008) Listening to students: how to make written assessment feedback useful, Active Learning in Higher Education, 9(3), 217-230

National Student Survey (2008, 2009). [Accessed 11/10/10] Available from: http://unistats.direct.gov.uk/ National Union of Students (2008) The Great NUS Feedback Amnesty: Briefing Paper. [Accessed 11/10/10] Available from: http://resource.nusonline.co.uk/media/ resource/2008Feedback_Amnesty_Briefing_Paper1.pdf

Sadler, D. (1989) Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems, Instructional Science, 18, 119–144

Nesbit, P. and Burton, S. (2006) Student justice perceptions following assignment feedback, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31: 6, 655-670

Tan, K. (2007) Conceptions of self-assessment: What is needed for long-term learning? in Boud, D. and Falchikov, N. (eds) Rethinking assessment in higher education: Learning for the longer term, 144-155. London: Routledge

Nicol, D. and Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 199-218

Weaver, M. (2006) Do students value feedback? Student perceptions of tutors’ written responses, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(3), 379-394

Nicol, D. (2010) From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35: 5, 501-517

Biography In her role as RIT Project Officer in the Faculty of Business Law and Sport Sabine is currently conducting research on student feedback and is also involved in research projects on group work assessment and respectful pedagogies for global learners, as well as the TESTA project. She has a Masters degree in Philosophy and Religion and her current PhD research is on Church of England ministers’ beliefs about other religions. Sabine’s first degree is in Advertising and Marketing and she has previously worked in Publishing, Communications and Marketing for a range of organisations.

Potter, M., Gordon, S. and Hamer, P. (2004) The Nominal Group Technique: A useful consensus methodology in physiotherapy research, NZ Journal of Physiotherapy, 32(3), 126-130 Poulos, A. and Mahony, M. J. (2008) Effectiveness of feedback: the students’ perspective, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33: 2, 143-154

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In search of formative assessment: a study of programmes at Winchester Tansy Jessop, Fiona Handley, Nicole McNab & Laura Gubby Learning and Teaching Development Unit

Abstract

Keywords

This paper explores findings from a study conducted across 14 programmes in four faculties at the University of Winchester during Spring 2009. The concept of a programme assessment environment underpinned the research, particularly the evidence that assessment tactics on modules do not necessarily translate into programme-wide strategies for assessment. Given that National Student Survey (NSS) scores seek to capture data from students about their whole programme experience, and that universities generally perform poorly on NSS assessment and feedback items, the research sought to distil key features of assessment from a programme perspective.

programme; formative assessment; summative assessment; definitive documents; quality processes; pedagogy; academic structure; assessment environments.

Acknowledgements Thanks to the 14 programme leaders who gave generously of their time to share their perspectives on the programme-wide aspects of assessment and feedback.

Background Recent studies on assessment and feedback at the University of Winchester have investigated student perspectives in response to NSS scores (Jessop, 2007); innovative electronic ways of providing assessment for learning (Esser, 2009; Jardine & Sauvage, 2009), and assessment indicators with comparable institutions in our benchmarking group (Jessop, 2008). Since 2009, the University of Winchester has been leading a National Teaching Fellowship Project (TESTA: Transforming the Experience of Students through Assessment) which focuses on programme-wide characteristics of assessment, and seeks to implement whole programme changes across degree courses. This major funded project has its conceptual roots in the work of Gibbs and DunbarGoddet (2008, 2009) who devised a methodology to define programme characteristics of assessment in a previous study. At the same time as the Gibbs and Dunbar-Goddet study was published, research was being conducted at Winchester to provide a programme perspective on assessment through a review of definitive documents and interviews with programme leaders.

This paper focuses on one key finding, that is, the relationship between the practice of formative assessment on modules across programmes, and the virtual absence of any specific and required formative assessment in programme validation documents. We question whether minimalist paper work is reversing the intended effect of creating space for curriculum development, and instead driving practice across programmes in the direction of high summative assessment, and patchily implemented formative assessment. Our paper explores how workloads, tradition, the modular scheme, and the markoriented culture of students may be compounding the high summative: low formative ratio. The paper ends with some reflections on facilitating a more pervasive culture of formative assessment in the interests of improving student learning.

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invitation with targeted e-mails to programme leaders in less well represented faculties. The researchers used semi-structured questions in the interviews which were recorded, professionally transcribed, and analysed using the qualitative software, Atlas.ti.

This paper reports on findings from the University of Winchester study. The Winchester study draws on a growing body of research on assessment and feedback at programme level (Bloxham and Boyd 2007; Gibbs and Dunbar-Goddet 2008, 2009; Knight 2000; Rust 2000). In the literature, a programme approach to assessment is generally described as having learning outcomes to reflect both the whole programme philosophy and the complexity of outcomes not routinely contained in a 12 week module. It implies de-coupling assessment from modular credit schemes to allow for fewer and more wide-ranging summative assessment tasks spanning modules across a programme. Implicit in a programme approach is the view that more low-stakes, formative assessment is a vital condition of student learning. Progression through levels, and coherence of courses are central ideas in programmatic strategies of assessment. Strategies to make assessment more programmatic necessarily wrestle with the academic structure of modular degree programmes and the quality assurance regimes which underpin them.

The researchers analysed the data using a holistic reading of all the transcripts, and iterations of coding on the software programme, Atlas.ti. The coding combined distinctive in vivo codes derived directly from the particular words of research participants, as well as standard codes which were linked to our research questions. These included how programme leaders viewed the academic structure as impacting on assessment patterns, or the balance of summative and formative assessment, feedback and its use, student approaches to assessment, volumes and variety of assessment, and ideas about community of practice and collegiality in assessing students. The value of the software programme, Atlas.ti, lies in its capacity to identify and enumerate the frequency of segments of conversation, leading to more focused theorising about key issues in the data. Developing themes leading to theory generation forms a key element of grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967), allowing the researcher to distil themes from data in ever increasing levels of abstraction. Atlas.ti enables the researcher to merge and cluster codes as themes are conceptualised and relationships between the various codes are identified.

Our paper explores what happens in the gap between official validated documents describing assessment regimes within the quality process, and their interpretation on a programme, through the eyes of the team leader. It seeks to distinguish the official version of assessment practices from the lived experience of assessment as recounted by programme leaders.

Alongside the interview process, a member of the research team, Gubby, conducted a fine-grained analysis of the definitive documents to elicit key data about aspects of assessment on each programme. This element of data gathering became more sophisticated because it coincided with the audit process on the TESTA project, which has developed a fairly robust framework for getting a bird’s eye view of assessment on a whole programme.

Methodology From March to April 2009, two researchers, Jessop and McNab, collected interview data from 14 programme leaders of undergraduate degree programmes across the four faculties of the University of Winchester. The programmes included foundation degrees, humanities and social science degrees, and professional courses. Respondents were invited to participate in the research through the Programme Leaders’ Forum. Sampling of programmes was based on voluntary selection, but also sought to be representative across faculties. To ensure that each faculty was represented, the researchers followed up the general

The research process was ethically scrutinised by the then Faculty of Education Chair of Ethics, to conform with University Research and Knowledge Transfer guidelines on the conduct of research. Following a careful explanation of the purpose and remit of the 18


where many students exit secondary and further education tested to the hilt, and have learned to place an instrumental value on assessment and marks as the real and fixed measure of their ability (Nicol & McFarlane Dick, 2006). Aside from exceptional universities like Alverno College in the USA which has an entirely formative system, universities worldwide generally foster the conception that marks matter and are the recorded and valued currency of the student learning experience (Becker, 1968).

project, each participant gave informed consent to take part in the research, which included the promise of confidentiality, anonymity and the right to withdraw at any stage.

Findings In this section, we explore key findings about formative assessment. Firstly, the implications of its portrayal in definitive documents and interview conversations; secondly, differences in perception and practice across programmes; thirdly, how academic workloads contribute to perceptions of formative assessment; and finally, the influence of modularity on the summative: formative assessment diet.

In this study the researchers identified disparities between written and spoken discourses about formative assessment at programme level. Most programme leaders gave strong emphasis to the value of formative assessment with some describing it as a regular part of the student experience:

The portrayal of formative assessment: written and spoken The first theme in the data was the contrast between written and spoken data about formative assessment, discussed in some detail by programme leaders but relatively thin in definitive documents and virtually invisible in module outlines which form a part of the programme documentation. Formative assessment and feedback are important cornerstones of student learning, with feedback described as “the single most powerful influence on learning” (Hattie, 1987), and having an “extraordinary influence on learning compared to other things in teaching” (Black & William, 1998). Formative assessment is defined as low-risk, unmarked assessment, through which students gradually master the skills of a discipline. It has wide support as a significant condition of learning (Nicol & McFarlane-Dick, 2006; Gibbs & Simpson, 2004; Knight, 2000) because it provides low risk learning opportunities for students, and is designed to develop capacity rather than measure it (Gipps, 1999). In comparing learner engagement and use of feedback, it has been found that students attend to feedback most readily when it is not accompanied by a mark (Black & William, 1998).

INT: What’s the balance in the programme between formative and summative? RES: Lots and lots and lots of formative assessment.

Ideal assessment environments allow students to develop their disciplinary knowledge and skills, through cycles of formative assessment and feedback, before measuring that capacity in summative assessment/s. Yet we live in a marks-driven culture

They’re submitting a blog on a daily basis and are getting feedback from the staff on a weekly basis. So there’s a lot of work going into that.

...one of the things that’s concerned me is that the skills they’re introducing at the moment are new skills to them in the main and I’ve been very concerned that they don’t suddenly hit these skills in an assessment without having had a chance to practice and be given proper feedback on it. So we’ve built in to each of our modules one piece of formative assessment of different types within each module. One of the early first year assignments is formative... and that particular piece of work was marked either as pass/fail but with written comments only. There’s a lot of research that says if you give a mark people just look at the mark and ignore reading the commentary. Every assignment has a formative element to it...

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One programme leader reflected on the consequent low status of formative assessment:

In spite of these and other similar comments, formative assessment is very thinly represented in the definitive documents of all the programmes under study. Definitive documents summarise the global philosophy, aims, pedagogy, academic content and assessment patterns across whole degree programmes, and are the defensible symbols of a validated programme for quality assurance purposes. A tacit dimension of programme documentation is its capacity to remain skeletal enough for programme teams to develop the curriculum responsively. Many academics would defend its right to be economical, with the specification loose enough for development to occur, while also enshrining the principle of programme autonomy:

I have to say though we’re finding it [formative assessment] more difficult as tutors as the numbers grow on the courses, you know, and a lot of us now are thinking I can’t do this, I just cannot do this because it’s just so much extra time... As the TESTA study has shown on programmes in a four similar universities, downplaying formative assessment in the documentation may have subtle and negative effects. It has the potential to be regarded as an optional feature of the curriculum, to which both lecturers and students assign low importance; it becomes a private, invisible dimension of pedagogy, which may be difficult to trace or share; and is more likely to succumb to neglect or patchy implementation, as a less accountable part of learning and teaching (Jessop and El Hakim 2010).

I do get the idea it is a conscious process but actually policy and processes is kept at fairly minimum at that sort of level because in the way we use that, we know it’s informing so there’s a standardisation at basic level but actually the programmes have quite a lot of control at the end of the day.

The following table shows the balance of summative to formative assessment represented in the definitive documents of the 14 programmes in this study:

In some cases, student module handbooks give texture and more specific definition to a programme, but being derivative of programme documentation, these too may under-represent formative assessment. Whatever the case, our study limits its focus to the level of the programme, exploring some implications of the missing vocabulary of formative assessment in programme specifications. While some definitive documents contain overarching statements about formative assessment, promoting a culture of assessment for learning, the module outlines within them are required only to specify summative assessment points, and their proportional weighting. The main implication of the requirement to name only summative assessment tasks is that formative assessment becomes discretionary – according to the programme leader, module tutors, philosophy, workloads, student culture, and perceived content load of the programme. Summative assessment, or in plain speech, marks, are re-inscribed as the thing that really matters, the important part of taking a degree. 20

Faculty (07/8)

Faculty (08/9)

Arts Education Social Sciences Education Education Social Sciences Social Sciences Social Sciences Arts Social Sciences Arts Arts Social Sciences Education AVERAGE

Arts EHSC EHSC EHSC EHSC HSS BLS EHSC Arts BLS Arts Arts BLS EHSC

Volume of Volume of Summative Formative 45 40 41 33 36 45 43 32 46 33 52 34 47 39 40

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0


The table is striking both in the extent of summative assessment it shows, and the absence of specific formative points, with the ratio of summative: formative averaging out at 40:0. If the purpose of assessment is to measure students’ achievement, then the current balance is well pitched. If its purpose is to help students to learn and grow in knowledge, skills, and understanding, before measuring their overall competence, then the balance of summative to formative is widely off the mark. Interviews with programme leaders underlined the difficulty of clearly identifying the extent of formative assessment on a programme, and demonstrated differences in perceptions and practices about formative assessment.

[I mean] formative in the sense that it may be a narrower, more detailed study of an aspect of the module maybe on which you would get feedback before you do the broader transcript. It’s heavily weighted towards summative assessment and even where we have formative assessment it’s actually a formative stage in a summative process. These perceptual differences were reflected in widely varying practices on giving formative feedback on draft assessments. Programme leaders had strikingly different views on giving feedback on drafts across all three levels of the undergraduate degree, although virtually all students experience the draftfeedback-redraft cycle in their Final Year Project, widely regarded as a pedagogically sound model. Several programme leaders are strong advocates comments on drafts (peer or tutor), while others feel it compromises the degree standard, or is an added burden on workloads. In one case, a programme leader received complaints from students that taking in drafts and commenting on them was ‘cheating’. The accusation of cheating is more easily levelled when drafting is patchily available to students, and not specified in programme documentation. As the quotations below show, the range of opinions on drafting swing from it being regarded as cheating to it being viewed as a normal part of pedagogy:

Differences in perceptions and practice The absence of specific reference to formative assessment tasks within programme documents contributes to varying perceptions of formative assessment, with some programme leaders regarding the first year as formative because the marks do not contribute to the final degree classification, while others view every marked assessment as formative in some way. The interview data illustrated the lack of a shared understanding of formative assessment among programme leaders at Winchester: That mark doesn’t count, that’s the only time actually when it is a genuinely formative assessment and that doesn’t contribute to their module mark.

...in some modules we will build a formative period so half way through or in week four or week five of a teaching block within that module, we will actually do a “Yeah, submit your draft” and we will spend half a session on actually looking at drafts, get the students to look at each other’s drafts, talk about it, do a presentation y’know, on what they’re doing, have the chat....

As far as I’m concerned Yr 1 is formative because it doesn’t count to the degree outcome. Now students don’t often see it in that way but yes, there’s a benchmark and hurdle to have to complete successfully to progress, but one could view all of that as formative for work at level 5 and 6.

My view is that if we put a lot of focus and attention into looking at critical drafts in Yr. 2, by gigantic wonderfulness by Yr. 3 we’ll need to do less of that maybe. ... it’s part of the philosophy. It’s a double thing, isn’t it? It’s a philosophy that enables the student but hopefully in the long term enables the tutor not to see the same things happening again and again.

Three weeks is three weeks is three weeks. It’s their right, they’ve spent ages on this. It’s their right to have it back. They don’t want any later, I mean, it’s old news. How can it be formative, how can it help them with the next assignment because they will get this feedback before they hand something else in so it’s always truly formative because there must be some formative comments on it. 21


We cannot keep assessing the way we have done when the numbers are going to be so big for some points of the university.

What we try not to do is have people sending in the whole assignment two weeks before and saying read through that because essentially they’re asking you to pre-mark it and that we don’t do. So you’ve kind of got an ethical “where’s the line?” question.

That’s 40 up pieces of work x 3 for each module and you might do four in a semester. They’re over-assessed. It’s not just here. I think they’re over-assessed generally, but that’s one of the things where you could handle it properly the 30 credit module, or a few of them, where you didn’t just simply double the weight of assessment, might help. But they are over-assessed. There’s just too much of it.

One which surprised me fantastically over the last two weeks was that giving drafts in was cheating because you’re getting extra help, and this is from a second year. They hadn’t picked up a culture at all of the fact that it was helping them to dialogue in a critical way. Lack of clarity about formative assessment within programmes contributes to some confusion for students, particularly for those on combined degrees. For lecturers, there appeared to be some jostling between pedagogic concerns, managing workloads, and interpretation of the regulations, or the ‘message’ from the centre. The next section explores the implications of high summative assessment on academic workloads.

Programme leaders generally welcomed the idea of “less is more” in relation to summative assessment, believing fewer deeper assessments might capture greater depth of learning and student engagement.

Assessment workloads

Programme leaders generally welcomed the idea of “less is more” in relation to summative assessment, believing fewer deeper assessments might capture greater depth of learning and student engagement. One or two expressed concern about the risk to degree classifications of fewer assessments, but none discussed the opportunity that reducing summative assessment could provide for increasing formative assessment.

One implication of a high summative pattern is that the marking and moderating loads of tutors are considerable, as quantified in detail by one programme leader, whose course attracts about 60 students a year and contains close to 50 summative tasks over the period of the degree: Typically a member of staff who is maybe teaching five modules a semester will have to read at any particular assessment point – take the second assessment point at the end of the semester, somebody in our department would probably have to read something between 300,000 and 0.5 million words.

I do like the fall back position of y’know, a minor assessment. If you’re a student and you’re getting more attention paid to a piece of work that you wouldn’t think that was somehow bad if you were doing less pieces. You’d obviously have to be careful that somehow that didn’t mean the student didn’t get a chance to still get that rising curve.

Given the high summative load, both academics and students would recoil, with good reason, at the thought of adding more assessment, albeit formative, to the load. A perception of overassessment pervaded the data, with some describing current practice as purposeless and mechanistic:

The drive for fewer summative assessments seemed to be motivated by the prospect of deeper learning, a more coherent and integrated programme approach, and more manageable workloads. There was a perception that programmes felt constrained not to reduce summative assessment because of

You end up assessing for assessment’s sake rather than thinking about what’s the assessment for. 22


There’s always someone who doesn’t do it. We don’t actually have it as an absolute course requirement. Usually, I mean if you start off with five or six who haven’t done it and you manage to frighten five of them into doing it.

individual lecturer’s subject passion, nervousness about the message coming from the centre, perceived risks to student degree classifications, and generally not wanting to rock the boat. The following quotes show aspirations towards more streamlined and coherent programme assessment, while also indicating some caution about making those changes:

Students would do weekly tasks and we would then reflect on those and there would be a forum and they would send the material or ideas and we’d reflect on that. But that wasn’t stuff that was officially part of the assessment and I found the consequence of it not being officially part of the diet being that a hard core did it and no more.

We certainly haven’t had a message here to crank assessment up since I’ve been in post...if anything, it’s been the opposite message.

My experience of the uptake where you offer kind of formative feedback or formative assessment is that it’s really low but I don’t expect students to be any different because as a programme everything is based around the summative assessment anyway so I think it’s really difficult to see what the point of the formative is, for the students.

In some places we do over-assess and you know like I was saying to you about this kind of integrated, one assessment pair plus the one that runs over, the bridging assessment, I think would be fantastic, I’d get more out of that. We’ll have actually dropped one piece of assessed work.

The influence of modularity

That’s one of the reasons we try to link modules or go from two to one. There’s always a danger of over-assessing when you’re doing disparate things.

One of the key issues discussed by programme leaders was the constraining influence of the modular structure. Several described it as anti-developmental, while others thought it had a silo effect on learning, leading to students not making conceptual and theoretical connections across a programme. There were a number of very negative comments about the deleterious effects of modularity on deep learning:

There’s quite a strong message coming from the centre at a certain level that over assessment is a problem and that as a programme team you’ve got permission to assess less. We certainly haven’t had a message here to crank assessment up since I’ve been in post since 2004, and if anything, it’s been the opposite message. But I think to an extent tradition, maybe a sense of nervousness about whether people really mean it when they say ‘Stop assessing so much’, and maybe habit.

I am concerned about the depth of a 15 credit module. It all feels a bit pick and mix to me. I don’t think there is any benefit of the modular system...the benefit from assessment should be development and I think the modular system works against development.

Cautiousness about reducing the number of summative assessments was linked to the perceived mark-orientation of students, with a lack of value ascribed to formative tasks both in programme documents and classroom reality. Programme leaders describe a situation where students are resistant to completing what they perceive as ‘extra’ and under-valued assessments for learning.

It looks like a choice but I’m not sure it is. It’s a choice not to have somebody developing your work.

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The modular system encourages students to read for assessment rather than to read for their disciplines. That’s the big loss…

of time and tariff, and fewer, more intellectually demanding, assessments: We need to think about whether we want to shift from fifteen to maybe thirty credits as the standard tariff and within those bigger modules begin to build in more space for students to think and reflect with slightly fewer assessment points, rather than simply doubling up fifteen credit assessments in a thirty credit package. To think a bit smarter and to open up a bit more space, which maybe would allow staff to deepen the feedback and at the same time also deepen the learning experience for the student.

Yet the modular system had its champions, with one programme leader arguing that 15 credit modules were creative, dynamic and responsive to change, and cautioning against longer modules which were likely to incur longer timelines for development and, potentially, greater bureaucratic scrutiny: I like the modular system because it’s dynamic. In that sense there’s also a potential - I have to say I think the university is far too bureaucratic, but there’s a potential for pretty quick curriculum innovation and design. I like that.

Conclusion Our paper has focused on one element of the data we collected on programme assessment, given its critical importance for student learning, yet under-valued status. Formative assessment and feedback is an important part of the scaffolding for student learning, which, at its best, feeds forward into linked sequences of formative and summative tasks, nurturing reflection, improvement and achievement.

I suspect that the curriculum design process will be slowed if every module was a 30 credit one because you put something together for a 15 credit module one semester and it needs a certain amount of work and a 30 week double semester module is more work.

Evidence from this study suggests that a confluence of factors contribute to a low, hidden or uneven pattern of formative assessment across programmes in our sample. These factors include that the students don’t take unmarked assessment seriously; that definitive documents don’t specify a formative requirement; that lecturers have huge marking workloads with current high volumes of summative assessment; that programme teams interpret formative assessment in different ways; and that the modular system inhibits planned sequences and cycles of assessment across the whole programme.

Both sets of comments were tempered by a more measured line, which recognised some limitations in the modular system, but also cautioned against a return to linear degrees: The modular system encourages students to read for assessment rather than to read for their disciplines. That’s the big loss but I’m a little sceptical about the arguments that run along the lines of ‘Well if we dismantle the modular system and go back to some kind of traditional academic year, with longer courses, students will immediately revert to an old traditional pre-1990 model’, because I think there are some other variables at play to do with changes in culture. Changes in the culture of learning, changes in the way students approach books and those sorts of things are going to be much harder to modify.

Shifting the culture of assessment from the high stakes, marks-driven, summative conveyor belt to a more developmental approach invites consideration of how quality processes interact with pedagogy

Most programme leaders conceived of an environment for deeper learning in modular terms but with more generous allocations 24


Taking into account the complexity of these factors, our paper has argued for a stronger discussion within and across programmes, about the value of formative assessment. The central tenet of our argument is that reducing summative assessment must be accompanied by an increase in formative assessment to ensure that students benefit from cycles of production, feedback and reflection as they develop in skills and knowledge, before their performance is measured.

Bloxham, S. & P. Boyd (2007) Planning a programme assessment strategy. Chapter 11 (157-175), in Developing Effective Assessment in Higher Education. Berkshire. Open University Press.

The TESTA study (2009-12) has demonstrated that students are much more likely to complete formative tasks if (a) it links to a future summative assessment (i.e. it feeds forward); (b) it is a course requirement (not usually generating a mark or pass/ fail, but preventing the completion of a module); (c) there is some social pressure, for example a visible public display of achievement, such as reading one’s writing to a group; a presentation, blog or poster display; (d) the formative task is commented on by peers and/or the tutor.

Gibbs, G., & Dunbar-Goddet, H. (2007). The effects of programme assessment environments on student learning. Higher Education Academy Report. Available at: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ assets/York/documents/ourwork/research/gibbs_0506.pdf

Esser, C. (2009) Whether Wikis work: Student and Tutor Experiences in Using the Wiki as a Non-Linear Form of Assessment. Proceedings to International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies. Barcelona: EDULEARN. [CD ROM]

Gibbs, G. & Dunbar-Goddet, H. (2009). Characterising programmelevel assessment environments that support learning. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 34,4: 481-489 Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004) Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. 1(1): 3-31.

Shifting the culture of assessment from the high stakes, marksdriven, summative conveyor belt to a more developmental approach invites consideration of how quality processes interact with pedagogy, whether the emphasis on measurement and its assurance has had some detrimental effects on curriculum development, and how assessment works on the whole programme - across, within and between modules to nurture assessment for learning. It is an invitation for academics to discuss the purpose and meaning of assessment and to re-orient whole programme assessment in ways which put learning from assessment at the heart of the student experience.

Gipps, C. (1999) Socio-Cultural Aspects of Assessment, Review of Research in Education. 24, 355-392. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. New York: Aldine Publishing Company. Hattie, J. A. C. (1987) Identifying the Salient Facets of a Model of Student Learning: A Synthesis of Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Educational Research. 11(2): 187-212

References Jardine, M. & Sauvage, M. (2009) Finding the Philosopher’s Stone: The Creation of Sophisticated E-Learning Items in the Humanities. Proceedings to International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies. Barcelona: EDULEARN. [CD ROM]

Becker, H. (1968) Making the Grade: The Academic Side of College Life (with Blanche Geer and Everett C. Hughes) New York: Wiley. New edition (1995) with new introduction. Black, P. & William, D. (1998) Assessment and Classroom Learning, Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice. 5 (1): 7-74. 25


Biographies

Jessop, T. S. (2007) Student Perceptions of Assessment and Feedback. Unpublished report to the University Learning and Teaching Committee. University of Winchester.

Dr Tansy Jessop is a Senior Fellow in Learning and Teaching at the University of Winchester. She leads the Higher Education Academy funded TESTA National Teaching Fellowship Project on programme level assessment. She has published on educational development in India and South Africa, and on the minority student experience and learning spaces (in press) in the UK.

Jessop, T. S. (2008) “If we miss a deadline, we get 40. If they miss a deadline, they still get paid�. Discuss. Conference paper presented to Higher Education Annual Conference, Harrogate. 2 July 2008. Jessop, T. S. (2008) Comparing Assessment and Feedback with three universities in the same benchmarking group. Unpublished report to the University Learning and Teaching Committee. University of Winchester.

Dr Fiona Handley is a University Research and Teaching Fellow at the University of Winchester, and programme leader on the Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. One area of particular interest to her is the impact of academic regulations and quality assurance procedures on learning and teaching.

Knight, P. T. (2000) The Value of a Programme-wide Approach to Assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 25(3): 237-251

Nicole McNab has been a Research Assistant for three years at the university. Her interests include assessment and feedback, academic misconduct, e-portfolio systems, and graduate employability. As a recent Winchester graduate, Nicole was in the unique position to offer a student perspective to this research on programme assessment cultures.

Nicol, D. J. and McFarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative Assessment and Self-Regulated Learning: A Model and Seven Principles of Good Feedback Practice. Studies in Higher Education. 31(2): 199-218 Rust, C. (2000). Opinion piece: A possible student-centred assessment solution to some of the current problems of modular degree programmes. Active Learning in Higher Education, 1, 126-131.

Laura Gubby is a Research Assistant at Winchester with involvement in the TESTA project. She lectures at Canterbury Christ Church University and is undergoing a PhD at the same establishment, which focuses on gender perceptions of children and sport. Lecturing has given her a strong interest in the theory and research behind Pedagogy.

Jessop T. and El Hakim Y. (2010) Evaluating and improving the learning environments created by assessment at programme level: theory and methodology. Presentation made to the EARLI Assessment SIG Conference, Northumbria University, 2 September 2010.

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Developing a community of practice in blended learning: theory, practice and reflection Bex Lewis Learning and Teaching Development Unit

Abstract

Cross (2007) questions whether the term “blended learning” has any value, unless “the ‘blend’ to be considered can include any mix and may not include any face-to-face at all”. Macdonald (2008) recognises that blended learning may not be the most helpful term, but it is widely used in the HE sector. As more flexibility is required from students, we need to find the right tools to meet that need, and it is these particular needs that must be identified. White (2010) argues that far too much attention is paid to the technology itself, “it’s like talking about the internal combustion engine, rather than stepping back about where we’re trying to head”. The phone, which is now culturally normalised, is now “the conversations we have on it, rather than the phone”.

The financial crisis has accelerated changes within Higher Education (HE), with expectations of increasing numbers of students who are living at home, part-time, mature, or from overseas. Students will expect better access to online courses, and a more flexible approach to learning, with ‘pick-and-mix’ degrees and opportunities to gain vocational experience through university-private-sector partnerships (BBC, 2010). Academics need to be prepared for change, but as Cross (2007) indicates “people do not know what they like; they like what they know”. This article focuses the mix of methods used, both online and offline, in seeking to establish a Community of Practice in Blended Learning at the University of Winchester, working towards creating a culture where people are confident to experiment with a mix of methods to improve their pedagogy.

How do institutions need to respond to a changing world? In the modern world, information is so abundant, that the job market is demanding “information literacy, numeracy, adaptability, problem solving and communication, rather than acquiring a stable body of knowledge” (Beetham & Sharpe, 2007). Digital literacy is also required, and for staff to change their teaching practices in response to these new needs (Fraser, 2010). As workplaces demand Continual Professional Development (CPD), and learners demand more flexibility, educational institutions are being networked into a grid of learning. Beetham and Sharpe (2007) indicate, that as campuses run out of physical space, and the government imposes limits on recruitment, universities are looking for other ways to increase capacity, particularly through

What is blended learning? The University of Winchester recognised the value of blended learning in creating the fractional post of Blended Learning Fellow in 2006, but what does the term mean? The term blended learning is contested but Macdonald (2008) indicates that it is most commonly associated with the introduction of online media into a course or `programme, whilst at the same time recognising that there is merit in retaining face-to-face contact and other traditional approaches to supporting students.

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to understand that many students don’t use online tools well, lacking critical skills, and have developed shallow research habits. Teachers will need to find ways to respond to this.

the use of virtual technologies, including virtual classrooms such as those offered by Wimba (an online suite of tools which offers virtual classrooms, audio tools and instant messaging). Machines may be able to store and process information, but it is people who transform and add value to it: “Tutors, mentors and online facilitators are now seen as the asset that makes all the difference to student retention, motivation and acceptance of e-learning”. We need both staff and students to be active learners, developing technological literacy, having an “openness to new technologies and the willingness to try out new software and new communications opportunities are more important than expertise with a wide range of software” (Mason & Rennie, 2004).

Developing a Community of Practice (CoP) amongst staff Within the university my role as Blended Learning Fellow is to encourage a culture, amongst both academics and administrative staff, where experimentation and confidence in technology is promoted through the development of a CoP around Blended Learning. The concept of ‘Communities of Practice’, first developed by Lave and Wenger in 1991, is “one of the most articulated and developed concepts within broad theories of social learning” (Barton & Tusting, 2005). Wenger (2006) popularised the term, using the term practice to indicate professional practice and the term community as “a group of shared interests and standards”. Mason and Rennie (2006) indicate that a CoP provides a common sense of identity with which members of the community can associate themselves. Cross (2007) likens an effective CoP to a beehive: “It organises itself, buzzes with activity, and produces honey for the markets”, whilst “newcomers learn the ropes from working alongside veterans”, where “peers learn from one another” rather than thinking that knowledge has to be trickled from the top down. Fraser (2010) indicates that people can’t be forced to join CoPs, although the development of a basic infrastructure is seen as key. At the International Blended Learning Conference 2010 (#iblc10), the Southampton Solent University educational developers discussed their efforts to create a Blended Learning CoP. They had developed relationships with individuals, which wasn’t efficient, but people liked it, and thus good will was developed. Salmon (2004) identifies the importance of socialisation, including technological socialisation, in the development of a CoP. White (2010) echoes this, indicating that it is key to “recreate those conversations that you can best have down the pub”. The best institutions have a centralised person promoting cross-faculty discussions, but often those of us looking to implement new technology have to recognise that the innovations come from grass roots. White (2010) notes that there is recognition that

In recent years the internet has moved from an information tool, to a relationship tool, built upon relationships of trust, with increasing numbers using peer-to-peer services.

As Jarvis (2009) indicates, in recent years the internet has moved from an information tool, to a relationship tool, built upon relationships of trust, with increasing numbers using peer-to-peer services. Prensky (2001) coined the term ‘digital natives’, which many believe applies to all young students, seen as technologically savvy. At the JISC E-Learning Fair (2009) ‘digital natives’ were identified as those whose expectations were global, responsive, and flexible but with a tendency towards the facile. Reports such as the CLEX report (2009) and Childwise Monitor Report (2010) have identified that the use of Web 2.0 as ubiquitous from the age of 12. White (2008), however, challenges this with a less age-dependent definition, identifying ‘digital visitors’, who see the web as a collection of useful tools, and ‘digital residents’ who see the web as a ‘place to live’. Arguably, whatever the definition, tech-savviness is strong amongst many students, but, despite a strong drive from management, there is much resistance amongst staff. CLEX identified that staff time and support issues are critical; not just familiarity with the technology, but where they fit strategically. As Beetham and Sharpe (2007) point out, staff need 30


relatively peripheral in the activities of a community and as they learn the practices their participation becomes more central”. There are a large number of people signed up to the Blended Learning Network, but not all are yet engaging with the associated offline activities.

e-learning strategies should not be developed around the technology but around the communications strategies, which can be a difficult and delicate job. Key to the development of a Blended Learning CoP at the University of Winchester have been a number of events, including a Collaborative Enhancement of Teaching (CET) lunch, a number of visits to Faculties, and individual meetings which have provided space for discussion. For 2010/11, a series of workshops has been prepared to engender confidence in using both the online tools that the students would be using, and the Wimba package to enable more flexible learning. As Chambers (2002) encourages, these workshops are intentionally “optimally unprepared” for workshops, with a strong basic schedule, but allowing time for flexibility, allowing space for “exploring, experiencing and learning”.

Staff attitudes to IT change A Bringing Educational Creativity to All (Becta) report (2004) indicated that the key internal barriers for teachers were: ‘lack of confidence, resistance to change and negative attitudes, and no perception of the benefits’. Added to that were the external barriers identified by John and Wheeler (2008): “lack of access to resources; lack of time; lack of effective training; technical problems”. They identify four types of teacher response to new technologies: First are the enthusiasts. They see the enormous potential in digital technology and try to master its complexities. They also see its use as a professional and pedagogic challenge and an opportunity. Second are the pragmatists. They support the appropriate and alternative uses of information and communication technology (ICT), are mildly critical of some of its excesses but see its potential to improve aspects of learning. Third are traditionalists who prefer to resist the advance of new technologies in schools to preserve a more esoteric order of learning based on human interaction and long-established pedagogy. Finally, there are the ‘New Luddites’ who are so critical of new technology that they seek to undermine its potential and use at every turn by seeking to undermine the profession’s dependence on it.

Drawing upon external CoPs to aid internal CoPs The material that feeds into these internal meetings has been collected not only from texts and online materials, but also from developing an external CoP amongst the global blended learning community, in listening to and presenting conference papers, and making key connections upon Twitter. The Blended Learning Fellow also sits upon a number of committees, including the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee, the Wimba Working Group and the Learning Network Working group. Wimba, for which a three-year licence was purchased in September 2009, has required a specific strategy, and the participation in the project BODGIT (Bringing Organisational Development Guidance into IT, 2010), funded by JISC, has provided both theoretical and practical perspectives on undertaking change management projects. Conversations have been held with individuals, presentations have been given to Faculties, and surveys with staff and students were undertaken in Summer 2010. From those who did respond, there’s a clear demand for training in new online tools. In many ways uptake in the Community is slow, but Beetham and Sharpe (2007) indicate that this is not to be unexpected : “learning of practices as processes of participation in which beginners are initially

Fee (2009) stresses that we need to involve people in “discovering the potential of e-learning for themselves”, whilst Sloman (2003) indicates that the responsibility must shift onto the individual learner, who is offered a climate supporting effective and appropriate learning. As the University of Canterbury demonstrates in its DEBUT model (showcased at #iblc10), staff are offered the opportunity to build up confidence in a range of e-tools, rather than directives towards specific tools. The package 31


Learning Network (http://learn.winchester.ac.uk/mod/wiki/view. php?id=68633), and come out from the subject silos to provide information that can be shared more widely.

is particularly focused on the less-confident learners, and this all counted towards CPD: awareness, confidence, evaluation, reflection, adaptability. Such models serve as inspiration for the development of the blended learning CoP at the University of Winchester.

Leveraging existing communities An awareness of the importance attached to discipline specific information cannot be ignored. Part of my rationale for visiting Faculties was that Beetham and Sharpe (2007) indicate that

The internet has introduced to all educational settings a wealth of new materials and ideas previously unimaginable. John and Wheeler point out that many teachers stigmatise blended learning as solely some ‘IT thing’, rather than approaching it from the perspective of how it can solve specific pedagogical problems. They view technology as a Trojan Horse, designed to de-professionalise their roles, whilst others simply view ICT as another costly, time-consuming and problematic addition to a profession already replete with challenges. For many there is scepticism as to the benefits, or fear of using e-tools, so the role of the Blended Learning Fellow is to sell the benefits and present case studies. With the emphasis on impact there’s a need for scholars to have their work known in a wider field, and personal examples from teaching, and research can encourage others to experiment and share their experiences (hence the creation of a Wiki). If academics agree with the term ‘digital natives’, then we work with the assumption that students are already familiar with the Web 2.0 world, which Tyson (2010) describes as:

Attempts to create communities of e-learning practitioners and/ or to share their knowledge have been notoriously difficult. Rather than creating a new community, it is likely that for the time being, there will be a substantial role for developers in working across already established communities. By acting as boundary-crossing agents they can represent other people’s practices to each community in a way tailored to prompt reflection and development. There are benefits to working with existing communities and networks with which practitioners are already affiliated, especially when time allows work at a programme specific level. Practitioners experience a feeling that there’s a genuine sharing of their concerns, and are then within a group of people with whom they can identify. The fact that the blended learning fellow is also an active lecturer has been helpful in building links with other academics, and also offers the opportunity to test tools within a real teaching setting. As Wenger et al (2009) indicate:

Fast, fluid and personal, and the number of people it can reach is breathtaking. Blogs, podcasts, and social networking sites such as YouTube and Twitter are the new marketplace or the dissemination of news and ideas. What drives all media is the story, reporting information that is new and has relevance to their audiences.

Technology stewards are people with enough experience of the workings of a community to understand its technology needs, and enough experience with or interest in technology to take leadership in addressing those needs. Stewarding typically includes selecting and configuring technology, as well as supporting its use in the practice of the community.

Academics, many of whom are less familiar, therefore need to engage with this also. Some refuse to engage, and say that e-learning is not for them, but Fee (2009) indicates that this is akin to saying that “they wanted to learn but they didn’t like reading books”, something no employer would expect. We need to encourage staff to share the knowledge, through the e-learning blog http://wblb.wordpress.com, contribute to the Wiki on the

Achieving an understanding of how a community functions “will require a combination of direct involvement, observations, and conversations with community members.” With roles at the University of Winchester since 1994, from student, research 32


Identifying the blocks

student, to staff, I have experienced a range of perspectives across the institution, facilitating a holistic overview, and access to people at different levels. As Fee (2009) indicates, the e-learning advocate will need to enact a change management plan: It will not be a single great act, but an accumulation of lots of events, activities and discussions over a period of time. Implementing this change management plan will not be quick or easy, but in most organisations, winning support from senior management, and making the plan explicit, should help accelerate the process.

As Wenger et al. (2009) suspect, some members of the University community experience “a sense of overwhelm” when faced with so many tools and options, and as other institutions have done, and as confidence is gained in a wider range of tools and software, the expectation is that the role of Blended Learning Fellow becomes one more of consultancy, and encouraging a encourage general confidence in using the tools. Salmon (2004) mentioned that the “[m]otivation to take part, and continue to take part, occurs as a balance between regular and frequent opportunities to contribute, and the capacity of learners to respond to the invitations”. What is a positive challenge to one, may be a block to another, so we need to identify opportunities to provide individual support, for instance with ‘Familiarisation’ sessions for Wimba (not ‘play’ sessions, as ‘play’ will be sidelined in workloads full to bursting), and paper-based materials for those who would not choose online as their first point of call for information. As a personal online identity is stabilised, and group dynamics kick in, it becomes easier for participants. Mason and Rennie (2006) emphasise that building trust and networking are key to creating a strong community of practice, allowing flexible forms of collective action.

Once students started they really enjoyed it and interacted well. It’s like standing on the side of a pool waiting to be the first to jump in – do you ‘be in the water and do the coaxing’ or ‘get behind them and do the shoving’. Defining the resource package As was outlined during the plenary session at #iblc10, it is important to know your stakeholders, their needs and the key messages that need to be communicated to them. A series of preplanned case studies will allow the message to be disseminated. Albert Einstein (2010) (quoted in Fee) said “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means”. Salmon (2004) offers the example of a tutor experimenting with using an e-forum within teaching for the first time. No one wanted to be the first to post, so the students were forced to with specific questions and a deadline. Once students started they really enjoyed it and interacted well. It’s like standing on the side of a pool waiting to be the first to jump in – do you ‘be in the water and do the coaxing’ or ‘get behind them and do the shoving’. Having listened to fears from others at the university, with regard to technology, I tend to ‘be in the water’, testing the tools my own teaching, and developing a resource bank of materials (online and offline) that are easily accessible across the disciplinary areas.

Are the resources of benefit in aiding the creating of a CoP? Identifying whether the online resources and offline workshops are of benefit can be difficult to establish, but a number of factors indicate that it is. The expansion of the role from 0.2 to 0.4 from August 2010 indicates there’s a recognition that there is more that can be done. The number of people involved in the blended learning section of the Learning Network is growing as are the number of people requesting meetings and workshops, and coming along to the CET lunch. When messages are posted on the portal with reference to the blog, the number of clickthroughs rises quickly. The efficacy of the online material and the workshops can’t really be determined at this stage, although for 2011/12 the workshops will be couched in terms of ‘benefits’ rather than specific software programmes.

33


Wenger et al (2009) identified a number of factors that define a successful Community of Practice, including: sustained mutual relationships (whether harmonious or conflictual); doing things together; the rapid flow of information and propagation of innovation; absence of introductory preambles, as if conversations and interactions were merely the continuation of an ongoing process; very quick setup of a problem to be discussed; substantial overlap in participants’ descriptions of who belongs; knowing what others know, what they can do, and how they can contribute to an enterprise; mutually defining identities; the ability to assess the appropriateness of actions and products; specific tools, representations, and other artefacts; local lore, shared stories, inside jokes, knowing laughter; jargon and shortcuts to communication as well as the ease of producing new ones; certain styles recognized as displaying membership; a shared discourse reflecting a certain perspective on the world. The University of Winchester is working towards this, which each step of the resource package bringing in a number of others to the conversation. As with Southampton Solent University, where the Emerging Technology User Group meet once a quarter (sharing practice in what people have been doing), blended learning practitioners tend to be preaching to the converted, so more work needs to be put into reaching those who are simply not interested.

aggregating and processing it. Academics need to be prepared for change, and the resources are now available for them to be aware of at least some of the technological changes.

It is most likely that the altruistic enthusiasts will provide such case studies, and once the evidence becomes overpowering the ‘new Luddites’ are more likely to come onboard, as a centralised community develops. Where now for the University of Winchester? In November 2010, the findings from a JISC funded project, to which the Blended Learning Fellow contributed with the Universities of Loughborough, Middlesex and Strathclyde, were submitted. The project gave insights into change management processes which may be involved when implementing IT projects. Key findings were that any new process requires a certain amount of flexibility from the implementer, who needs support from above and below, and that swift and dramatic change can not always be expected. Pressures upon staff time are immense, and staff development can get squeezed. Three methods tend to encourage people to continue, altruism, compliance, or through a strong business case (which will benefit the academic, not just the student), so the development of a resource pack, and internal case studies which resonate (and can be shared) with other users are crucial. It is most likely that the altruistic enthusiasts will provide such case studies, and once the evidence becomes overpowering the ‘new Luddites’ are more likely to come onboard, as a centralised community develops. Where possible that business case should be presented at a programme level, although with time limitations, much is currently done at Faculty level. A new initiative, the ‘Drop-in Day’ is intended to give those wary about the e-tools they hear so much about, the opportunity to see tools in action without having to give up large chunks of time.

Being ready for the future Johnson and Johnson (2004, quoted in Mason & Rennie, 2008) indicated that educators need to use the tools that are common in the social context of their day, because they are determining the way that people learn, and therefore a key part of the role is to consider open-source materials and their repurposing with an educational context. In 2007, Anderson (editor of Wired magazine) made three predictions that he believed would affect academics and academies. With the growing use of crowd-sourcing, there is a threat to universities as the traditional repositories of wisdom and knowledge creation, as it draws upon the wisdom of the crowd, rather than the wisdom of the expert. The growth of an amateur culture also challenges the academy as the elite repository of knowledge, bringing in Intellectual Property (IP) debates over the huge amount of data on the internet, and the use of tools for 34


At #iblc10 I was inspired by a talk from Paul Brett (University of Wolverhampton) where students were used as e-ambassadors, which was based upon three significant changes: that the e-side of the curriculum might better be done by students than staff; that the university might be better off using technologies that are free and that universities need to stop providing kit for students and incentivise students to own and use their own kit. The project was such a success that now 21,000 of their 22,000 students are involved. The e-partnership concept works for both staff and students, so long as e-champions are carefully selected. Facebook was the main platform used, students needed little support, learnt more and staff felt that communication channels were opened. With the growing emphasis on employability, this would be a great project to take the currently gathering community to the next level.

Jarvis, J. (2009) What Would Google Do? New York: Harper Collins

Bibliography

Prensky, M. (2001) ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’, On the Horizon, Vol, 9, No 5, MCB University Press (http://bit.ly/ prenskydignat, accessed 17/08/10)

John, P.D. and Wheeler, S. (2008) The Digital Classroom: Harnessing Technology for the Future Abingdon: Routledge Macdonald, J. (2008) Blended Learning and Online Tutoring: Planning Learning Support and Activity Design Aldershot: Gower Mason, R. & Rennie, F. (2008) E-Learning and Social Networking Handbook: Resources for Higher Education London:Routledge ------ (2006) Elearning: The Key Concepts Oxon: Routledge ------ (2004) The Connecticon: Learning for the Connected Generation Connecticut: Information Age Publishing

Printed Texts

Salmon, G. (2004) EModerating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online Oxon: RoutledgeFalmer

Barton, D. & Tusting, K. (eds) (2005) Beyond Communities of Practice: Language, Power and Social Context, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Sloman, M. (2003) Training in the Age of the Learner London: CIPD

Beetham H., & Sharpe, R. (eds) (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age Oxon: Routledge

Tyson, W. (2010) Pitch Perfect: Communicating with Traditional and Social Media for Scholars, Researcher, and Academic Leaders, Virginia: Stylus

Chambers, R. (2002) Participatory Workshops London: Earthscan Childwise (2010) The Monitor Report 2009-10 Norwich

Wenger, E., White, N., Smith, J.D. (2009) Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities Portland, OR: CPsquare

Cross, J. (2007) Informal Learning San Francisco: Pfeiffer

Online

Fee, K. Delivering E-Learning (2009) Delivering E-Learning: A complete strategy for design, application and assessment London: Kogan Page

BBC News (20/03/10), ‘Universities Look Into the Future’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8577272.stm, accessed 20/03/10 35


White, D., (July 2008) ‘Not ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’, http://tallblog.conted.ox.ac.uk/index. php/2008/07/23/not-natives-immigrants-but-visitors-residents/, accessed 17/08/10

Brett, P. (17/06/10), ‘Using Students as e-ambassadors #iblc10’ http://digital-fingerprint.co.uk/2010/06/paul-brett-usingstudents-as-e-ambassadors-iblc10, accessed 17/11/10 Leaning, M., Lewis, B. & Mortimer, J., ‘Manipulating Media’, http://manipulating-media.co.uk, accessed 13/09/10

Wilson, A. (2010) ‘Bringing Organisational Development Guidance into IT’ http://www.work-with-it.org.uk/EmbeddingWorkwithIT/ WinchesterODG.aspx, accessed 13/07/10

Lewis, B., http://digital-fingerprint.co.uk/ accessed 18/08/10

Wilson, A., Janesky, M., and Lewis, B. (2010), ‘Executive Summary: Organisational Development in IT’, http://wblb. wordpress.com/2010/11/15/executive-summary-organisationaldevelopment-in-it-bex-lewis, accessed 17/11/10

http://learn.winchester.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=1203, accessed 18/08/10 http://www.slideshare.net/drbexl/, accessed 18/08/10

Dr Bex Lewis

Melville, D., (March 2009), ‘Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World’ http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/ heweb20rptv1.pdf (formerly at http://www.clex.org.uk/), accessed 29/11/09

Bex Lewis is Blended Learning Fellow at the University of Winchester, with a particular interest in understanding in developing Communities of Practice, and in social media. With a PhD in historical communications, she is also an Associate Lecturer for History and Media Studies.

Rush, D. (2009) ‘Using the LN to Support Innovation in Learning’, PGCLTHE, University of Winchester http://learn.winchester. ac.uk/course/view.php?id=1237 Wenger. E. (2006) Communities of Practice: a brief introduction, http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htm, accessed 30/07/10

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38


Plagiarism – worth the gamble? Nicole McNab Learning and Teaching Development Unit

Abstract:

University policy is echoed by the National Union of Students (NUS) who have been outspoken about plagiarism in recent years. In April 2008, Wes Streeting, Vice President (later NUS president) wrote ‘‘there is no excuse for intentionally plagiarising. Their deliberate misconduct denigrates the hard work by fellow students and they should be rightfully punished’’ (Streeting, 2008). To challenge intentional cheating there needs to be understanding and shared responsibility between all members of the institution (MacDonald and Carroll, 2006). The difficulty is how this shared responsibility is achieved.

‘Plagiarism is a fact of academic life’ (Adams and Brown, 2006). As student numbers have increased, the competition for a high quality degree has become ever more essential to compete in today’s market. Regrettably some students try to cheat their way through their studies in order to come out the other side as more desirable candidates for work. The BBC (2010) has reported a six per cent increase of cheating in education in recent years. Plagiarism: Worth the Gamble? was a fast-track project which attempted to capture student understanding and perceptions about plagiarism. Winchester students participated by completing a brief questionnaire or voluntarily being interviewed for a short film. The project gathered responses from across all four faculties in the institution, across all years of study and a range of programmes. The results demonstrated a difference between staff and student perceptions of plagiarism at Winchester. Furthermore even students that felt confident about what constituted plagiarism could not agree when asked to specify individual cases. This project has highlighted the importance of engaging with student interpretations of procedures and tackling areas where confusion remains.

Staff and student perceptions are vastly different especially regarding the terminology of plagiarism and its punishment (Park, 2003).

During the second semester of the 2008/2009 academic year, Tansy Jessop and I interviewed fourteen programme leaders across the institution, exploring assessment cultures at a programmatic level. Comments about plagiarism and poor academic practice emerged from these discussions, with a general feeling among those who mentioned it that there was an increase in plagiarism due to students’ use of internet sources and a feeling that one or two cases had been handled leniently, by the institution. However as each faculty appoints Academic Conduct Officers to handle cases of alleged plagiarism, institutional mechanisms at the centre may seem remote from programme leaders’ experience. Given the confidentiality of the research data and the plagiarism cases, it is difficult to verify these feelings with hard evidence on a case-by-case basis.

Background: In the University of Winchester Academic Misconduct Policy for Taught Programmes, approved by Senate in January 2011, the first sentences is as follows: The University takes very seriously all cases of academic misconduct. Students who gain improper advantage threaten the values and beliefs that underpin academic work and devalue the integrity of the University’s awards (UOW, 2011). 39


Programme leaders are not alone in their perception that universities err on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt to students. Woessner (2004) wrote a convincing article Beating the House: Inadequate Penalties for Cheating Make Plagiarism an Excellent Gamble which demonstrates the unlikelihood of students being caught cheating and the dangers of not enforcing policy.

There is hard evidence about plagiarism accusations and the number which have been upheld, although data on cases relating to poor academic practice, or cases handled within Faculties was not available for this research. During the 2008/2009 academic year 33 students were formally accused of plagiarism, 30 of which were proven to be true; 24 of them were multiple offences (which may be multiple assignments for one student dealt with in one instance). Out of this total, only one student left the university, 10 failed the module, 12 redeemed the assignment capped at 40%, and one student redeemed the assignment with no capping of grade. Between the academic years 2005-2006 and 2006-2008, one student was told they would be required to withdraw in 2006 out of 39 proven cases of cheating (some students however do leave before attending an Academic Misconduct Panel, for instance if the student academically failed anyway). Four students who were deemed to have plagiarised received no further action than what had previously been imposed prior to the panel. This is not to say every student who is alleged to have cheated deserves to be, or should be expelled from the university, however as one programme leader perceives alleged plagiarism: “there has to be a balance struck between the reputation of the degree and I suppose a degree of compassion for the student at the same time”. It should be noted University Policy does not permit personal, medical or family related excuses when a student has been accused of cheating.

Programme leaders spoke about differing attitudes of students compared to staff regarding plagiarism. Contemporary research by Park (2003) concludes that staff and student perceptions are vastly different especially regarding the terminology of plagiarism and its punishment. Furthermore, as explained by Freewood, MacDonald and Ashworth (2003), “although definitions have become more student-centred, many authors describe student difficulty with understanding definitions of plagiarism”. My research project aimed to develop from this notion that plagiarism at the University of Winchester and within Higher Education can be perceived by students a worthwhile gamble, while exploring their overall understanding and knowledge of plagiarism and poor academic practice generally.

Methodology Ramsden (1992) asserts that students will respond to the situation and environment that they believe they are placed within, which may differ from the reality that is defined by staff. This has led the project to focus on student responses to discover the differences between staff and student understandings, using data gathered on the Assessment Cultures project to evaluate how programme leaders’ perceptions compared with student perceptions.

Another programme leader felt that there had been an increase in plagiarism and that some students in higher education may unfortunately perceive it to be “worth the gamble”, which seems unjust to peers: I think it’s getting worse and I don’t know, just anecdotally amongst students, and this may be wrong, but I think they’re probably fed up with people they know cutting corners. I think if you put the work in and you know so and so has just bunged something in and got away with it, the chances are if you don’t get caught you’ll get a 2.1

As this research was aimed at students only, the challenge was to encourage students to voluntarily participate in a project that dealt with a sensitive topic which some felt uncomfortable openly and honestly discussing. Due to the topic matter and using live subjects in the project, the ethics process was extensive. It included filling out the usual forms, providing examples of consent forms, project information sheets, details of how I would ensure 40


students remained anonymous, and how I would keep records confidential and inaccessible to anyone outside of the project team. Students were informed at all times that they had the right without prejudice to be removed from the project. The ethics procedure was the most time consuming element of the project.

random and contacted either in person or via a link to a copy of the questionnaire created in Survey Monkey. The speed of respondents increased dramatically once the questionnaire was available online and could be accessed either through their emails or the university portal. 276 people responded in total.

There were two ways in which students could participate in the project; filmed interviews or a short anonymous questionnaire. In 2010 the Higher Education Academy (HEA), commissioned a small project to film approximately 20 students across a number of HEI’s, interviewing them about their understanding of plagiarism. The short film, found in their resources under Assessment, Feedback and Plagiarism, gives a five minute insight into how students perceive plagiarism during their studies. I felt inspired by this methodology of gathering and disseminating research findings, and therefore included in the project bid a short four minute film to be created using University of Winchester students only.

Every student interviewed mentioned referencing as a challenge.

The completed questionnaires were entered in to SPSS (statistics software), for quantitative analysis. To a limited extent Survey Monkey provides some capability for statistical analysis, however to achieve the numbers required for significance would have necessitated the purchase of a licence (subsequently purchased by LTDU for use in 2011). SPSS was therefore more appropriate at the time. At the end of the questionnaire students were offered space to make any further comments which were analysed separately to compare with the quantitative results. To look at a copy of the questionnaire: http://portal.winchester. ac.uk/?page=12436

The film crew consisted of Lewys Brown and Christopher Key, who were 2nd year Media Production students (who have subsequently established their own business Bolt Media, through the business start-up scheme run by the university). The Student Union and Film Crew advertised for students to be filmed for approximately one hour to discuss plagiarism, referencing, and poor academic practice within the institution. In order for the filming to take place, Key filled out a risk assessment form in full, which was checked and verified by the University Security and Safety Officer, and during filming we placed signs informing members/visitors that filming was taking place and to inform us if they did not wish to be filmed (applicable in the Student Union – clearance for this was granted by the SU General Manager and Executive Team). The filming was completed in one day and the editing took an additional three days. To see a copy of the video: http://portal.winchester.ac.uk/?page=12436

Results A total of 12 students were interviewed and filmed: five males and seven females, from across the institution. Three of the interviews were shorter than the others as requested by the students involved. Students defined plagiarism as copying/using others work and passing it off as your own. This is similar to the University definition of plagiarism: The verbatim or near verbatim copying or paraphrasing without acknowledgment, from published or unpublished material which is the intellectual property of another, including the work of other students (UOW, 2011).

To substantiate data in the short film, students were invited to complete a one A4 sided questionnaire which produced both qualitative and quantitative results. Students were chosen at

However, there was not an in-depth engagement with the meaning of plagiarism, which developed on from a generic understanding. All students interviewed failed to consider collusion, contract 41


cheating (e.g. paper mills – where students can purchase essays online), self plagiarising, cheating in examinations/timed assessments, or falsification. When interviewees were asked to rate their knowledge of plagiarism out of ten, the mean of these answers was 5/10. The lowest answer was 2/10 and the highest 8/10. 63% of respondents to the question rated their knowledge of plagiarism 5 out of 10 or less. Students came across confident when asked to define plagiarism and misconduct, but when prompted to rate their knowledge students had less conviction. The possible reason for this is their lack of understanding when it came to referencing. Every student interviewed mentioned referencing as a challenge they struggle to conquer, and only a few suggested they had achieved this.

instance an Arts student commented, “I’m assuming people aren’t plagiarising”. Interview comments about students who do plagiarise described such students as lazy, leaving everything to the last minute and ambivalent about their studies - a very stereotypical assumption about students that engage in academic misconduct. These views were not dissimilar to the questionnaire. The questionnaire was completed by 276 students from 41 programmes across all four faculties of the university (77% -212 students completed the questionnaire online through Survey Monkey). In addition 45 (16%) students also left a comment at the end of the questionnaire. Although 199 (72%) were aged between 19 to 22 years old, the age of students ranged from 18 to 63 years old. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students participated, however for this report only undergraduates are considered due to a small postgraduate responses rate. Harvard, Latin, Oscola and Chicago referencing systems were indicated by students: 92% use Harvard as their main/only referencing system. Caution is advised as some of the student responses are limited in number, however this does not mean they are not worthy of note.

The most frequent comments about plagiarism focused on punishment for cheating. A perceived culture of fear was implied by the majority of interviewees. For instance over 70 per cent of students used the term ‘kicked/thrown off the course’ when asked what would stop people cheating. A BLS student commented “the only deterrent they need is if you get caught you get thrown off the course, wasted however long you’ve been at university and money you’ve wasted”. However as some programme leaders mentioned, and university records show, this is not the usual result of alleged cases, which may be as a result of an unfounded allegation, or the severity of misconduct.

Student confidence about plagiarism decreases as they progress through their course. Between year one and year two there is an 11% drop in students claiming to understand plagiarism.

All of the interviewees spoke about being taught about plagiarism in their first year, whether this was in the form of a lecture, seminar, assignment, or resource material. Only two students implied they received programme or module level information directly after the first year. However those interviewed listed a number of ways students could seek support to prevent plagiarism. These included Student Services, Personal Tutors, Student Union, peers, course material, lecturers, and Learning Network; “the help is there if you really want it”. Despite students knowing about support systems, they did not feel it necessary to utilise them. It became apparent during the interviews that many students were not aware of any plagiarism cases, or that it was an issue for the University; for

The majority of students (88%) claim to understand plagiarism, with male students almost 7% more confident about plagiarism than female students. Student confidence about plagiarism decreases as they progress through their course. Between year one and year two there is an 11% drop in students claiming to understand plagiarism. According to student responses, fourth year undergraduates are 19 percentage points less confident about plagiarism than first years. Please see diagram.

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In these examples, students were asked to differentiate between what would be deemed plagiarism and what would not. Examples were deliberately difficult in order to test whether students could determine borderline cases of plagiarism. This prompted students to comment “I find it hard to understand what is plagiarism and what is not plagiarism, the line is so fine”’ (3rd Year student). According to my own interpretation of the University’s Academic Misconduct Policy examples a) and c), unless done extensively, were not plagiarism, rather poor academic practice. Examples b) and e) could be deemed collusion, while d) could be plagiarism. All examples would require further investigation into the individual circumstances, which intentionally reflected every day scenarios. Male students and students that selected ‘yes’ for Q3 – Have you ever plagiarised? were less convinced that examples c) and d) demonstrated plagiarism, than other categories of students. There were differences depending on the year of study the student was, for example, 83% of third year students believed b) was plagiarism as opposed to 56% of first year students. The only longitudinal trend occurred with example d) about using previous students’ work, which became more acceptable to students as they progressed through their courses.

In spite of the responses to Q1 Do you feel confident that you know what plagiarism is? student answers did not differ when asked to apply their knowledge of plagiarism in Q2 Please indicate which of the boxes below are examples of plagiarism. Consequently all student responses have a similar interpretation of plagiarism, meaning students who deem themselves to have a sound knowledge do not respond differently to students who are less confident about plagiarism. The table below displays the overall response rate as a percentage for each example. Question 2 a) C  opy and pasted work from the internet without quote marks, but referenced b) Working with a friend on a written piece of assessment, producing two near identical pieces c) Referencing incorrectly d) U  sing previous student’s work to help your research/assignment e) Getting drafts checked by friends

‘It’s Plagiarism’ 72.9

‘It’s OK’ 27.1

73.2

26.8

54.7 48.7

45.3 51.3

3.0

97.0

Question 3 specifically asked students to indicate whether they had plagiarised during their course. 29 students (10.5% of respondents) admitted they had plagiarised. This is a very different proportion from the 0.5% of the student body who are formally accused of plagiarism each year. It should be noted that it is unknown how severely respondents plagiarised or whether this sample might constitute the average across the student body. It does however suggest that there is a statistical difference between those breaking academic regulations, and those who are ‘caught’. Furthermore students who ticked ‘yes’ for Q3 were 10 per cent more likely to select ‘no’ for Q1 Do you feel confident you know what plagiarism is? A greater percentage of Female students selected ‘yes’ to Q3 than male students, and 62% of students that admitted plagiarising had done so between commencing their course and by the Christmas vacation period in their 2nd year.

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students strongly agreed or agreed with this question. Student responses indicated that students generally felt the university deals with alleged plagiarism fairly, with female students, first year students, and students who use Latin referencing the most likely to strongly agree or agree. Similar to the findings in the interviews, students felt protective about and quite strongly that offenders should not instantly be expelled from university, despite their fear that this happens. Only 18% of students strongly agreed or agreed that students should be expelled. Unsurprisingly, students whom claimed to have plagiarised in Q3 Have you ever plagiarised? were 22 percentage points less likely to agree with Q7 about expelling offenders. Similarly, students that ticked ‘no’ for Q1 had the largest correlation for students selecting strongly disagreed or disagreed to Q7.The final question, Lower achieving students are more likely to plagiarise, received an even range of responses, which is contradictory to the interview comments about the stereotypical student who cheats.

The remaining questions from the questionnaire focused on fairness/consistency across the course, stereotypes and punishment for students who cheat. This was conducted by using a five point Likert scale, which ranged from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The results are shown as a percentage in the table below. SA

A

?

D

SD

Q4 T  he marker/lecturer generally spot cases of plagiarism

14

41

38

7

1

Q5 P  lagiarism across lecturers/courses is dealt with consistently

13

30

47

10

1

Q6 T  he institution deals fairly with students who are suspected of plagiarism

11

40

40

8

1

Q7 Students should be instantly expelled if they plagiarise.

5

13

22

37

23

Q8 Lower achieving students are more likely to plagiarise.

8

22

27

26

16

Conclusion/Discussion Overall, students generally perceive themselves to have a sound knowledge of plagiarism and know the basic definitions and terminology. Unfortunately their confidence reduces when asked to rate their knowledge more specifically, and they do not always agree when applying their understanding to examples. It is concerning that over 10 percent of students surveyed admitted to cheating while at university. Whether this was a minor offence once or multiple serious offences, is not clear from the data. However, student responses highlight the small numbers of plagiarism allegations that are taken forward in academic misconduct procedures each academic year, and this may have led many students to imply that they are unaware of the procedures of the institution regarding misconduct. The QAA guidelines (2006) indicate that students should accept their responsibility regarding academic conduct, which is achieved through consistency across the institution and students being informed of the consequences. In order to achieve the QAA recommendations, students need to be encouraged to approach assessment as a learning experience, rather than a grading

Large proportions of students selected neither agree nor disagree for at least one of the questions in this section. In response there were 14 comments left by students about these questions and their lack of knowledge/experience in the area. For example a typical comment was “it’s difficult to say how the Uni deals with plagiarism, as I don’t know anyone that has been affected by the situation” (3rd Year student). The majority of student responses, particularly first years and students using the Latin referencing system for footnotes, either strongly agreed or agreed that the marker of an assignment spots cases of plagiarism. When asked whether plagiarism was dealt consistently across the university, the majority of students selected neither agree nor disagree, although 50% of year one 44


exercise alone (Macdonald and Carroll, 2006). HEI’s have a responsibility to take action, whether in the form of research, development, or disciplinary procedure. Zangrando (1992) confirms that “inaction and silence…represent the plagiarist’s fondest haven”, a sentiment echoed by Cole and Kiss (2000); “silence and neglect help cheating cultures develop and thrive”.

intentionally set out to break the rules” (Streeting, 2008).It became increasingly apparent that first year students were more confident about plagiarism and felt it was dealt consistently and fairly throughout the institution and these beliefs seem to diminish for students each year. According to research conducted by Carroll (2002) from Oxford Brookes University students need to be given information about plagiarism throughout their course; otherwise they revert to their previous experiences with policy – often an inadequate experience gathered from Secondary and Further Education. Students do have access to plenty of information in handbooks, policies and even a Student Guide to Plagiarism, Collusion and Poor Academic Practice (UOW, 2006). However, direct reiteration may be needed more frequently. Brown and Howell (2001) conducted an experiment asking one group of students to frequently read a statement outlining plagiarism procedure, while another group were left to their own devices. The first group improved their understanding about plagiarism, while the latter remained static in their knowledge throughout. Evidence from this study has demonstrated the value of consistent programme and module level re-iteration of university regulations and conventions about academic misconduct throughout the course of degree programmes. It is not sufficient to lay down the law only in first year.

Inaction and silence…represent the plagiarist’s fondest haven (Zangrando 1992).

There is a stark difference between student and staff responses plagiarism at Winchester. As discussed in the background, some programme leaders do not believe the institution deals harshly enough with students who are alleged to have cheated during their course. However student responses suggest there is a belief students who plagiarise are dealt with and disciplined extensively for their actions. Comments from the interviews and questionnaires imply students should be treated more leniently than they perceive they are treated when suspected of plagiarism; for example a first year English student wrote “I am not sure of the penalties of plagiarism but definitely think students shouldn’t be expelled for it”. This culture of fear that students often face expulsion led a Law student in their second year to simply claim “the threat of it scares me”. This is a notion not only Winchester students share; the NUS claims “the so-called ‘plagiarism police’ employed in many institutions can create an unhealthy atmosphere for students and staff” (Streeting, 2008).However it is the fear culture perceived by students, which prevents many from plagiarising in the first place.

At the heart of the problem lies drawing a clear distinction between mistake and misconduct, between students who unwittingly find themselves falling foul of academic regulations and those who intentionally set out to break the rules (Streeting, 2008).

It is evident from the results, that the majority of students in the interviews and questionnaire believe plagiarism occurs unintentionally, which they often link to a lack of knowledge and understanding. This has been further reiterated by NUS : “at the heart of the problem lies drawing a clear distinction between mistake and misconduct, between students who unwittingly find themselves falling foul of academic regulations and those who

Gourlay and Grieg’s (2007) research indicated up to 30 per cent of alleged plagiarism was caused by students’ inability to reference correctly. Neville led a workshop at the 4th International Plagiarism Conference in July 2010, concentrating on referencing and its relationship with plagiarism. Referencing and its correlation with plagiarism was a frequent comment from 45


Cardew, P. (2006) A Student’s Guide to Plagiarism, Collusion and Poor Academic Practice, Winchester: UOW.

students. One student interviewed claimed “I have to sit there for ages and work out how to reference something”; a first year Sports Studies student at the end of her questionnaire wrote “there needs to be more clarification at the start of year 1 as to how to reference and what is classed as plagiarism”. More sessions on referencing, or demonstrating prevention software, such as Turnitin, are next steps in further enhancing student perception and knowledge of plagiarism. This study has shown that there are concrete actions that lecturers , researchers and education developers can take which will make it much less “worth the gamble” for students to plagiarise. Most of these interventions are not about ‘policing’ plagiarism offenders because students believe these are well-policed anyway, but instilling knowledge, skills and awareness so that students are less inclined to want to plagiarise.

Carroll, J. (2002) A Handbook for Deterring Plagiarism in Higher Education, Oxford: OCSLD. Cole, S., and Kiss, E. (2000) What Can We Do About Student Cheating?, About Campus, pp. 5-12. Conghlen, S. (2010) Hi-Tech Exam Cheating Increases says Ofqual, February 2010. [Accessed 3rd February 2010]. Available from www. news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8493132.stm Connon, N. (2011) Academic Misconduct Policy for Taught Programmes, Winchester: UWO.

Author: Freewood, M., MacDonald, R. and Ashworth, P. (2003) Why Simply Policing Plagiarism is not the Answer. In Rust, C. (ed.) Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice – 10 Years on, Oxford: OCSLD.

Nicole McNab is the Research Assistant for the Learning and Teaching Development Unit. Nicole was awarded L&T Fast-track funding last academic year examining student perceptions and understanding about plagiarism at the University of Winchester. This paper is the summary of her findings.

MacDonald, R., and Carroll, J. (2006) Plagiarism – A Complex Issue Requiring a Holistic Institutional Approach, Assessment and Evaluation, 31 (2), pp. 233-245.

References (2006) QAA’s Code of Practice for Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards in Higher Education, Section 6: Assessment for Students, September 2006. [Accessed 5th May 2010] Available from http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfracture/codeOfpractice/ section6/default.asp.

Park, C. (2003) In Other (People’s) Words: plagiarism by university students – literature and lessons, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 28 (5), pp. 471-488. Ramsden, P. (1992) Learning to Teach in Higher Education, London: Routledge.

(2010) Plagiarism Cases 2005-2008, Winchester: UOW.

Streeting, W. (2008) NUS Education Briefing Paper: Plagiarism, London: NUS.

Adams, M., and Brown, S. (2006) Towards Inclusive Learning In Higher Education: Developing Curricular for Disabled Students, Abingdon: Routledge.

Woessner, M. (2004) Beating the House: How Inadequate Penalties for Cheating Make Plagiarism an Excellent Gamble, PS: Political Science and Politics, 37 (2), pp. 313-320. Zangrando, R. L. (1992) Historians’ procedures for handling plagiarism, Publishing Research Quarterly, 7 (4), pp. 57-64.

Brown, V., and Howell, M. (2001) The Efficacy of Policy Statements on Plagiarism: Do they Change Student s’ Views?, Research in Higher Education, 42 (1), pp. 103-118.

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48


Assessing dyslexic students: a review Caroline Bate Introduction

National policy context

The practice of using dyslexia stickers to alert teaching staff to a student’s learning difference is a reasonable adjustment that is in place across the Higher Education (HE) sector. A report presented to the University of Winchester (UoW) Disability Action Forum (DAF) in 2008 highlighted a number of issues raised by students and Specific Learning Difference (SpLD) support staff at UW regarding the effectiveness of the stickers as a tool for supporting and developing the academic skills of dyslexic students. Key concerns highlighted by the report focused on the awareness and understanding of the dyslexia sticker system by academic staff (staff being unaware of or actively disregarding stickers) and the accessibility of feedback on written work (in particular the legibility of handwritten comments/comments sheets on assessed coursework).

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), the Special Education Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) and, in particular, Part IV of the DDA (as amended) 2001 have had a significant impact on HE. With the implementation of the DDA, Part IV, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) were required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students. Crucially, this legislation also placed an anticipatory duty on universities which meant that “instead of starting to think about what adjustments would need to be made once an individual arrived on campus, there was a duty on HEIs to review and adapt policies and procedures in advance” (Jacklin et al. 2007: 8). The Disability Equality Duty, which came into force in December 2006, restated this shift in focus requiring public authorities to “act proactively on disability equality issues across the board, rather than on an individual basis” (DRC, 2006: 4). Included in this was the requirement (for certain public authorities, including HEIs) that a Disability Equality Scheme (DES) be published in order to benchmark, monitor and actively promote equality for disabled stakeholders.

Student Services commissioned this report, funded by an L&T Fast Track Fellowship, to explore how dyslexia stickers are employed by other institutions across the sector, and examine their effectiveness as a reasonable adjustment in the assessment of dyslexic students’ work. It is hoped that the findings of this research will:

It is important to note that this development of provision for disabled students has taken place within a challenging context (see Tinklin et al., 2004; Jacklin et al. 2007) which has seen a government-led drive towards widening participation and a significant increase in student numbers, at the same time as HEIs have also experienced a decrease in funding (and the consequent marketisation of HE) and an increase in accountability via the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and the Research Assessment Exercise (Tinklin et al. 2004: 644). However, as Jacklin et al. (2007) have observed, even given such a demanding context there has been a significant increase in the number of disabled students entering HE. In 1994/1995 3.5% of students disclosed a disability,

a) Deepen understanding of current approaches, theories and practices within the UK HE sector about how best to support dyslexic students; b) Inform processes of development to promote the achievement of dyslexic students and the on-going development of the dyslexic student experience at Winchester; c) Raise awareness of the impact of dyslexia on a students’ learning experience. 49


in 2002/2003 the figure was 6% (Riddell and Weedon, 2006: 64). Most significantly, in terms of this report, in the same period the proportion of dyslexic students has risen from 15% to 49% (whilst those disclosing an unseen disability has decreased significantly) (ibid). Several explanations have been proposed for this increase, including: the earlier identification of dyslexia at school; the impact of widening participation with higher numbers of mature students whose dyslexia had not been detected earlier; and the support provided by the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) (Riddell and Weedon 2006: 64). Also of note here is the incentive of Premium Funding for institutions that attract disabled students.

Recognising the growing diversity and range of the disabled student population, proponents of this approach argue that it is necessary “to embrace the implications of both medical and social models if the personal and collective experience of disabled people in ‘negotiating’ their everyday life is to be understood” (ibid). This, in turn, leads to the argument, set out by Jacklin et al., (2007), that the frame of reference be widened beyond the issue of disability to “focus on provision and practices for all students” (48). Indeed, as Adams and Brown (2006) have suggested, “good practice for disabled students, is generally good practice for all students” (4). In short, as summarised by Ashworth et al. (2010), the pluralistic model is centred on a recognition of difference and the (re)conceptualisation of inclusion “as a response to an increasingly diverse student population” in which all students (disabled and non-disabled) “become equal members of a learning community where diversity is pre-eminent” (Ashworth et al., 2010: 210).

It is therefore no surprise that the QAA’s most recent audit of institutional support for students with disabilities notes that “dyslexia is the most common disability identified amongst HE students” (see also Mortimore and Crozier, 2006: 236) and that as a consequence “support for dyslexic students is the fastest growing area of work for disability officers and units” (QAA, 2009: 13).

Tinklin et al.’s study (2004) of policy and provision for disabled students in English and Scottish HEIs acknowledged progress but argued there was an identifiable risk that “the emphasis on provision for disabled students remains too much on providing students with individual support to access an otherwise inaccessible ‘mainstream’ system, which remains largely unchanged” (649). However, Jacklin et al.’s (2007) later report suggests that most institutions have adopted an approach which focuses “not just on the individual student per se, but on the student within the context of the HEI” (47). This is a model that aims to both support the student (on an individual medical model basis, through the provision of the DSA for example) and to identify and eliminate barriers (a social model approach, for example the implementation of inclusive teaching practices). This, the study observes, “is where many HEIs are likely to be at present as they develop, implement and monitor their Disability Equality Schemes” (48). With its continuing focus on the individual student this model, they suggest, remains problematic insofar as the disabled student continues to be “cast as the ‘other’ within a context and culture which is geared to non-impaired individuals” (ibid). The solution, they suggest, is to look more

Theoretical Context Over the last ten years, a number of studies have charted HE’s increasing engagement with the process of inclusion as an ever more diverse student population challenges traditional ways of working (Robinson et al., 2007; Riddell et al., 2007; Sharp and Earl, 2000; Tinklin et al., 2004). These studies have, as Ashworth et al. (2010) note, broadly adopted the social model approach to disability which “implies a fundamental reappraisal of the way disabled students are positioned [within HE] as disadvantaged and dependent” (210). However, Ashworth et al. also draw attention to a more recent shift in research emphasis from a “social barriers model” to what Goode (2007) terms “a more pluralistic approach” (Goode, in Ashworth et al., 2010: 210).

Good practice for disabled students is generally good practice for all students (Adams and Brown, 2006).

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inclusively at the HE context and to shift the focus from medical/ social models towards the kind pluralistic approach discussed above.

• A  ssessment criteria and allocation of marks should be set out clearly and transparently and made accessible to students as early as possible. Assessment criteria must be set in a fair, non-discriminatory way;

The emphasis on provision for disabled students remains too much on providing students with individual support to access an otherwise inaccessible ‘mainstream’ system, which remains largely unchanged (Tinklin et al. 2004).

• M  arking policies and procedures should ensure transparency and fairness for disabled students and should take into consideration any reasonable adjustments that have been agreed; • F  eedback should be given in a format that is fully accessible (QAA, 2010: 25-26).

Disability and assessment in HE In her discussion of the principles of equity, justice and standards in the assessment process, Stowell (2004) highlights the frequent misconceptualisation of equity as being “encapsulated by the premise that everyone should be treated the same” (496-497). This, she argues, is a “superficial conceptualization, which confuses ‘fairness’ and ‘sameness’” (497). Therefore, treating disabled students differently for the purposes of assessment – making reasonable adjustments – can be justified as fairness. Procedures such as publishing assessment criteria and marking schemes, and double or anonymous marking processes are all designed to ensure equitable treatment for students regardless of any differences, or adjustments that may be made to the assessment process.

In their study of how universities have responded to the legal requirement to provide anticipatory and reasonable adjustments for disabled students, Riddell et al. (2007) identify the tensions that exist between, on the one hand, widening access policy and practice for disabled students and, on the other, concerns about the maintenance of academic standards. Anxiety about academic standards was particularly evident in relation to assessment where, they suggest, change has been “impeded by fears of the erosion of standards” and concerns about “conferring unfair advantage on disabled students in comparison with other students” (627). In relation to disability and academic assessment, the most recent code of practice from the QAA makes the following recommendations:

However, as suggested above, the concept of making reasonable adjustments, even for reasons of equity and inclusion, is highly contentious. Sharp and Earl (2000), for example, are highly critical of the compensatory nature of alternative assessment practices such as allowing disabled students extra time for examinations or applying sympathetic marking criteria to dyslexic students’ work. These practices, regarded by the majority of HEIs as acceptable forms of reasonable adjustment are, they state, ‘justified on the basis that disabled students possess disadvantages for which they are entitled to be compensated’ (195). Compensatory assessment is problematic because it both threatens to undermine the validity of the assessment process as students are “not required to

• I nstitutions should ensure that assessment strategies and methods are “sufficiently flexible to give all students an opportunity to meet the objectives of their programmes of study”. The attainment of learning outcomes may be demonstrated in more than one way; • A  range of assessment methods should be employed as a matter of good practice “to provide opportunities for disabled learners to show that they have attained the required standard”; 51


The solution is not to substitute one method of assessment for another, but to develop and implement inclusive assessment practices which reflect the diversity of students’ styles of learning and expression.

demonstrate identical knowledge and skills as their non-disabled counterparts”, and embodies a retrograde approach to disability that “implicitly accepts the exclusionary status quo of society” (196-197). Moreover, Sharp and Earl are also critical of equivalent assessments – alternative assessments which test identical knowledge and skills to those undertaken by non-disabled candidates. The example they give, which is particularly relevant to this paper’s focus, is the use of computers in examinations for dyslexic students (in this instance without the additional adjustment of extra time). In theory this practice is regarded as equivalent – the candidates undertake the same exam and are marked to identical criteria as their non-disabled counterparts. However, Sharp and Earl counter this reasoning by arguing that “for an alternative form of assessment genuinely to be equivalent to an original, there should be no reason why all of the candidates should not be assessed in this alternative way” (195). To maintain that this form of assessment is available only to disabled students “is implicitly to accept that this alternative mode of assessment is compensatory and not equivalent” (196).

Constructions of dyslexia Dyslexia is now commonplace in all levels of education. This is despite a continuing lack of consensus around what it is (see Rice and Brooks, 2004), how it should be diagnosed and how best educators should respond (Riddell and Weedon, 2006: 63). The definition provided by the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) is regarded as standard, and is the most frequently used. The BDA definition (available at www.bda.org.uk) states that: Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. … It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory processing speed and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual’s other cognitive abilities. It tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods, but its effects can be mitigated by appropriately specific intervention, including the application of information technology and supportive counselling.

Sharp and Earl suggest that typical forms of assessment (the three hour exam or coursework essay) should also be subject to more critical scrutiny, arguing that “to claim that some package of knowledge of skills can only be assessed by a particular method … is a significant claim which may have discriminatory consequences” (198). Hanafin et al. (2007), make a similar point in their study of inclusion and assessment in HE, which calls for a critical analysis of the “taken-for-granted nature of the assessment modus operandi”, suggesting that current, longstanding practices have assumed a false objectivity that conceals discrimination (443). From this perspective, as Ashworth et al. conclude, the solution is not to substitute one method of assessment for another, but to develop and implement inclusive assessment practices which reflect the diversity of students’ styles of learning and expression (see also Hanafin et al., (2007); Jacklin et al., (2007); Tinklin et al., 2004).

This definition embodies the current understanding of dyslexia as an individual deficit, approaching dyslexia from the perspective of the medical model. This is the definition that, for the most part, underpins current understandings of and approaches to dyslexia in Higher Education. This study also takes into account more recent arguments that dyslexia should be viewed from the perspective of a social model in which difficulty becomes difference arising from “natural human diversity” (Cooper, 2006). Cooper’s definition of a social model of dyslexia asserts that “we are not ‘disabled’ by our dyslexia, but by the expectations of the world we live in. There

52


is nothing ‘wrong’ with being dyslexic per se”. Cooper, (who is herself dyslexic), goes on to suggest that:

achievement and, since 2007, students whose DSA includes specialist assistive technology (most commonly mind-mapping, text-to-speech and speech-to-text software) are offered one-toone tutorials with a dedicated Assistive Technology Tutor.

We have learned to expect that definitions of dyslexia will focus on the precise nature of the difficulties dyslexics experience, rather than on the nature of the disabling expectations that lead to these difficulties. But the two cannot be meaningfully separated.

Stickers, with the student’s name, student number and the Student Services’ logo, are given to students with dyslexia to attach to their written work. Stickers are given only to those students who have provided evidence of their dyslexia. The purpose of the stickers is to ensure that teaching staff are aware of a student’s dyslexia in order that they are able to provide appropriate feedback and this is explained to each student by a member of the Disabilities team when they are issued with their stickers. Guidelines for staff on dyslexia stickers are specified within the policy document Dyslexia and other additional learning needs – guidelines for staff on supporting students with further specific guidance published by the disabilities team as Dyslexia: information for academic staff and guidelines for assessing written work. Information about the stickers and the Guidelines are disseminated by the Head of Disabilities to all teaching staff via Faculty Managers at the beginning of the academic year.

For example, if we expected everyone to be able to think fluently in 3D as most dyslexics can, some other people would have difficulty with this. We might be tempted to describe this as a ‘disability’ and even look for ‘causes’. But without this expectation, there is no difficulty. So the difficulty can be recognised as a result of the mismatch between the person and the expectations, but turning this difficulty into a ‘disability’ depends on the social value given to the expectation (early reading, good memory etc) (Cooper, 2006). Significantly, the University of Winchester recognises both models in its constructions of dyslexia. Whilst University policy documents and guidelines appear to largely reinforce the medical model (of dyslexia as a ‘difficulty’), the provision of support has come to be defined by the much more pluralistic terminology of Disabilities and Learning Diversity and Specific Learning Differences. The possible implications of this apparent disparity will be discussed below.

If academic standards are to be safeguarded, sympathetic treatment cannot extend to written expression so poor that coherence and intelligibility are at issue. Do not penalise errors that a good copy editor could put right” (Sussex University, undated).

Local context: The University of Winchester In the academic year 2003/4 the proportion of students at Winchester declaring a disability was slightly above the national average, at 7.3% of the student population. Significantly, over half of students declaring a disability (3.8%) had dyslexia.

Both of the above documents make it clear that it is not intended that academic standards should be compromised and that, “where marks are allocated for presentation or language, no consideration should be allowed” (University of Winchester, 2009: 4; and 2008: 3). However, the more detailed guidance provided by the Disabilities team also advises that as a reasonable adjustment where possible, assessors award marks that reflect the student’s

The Disabilities and Learning Diversity department provides an holistic package of support for dyslexic students ranging from screening and diagnosis, through to DSA applications and the implementation of support packages. An in-house team of dyslexia tutors provide one-to-one and group tutorials designed to improve students’ skills and support the process of academic

53


information on current practice via a basic questionnaire survey emailed to HE disability/dyslexia support staff. The third strand involved a review of current literature on the relationship between dyslexia, HE and student support, in order to inform further analysis of the data gathered.

understanding of the subject, rather than the level of his/her linguistic skills, and provides guidance for staff on best practice for sympathetic marking. Sympathetic marking is defined as follows: “It focuses on the clarity of the argument, rather than on details of expression. Try to separate marking of transcription errors and marking of content. However, while sympathetic treatment of assessed work submitted by dyslexic students implies the disregarding of errors of spelling and grammar, the communication itself must be effective. If academic standards are to be safeguarded, sympathetic treatment cannot extend to written expression so poor that coherence and intelligibility are at issue. Do not penalise errors that a good copy editor could put right”. (Sussex University, undated)

A web search was carried out of 80 UK HEIs chosen from the list provided by UCAS. Institutions were chosen to represent a cross-section of UK HE and ranged significantly in size of student population, location, and historical background and tradition (pre/post 92 institutions). The aim of the search was to gather information on current practice from publically available information. A brief survey was sent via email to the dyslexia/disability departments of 45 HEIs. The survey consisted of a brief overview of the aims of this project and asked for the following information:

Tutors should bear in mind that students with additional learning needs frequently have difficulty with the correct use of language and the expression of their ideas in written form. It is not intended that academic standards should be compromised and, where marks are allocated for presentation or language, no consideration should be allowed. Students with additional learning needs should be strongly encouraged to make full use of any assistive technology they may have been provided with under their DSA allocation. They should not be encouraged to rely upon spell checkers which will not pick up homonyms or words which are spelled correctly but used in the wrong context.

1. Does the institution offer dyslexic students the option of attaching a sticker (or some other means of flagging) to their written work? 2. Does the institution have a policy for differential and/or sympathetic marking for dyslexic students’ written work? 3. An open-ended question asking for practitioner’s views regarding the issue of flagging work.

Findings

Aims of the research

Of the 80 HEI websites reviewed, 35 had information regarding current practice publically available. The questionnaire survey was then sent to the remaining 45 HEIs. Of these, 15 institutions provided a response. As a result, these findings provide information on current practice at a total of 50 UK HEIs. Only a small number of responses to the open-ended question regarding practitioner’s views on the use of dyslexia stickers were received. These have been anonymised and will be used to inform the further discussion set out in Figure 1.

There are two main aims: a) To identify current practices in the use of dyslexia stickers across the HE sector; b) To gather information to about best practice for supporting dyslexic students in the assessment and feedback of their written work.

Methodology The research consisted of three main strands. The first was a web survey of HE institutions’ policies on reasonable adjustments and support for dyslexia. The second focused on gathering further 54


Main findings

• D  etailed coversheets that provide guidance on marking and/ or information about dyslexia. In some institutions these coversheets provide specific information about the nature of that particular student’s dyslexia and how it may impact on their written work;

 ork flagged - with stickers or W similar (62%)  olicy on flagging determined at P departmental level (6%)

• B  asic sticker/coversheet providing limited information/ instructions such as ‘x student has dyslexia, please mark this work in accordance with the dyslexia marking guidelines’. Or, in some cases, this serves to advise markers that the student is receiving support and signposts to the appropriate contact if there are any concerns;

No flagging (32%)

Figure 1: use of stickers/flagging by HEIs

• P  lain sticker. For example, a plain or coloured sticker or a sticker with student number and Student Services/University logo. This system relies on staff awareness of the purpose of the stickers and, if necessary, of where to access the relevant guidelines;

 ympathetic marking policy S (60%)  ympathetic marking decided at S departmental level (8%)

• I n the case of one institution covered by this study, the generic coursework coversheet used by all students includes a dyslexia ‘tick box’ for students to mark if necessary.

 o sympathetic marking policy N (32%) Figure 2: Policy of sympathetic marking

 dditional noteworthy points of practice that emerged from these A results are:

Stickers/flagging • R  esponsibility for attaching stickers/coversheets to students’ work. From the data available it seems that at most universities the student is responsible for attaching the sticker/ coversheet to their work prior to submission. However, in the case of at least three institutions stickers are attached after submission by Faculty/Programme administrators;

As can be seen in Figure 1, 62% of HEIs offer dyslexic students the option of flagging their written work with a sticker or coversheet of some description. This option was only available to students who were able to provide evidence of their dyslexia in the form of an up-to-date diagnostic report from an educational psychologist. Of the institutions offering this option, the split between pre- and post-92 universities was almost even with 15 of the 31 universities in this category being pre-92 institutions.

• A  ccessing stickers/coversheets. As is current practice at Winchester, results show that it is commonplace for students to be given their stickers/coversheets by support services – to whom they must then return as and when necessary to acquire additional copies.

The results demonstrate that the practice of flagging dyslexic students’ work is widespread amongst UK HEIs. However, methods of implementation vary widely. The points below identify some key trends: 55


Sympathetic marking

requirement for sympathetic marking is disseminated to academic staff within/alongside these plans. This research does not have the information as to how this system is implemented in practice, but whatever the procedure adopted by individual institutions, it is clear that in this system, once the student’s support plan has been disseminated by the Disability/Dyslexia team, the responsibility for flagging up the requirement for sympathetic marking lies within the Faculty/department (either with administrative or academic staff).

As can be seen in Figure 2, 60% of HEIs have a policy of some form of sympathetic marking for the written coursework of dyslexic students, with an additional 8% providing guidance for the policy to be implemented as appropriate at departmental level. In line with the provision of dyslexia stickers/coversheets, sympathetic marking applies only to the work of those students who have provided up-to-date evidence of their dyslexia. The split between pre- and post- 92 institutions is, as with the provision of stickers, evenly balanced: 15 of the 30 institutions with a policy of sympathetic marking are pre-92 universities.

Apart from these institutions, the approach of those without a policy of sympathetic marking is guided by the following stated principles:

A comparison of the results set out in Figures 1 and 2 shows that the percentage of institutions that do not use stickers/coversheets is mirrored in the percentage of those without a policy of sympathetic marking. It would not, then, be unreasonable to assume that the same institutions fall into both categories. In other words, where there is not a policy of sympathetic marking there is, as a consequence, no requirement for work to be flagged with a sticker/coversheet. Interestingly, however, this is not the case as a number of institutions who provide students with stickers/ coversheets do not have a policy of sympathetic marking. In these cases flagging a student’s dyslexia with a sticker or coversheet serves to:

• F  lagging work with stickers/coversheets compromises the practice of anonymous marking; • S  tudents are encouraged and expected to access support (via DSA and the university’s support services) prior to the submission of written work and therefore do not require the adjustment of sympathetic marking. In some cases, this rationale extends to the policy of not flagging students’ work with stickers/coversheets.

• a dvise markers that the student has access to appropriate support;

Additional noteworthy points of practice that emerged from these results are:

• raise awareness of dyslexia amongst teaching staff;

• D  ifferentiated marking. Only one institution amongst those included in these results has agreed a policy of differentiated marking. This university’s marking policy of differentiated marking for dyslexic students states that “in marking flagged work, markers should discount, as far as possible, errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation and instead mark for contents and ideas and critical acumen” (www.chi.ac.uk/ disabilitydyslexiaservice). In other words, where meaning is clear marks should not be lost for the kinds of errors listed above and dyslexic students’ work is, therefore, marked according to adjusted criteria which differ from those applied

• p  rovide markers with the opportunity to provide/adapt formative feedback (for example, at one university, the sticker contains a URL of the website containing guidance on providing accessible feedback). Similarly, a number of institutions have a policy of sympathetic marking, but do not flag student’s work with stickers/coversheets. In these cases, academics are advised of a student’s dyslexia via information sent out by the Disability/Dyslexia Service and the 56


References

to the rest of the cohort. It should be noted, however, that this policy is not universally applied. Teaching qualifications, Social Work and some language modules in English are exempt from the differentiated marking policy.

Adams. M, and Brown, S, eds. 2006 Towards inclusive learning in higher education: Developing curricula for disabled students. London, Routledge.

Questions for further research and discussion

Ashworth, M, Bloxham, S, and Pearce, E. (2010) ‘Examining the tension between standards and inclusion for disables students: the impact of marking individual academics’ frameworks for assessments’. Studies in Higher Education, vol 35, no 2: 209-223.

This study has shown that Winchester is not dissimilar from most universities in flagging dyslexic students in written assessments and in advocating sympathetic marking. Across the sector, there are different ways in which institutions operationalise adjustments, which Winchester may wish to consider. In the light of debates about the medical and social models, the study raises questions about the value of the practice of using dyslexia stickers, for example:

Cooper, R (2006) A Social Model of Dyslexia. LLU+, January. ‘Dyslexia’. in Pollack, D. Neurodiversity in Higher Education: Positive Responses to Specific Learning Differences. Chichester, Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2009. Crisp, B (2007) ‘Is it worth the effort? How feedback influences students’ subsequent submission of assessable work’. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, vol 32 , no 5: 571-581.

• The practical value of dyslexia stickers • What dyslexia stickers say to markers

Disability Rights Commission (1996) Further and higher education institutions and the Disability Equality Duty: Guidance for Principals, Vice-Chancellors, Governing Boards and Senior Managers working in further and higher education institutions in England, Scotland and Wales.

• What dyslexia stickers say to students • What philosophy of disability stickers imply • C  onsistency of approaches across faculty, departments, programmes, individual tutors

Hanafin, J, Shevlin, M, Kenny, M and McNeela, E (2007) ‘Including young people with disabilities: assessment challenges in HE’. Higher Education, 54: 435-448.

• Differentiated Vs sympathetic Vs neither. The paper invites Student Services and the wider academic and administrative community to consider and debate these questions in a way which enshrines the rights of dyslexia students to good quality and developmental learning from assessment.

Higgins, R, and Harltey, P (2002) ‘The conscientious consumer: reconsidering the role of assessment feedback in student learning’. Studies in Higher Education, vol 27, no 1: 53-64. Jacklin, A, Robinson, C, O’Meara, L and Harris, A (2007) ‘Improving the experiences of disabled students in higher education’. University of Sussex research project for the Higher Education Academy.

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Mortimore, T, and Crozier, W(2006) ‘Dyslexia and difficulties with study skills in HE’. Studies in Higher Education, vol 31, no 2: 235-251.

Sharp, K, and Earle, S (2000) ‘Assessment, disability and the problem of compensation’. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, vol 25, no 2: 191-199.

Oliver, M (1996) Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice. London, Macmillan.

Stowell, M (2004) ‘Equity, justice and standards: Assessment decision making in higher education’. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, vol 29, no 4: 495-510.

Pavey, B, Meehan, M, and Waugh, A (2010) Dyslexia-Friendly Further and Higher Education. London, Sage.

Tinklin, T, Riddell, S, and Wilson, A (2004) ‘Policy and provision for disables students in higher education in Scotland and England: the current state of play’. Studies in Higher Education, vol 29, no 5: 637-657.

Quality Assurance Agency (1999) Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education. Section 3: Students with disabilities. Gloucester.

University of Winchester (2009) Dyslexia and other additional Learning Needs – Guidelines for staff on Supporting Students (formerly the Dyslexia Policy). University of Winchester.

Quality Assurance Agency (2010) Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education. Section 3: Students with disabilities. Gloucester.

University of Winchester (2008) Dyslexia: Information for Academic Staff and guidelines for assessing written work. University of Winchester.

Quality Assurance Agency (2009) Outcomes from institutional audit: Institutions’ support for students with disabilities 2002-2006. Gloucester, 2009.

Walmsley, B (2008) Developing understanding: the potential of communities of practice to enhance the experience of HE for dyslexic students. Paper reporting on outcomes of a studentled workshop exploring views of tutors and dyslexic students at University of Salford’s ‘Dyslexia Symposium’ 5-9 November 2007. University of Salford.

Rice, M, and Brooks, G (2004) Developmental dyslexia in adults: a research review. London, National Research and development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy. Riddell, S, and Weedon, E (2006) ‘What counts as reasonable adjustment? Dyslexic students and the concept of fair assessment’. International Studies in Sociology and Education, vol 16, no 1: 57-73. Riddell, S, Weedon, E, Fuller, M, Hurst, A, Kelly, K, and Piggott, L (2007) ‘Managerialism and equalities: tensions within widening access policy andpractice for disables students in UK universities’. Higher Education, vol 54: 615-628.

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60


Becoming a teacher in Primary education: teacher identity and professionalism Vasiliki Tzibazi, Mark Jenkins, Emma Morley, Karen Phethean & Sandy Stockwell Faculty of Education, Health and Social Care

Abstract

by researching the views of newly appointed, medium and long-service teachers (Davies & Ferguson 1997). Views of professionalism are mainly centred around the development of skills that are used in the classroom rather than on notions of ‘being professional’ and issues of status and recognition (Davies & Ferguson 1997). It is becoming an ethical imperative for teacher educators to consider the notion of teachers’ professional identity beyond short-term initiatives and inspections (Whitty 2000). There is a need for the very idea of teacher professional identity to be further debated beyond essentialist definitions of professionalism (Sachs 2001). We seek to contribute to the debate by exploring the nature of teaching practice as experienced by students on a teacher training programme.

A small scale research project was undertaken across all years of the four year BA Primary Education degree, exploring perceptions of teacher identity and professionalism. The study involved a small number of tutors and students with the view of generating a reflective dialogue about the values and implicit understandings that underpin the professional development of a teacher. The methodology involved in-depth group interviewing with the creation of biographical narrative accounts, reflection of fictional and realistic film footage and follow up discussion of the emerging themes. The findings suggest that students who enter Initial Teacher Education (ITE) view teaching as an innate quality and teachers as moral agents that can make a difference to children’s lives. As students progress through the degree and experience the practicum component of their University studies, conflicting views of professionalism and teaching are formed that call us to reconsider the notion of teaching agency that is fostered within the four years ITE programme.

Education needs to challenge, to be unsettling and to open up new perspectives (Fish and Cossart 2007:11).

Context

The present research

The notion of teachers’ professionalism is a shifting phenomenon, open to debate and inextricably linked to one’s views and vision of education. Research indicates that the modes of professionalism that are cultivated in teacher education do not remain unaffected by educational reforms and governmental policy-making (Sachs 2001; Whitty 2000). The perceptions about the role of ITE in the formation of teacher’s professionalism have been investigated

This research is located within the context of the teacher education programme with the intention not to evaluate it but to improve it by seeing more clearly the issues and dilemmas that our students face as their education progresses. We do expect that by the time the students have completed the final year of their studies they have developed a critical approach to their teaching: “education needs 61


to challenge, to be unsettling and to open up new perspectives” (Fish and Cossart 2007: 11). This research aims to explore student teacher’s explicit and implicit perceptions of teacher identity during the course of four years of study to obtain a teaching degree. The research design, informed by Wenger’s notion of ‘learning communities’, explores the students’ beliefs and values about what it means to become a teacher. The students’ perceptions are explored at various stages during their studies to trace the learning experiences and elements that shape the complexity of their identity. Also, by taking into account that ‘there is a profound connection between identity and practice’ (Wenger 1998:149) the enquiry focuses on the student’s expectations and perceptions of teacher education to trace links between the formation of their teaching identity and their studies. Also, as tutors, we reflected critically on our own perceptions of teacher identity and professionalism to generate discussion about the understandings and values implicit in our own teaching.

collection methods with the whole Year 1 group, aiming to contextualise some of the initial findings.

Methodology

Teaching is seen as an idealistic humanitarian role, exemplified in the aspiration to make a difference.

The emerging narratives were analysed collaboratively with each group of participants by searching for common themes in the constructivist grounded theory approach. The process of identifying themes was neither straightforward nor linear, reflecting the intermingling of the processes and lifetime experiences that shape our identity positions as teachers or teachers to be. Although the key themes that emerged from this research do not offer a definitive perspective for a notion that is so fluid, the narratives do provide an insight into the forces that shape the teaching identity as these have been highlighted by the participants themselves. The themes, regardless of their ephemeral nature, invite us to consider the implications they have for our pedagogy on the programme.

Given the fluid, multiple and always changing nature of identities, the study took place over two consequent academic years, intending to obtain a perspective into the constantly changing perceptions of teaching identities. Although students from all four year groups participated in the research, it was a small group of ten Year 1 and five Year 3 students who committed to the research process and participated in a series of group interviews for two years. The methodology involved in-depth group interviewing with the creation of biographical narrative accounts focusing mainly on the motivation for pursuing a degree in teaching and images of teaching as these are shaped within and beyond the university experience. Footages from the film Dead Poets’ Society (1989) and a documentary on Phil Beadle’s teaching approaches, were used to further discussion and raise debate on the themes of professionalism and teacher identity. Both excerpts depict inspirational teachers who are negotiating institutional structures and following their personal professional pedagogy. Additional group interviews were conducted with fourteen Year 1 participants at the beginning of their studies (the second week of the semester) while drawings and written reflective tasks were used as data

Becoming a teacher - an inner commitment The students’ responses, when reflecting on what is the key motivation to pursue a teaching degree, are centered on two themes: a) an inner commitment to teaching shaped by the personal values and attributes that one needs to possess to become a teacher; b) the intention to pursue a vocational qualification. These themes interrelate with the images of and experiences of teaching that the students held before their enrolment in the degree. Teaching is seen as an idealistic humanitarian role, exemplified in the aspiration to make a difference, while at the same time students are thinking pragmatically about the downsides of teaching as an occupation, linked to heavy workloads and low social status. There is an inner commitment to pursuing a teaching degree which is seen more as a life choice and a fulfilling 62


the final decision to become a teacher it seems that there is a remarkable certainty about making the right life choice. Most students state that they are pursuing a path they always knew they wanted or at least ensured via their prior working experiences that teaching is what they really want to do. So after having my own children and having a successful career anyway, I’ve always sort of worked for myself, my own business, I’ve decided I’ve got to an age now that I want to do what I wanted to do originally rather than just a job to earn money, so that’s why I’ve gone into it, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do’. [..] ‘It’s probably more a life choice isn’t it … it’s more than just a job, it’s a way of life probably teaching isn’t it, it’s completely different than just me earning money (Year 1).

Teaching is perceived as a socially worthwhile profession in which the teacher acts as a moral agent who can make a difference to children’s lives.

Being a teacher - an innate quality There is also a belief that teaching is associated with personal values and attributes that are inherent rather than to be gained and developed. The student teachers expressed an inner commitment to becoming a teacher shaped by the values and attributes that one needs to posses in order to become a ‘good teacher’. Enthusiasm, passion, fairness and the ethos of caring and loving children are identified as some of the attributes of a good teacher and also as personality traits that one always had (“teaching is natural”, “you are born a teacher”). The realisation of having these attributes might go back to childhood or is expressed later in life through work experiences in educational contexts and comments received by significant others. The interplay between internal and external forces in the identification of these attributes is highlighted in the biographical narratives and reflection on these narratives. However, the comments do not suggest that these attributes can be developed, negotiated and re-negotiated in a multidimensional and never ending process. University studies to become a teacher do not seem to play an important role in this process of identity formation while knowledge is identified either as knowledge of the curriculum or a pool of techniques that one needs to be given to apply eventually in the classroom.

experience. Teaching is frequently referred to in the interviews as a life choice and not “just a job to earn money”. It is seen as a self-fulfilling experience. Teaching is perceived as a socially worthwhile profession in which the teacher acts as a moral agent who can make a difference to children’s lives. These findings corroborate Hayes (2004) and Kyriacou et al’s (2003) research which demonstrate that the motivating factor for pursuing a teaching degree and career are altruistic. The participants were identified as nurturers who highly valued working closely with children. The teacher is expected to act as a good role model who influences children and has an input in their growth and development. These views mainly derive from the students’ own experiences as schoolchildren and encounters with teachers who were significant figures in the students’ own lives (positively or negatively). It is the life changing experiences they encountered in their own school education and in particular through the support of a particular teacher that affected their commitment to pursuing teaching as a vocation and the belief that teaching is about changing somebody’s life. Independent of the extent to which one’s prior experiences in school has filtered and strengthened 63


RESP: Because it like… I don’t know… it’s teaching about the key element of like the bits that you need to know … like about the National Curriculum and things like that so when you do go into the work place you can use… because I think teaching is sort of like a natural thing that comes to most people. RESP: Oh yes, you’ve got to be a natural, naturally gifted. This underlying tension in the construction of student teachers’ identity is also manifested in past empirical research. Research on student teachers perceptions of teacher identity has shown that although the teacher’s personality and caring ethos are valued as important elements of being a good teacher, at the same time “a teaching personality competes with pedagogical competence” (Surgue 1997:220). Personal qualities seem to be essential to being a teacher without however acknowledging that pedagogical and subject knowledge are necessary prerequisites to enter into the primary teaching profession. In this respect, as highlighted by Surgue (1997) the student teachers’ “identification with teaching is essentially modern; they are already teachers’ at the beginning of their studies” (217). This essentialist perspective is based on the students’ view that teachers have innate characteristics in their identity without acknowledging the fluidity of the identity as a process of becoming. Perhaps it is worth unpacking further the images and views of teaching that underpin these perceptions. The emphasis on an idealised self-image as teachers who want to be seen as enthusiastic, loving and caring is also highlighted by Furlong and Maynard (1995) who note that students at the beginning of their school-based learning held idealistic images of the sort of teachers they want to be. Manyard (2001), reflecting on this research study, points out that what underlined the students’ ideals “was often a view that teaching was ‘easy’ and essentially about establishing close, personal relationships with pupils” (44).

There was a sense of the need to meet set targets rather than a belief that they could be in search of their own pedagogy.

with recent studies that reported that student teachers highly value the aspects of ITT courses that are directly related to classroom teaching and are more skeptical of the theoretical components of the studies (Hobson 2003). Given that the student teachers view teaching as a practical profession and, accordingly to their comments, they had decided to pursue this degree mainly for its practical orientation to teaching and not for its academic content, one could also expect that the practicum is the key arena for the development of a professional identity and agency. Turnbull argues that “if teachers are expected to be active agents in their profession, then the development of professional agency in student teachers is essential” (2005:195). The students construct their teaching identities within the socio-professional context (McNally et al 1997) and in particular they validate their professional identity through interaction with practitioners in

Teaching practicum The teaching practicum is considered by the students who participated in the research as the most valued component of studies in the process of becoming a teacher. This is congruent 64


perspective that the student can choose from a pool of strategies to develop his/her own teaching style. Overall, there appeared to be anxiety about the need and how to attain perceived expectations for successful practice – there was a sense of the need to meet set targets rather than a belief that they could be in search of their own pedagogy. Students felt unable or uncertain to explore different teaching strategies or methods in case of being at odds with staff and failing a practice.

the school setting (Tang 2003). The importance of establishing good relationships in the school is a parameter that affects the development of students’ agency in the field (Turnbull 2005). Perhaps this can be understood from the perspective of the theory of communities of practice where student teachers are apprentices that enter a professional field. They want to be accepted in this new community and as a result their acceptance is interpreted as being members of the community. However, this feeling of belonging does not just happen in the periphery leaving unaffected the construction of the teaching identity. Tang’s (2004) research findings on the construction of the teaching self suggest that the relational dynamics in the socio-professional context can generate productive and unproductive learning experiences which have accordingly a positive or negative effect on the way a teacher frames him/her self in the practicum and obtains knowledge to others’ practical knowledge. Indeed, the students’ comments suggest that their own perception of teacher identity depends on how they are seen by others including school teachers, pupils and mentors. Perhaps it is the perceived pressure for acceptance that shapes the desire for being a prototypical teacher at this stage.

It’s because our wealth of experiences are so narrow at this stage, and that something like that … an experience like that to us is you know is a huge part of our kind of professionalism. Where as people with a lot more experience, it’s just a part to it, and they’ve got a lot more to reflect on because our experiences are so narrow, we hold them in such high regard so a year three placement which was difficult is a big thing for us because we haven’t got other positive experiences which we can look upon as well and say … well, you know I did really well in that, and I’ve learnt from this because you know it’s going to be … I don’t know how many months between our last placement and going you know for the big final year placement, some people might not be in schools at all during that point, you know or one day here and there, and they’ve had a bad experience in year three, they go into year four their final placement you know, thinking … “Oh my god, like … like this is daunting, and it’s difficult, it’s difficult to get those experiences but I think there should be more practical element to the course because that’s what it’s about” (Year 3).

Professionalism is more associated with efficiency, representation of the school, emotional detachment and transmission of knowledge.

Conflicting views

There is anticipation that imaginative and creative work that could move beyond the requirements of the curriculum will follow as the teaching experience and the confidence in teaching develops. They feel pressured to conform to the requirements of the school and the university without been given the space to articulate the difficulties and conflicts they experience within the setting. The students’ role is viewed by the students themselves as being an active learner who will be applying the given techniques/teaching strategies to practice. Only a few comments suggested that there might be a sense of agency in this process and still within the

Although the teacher’s personality is a key dimension in offering life changing experiences, friendliness and genuine communication with children are perceived as traits that can conflict with learning and teaching – “approachable but stern” - was seen as a key characteristic of a good teacher. When students who are in the first year of their studies were asked to complete sentences such as I want my colleagues to think that I am and I want other professionals to think that I am… the adjectives ‘approachable’ and ‘professional’ appear as distinctive categories. 65


The teacher needs to have authority and maintain distance in the communication so that the children can be taught what they actually need to know. Professionalism is more associated with efficiency, representation of the school, emotional detachment and transmission of knowledge. These are perceptions that mainly draw from the students’ own experiences of school teaching and from the practicum.

this disagreement becomes also a normative one about what constitutes education and this needs to be more openly explored with our students.

Perhaps we need to offer avenues through which what is implicit in the journey of shaping a teacher identity becomes explicit and shared.

The distinction between impersonal and professional practice on one side and the personal values and virtues is a contentious point more explicitly expressed by our teacher students who are in the fourth year of their studies.

Implications for our teaching To support the students we need to employ a pedagogy that offers dialectical processes of identity construction and invites students’ engagement in a journey to build their individualized pedagogy. Perhaps we need to offer avenues through which what is implicit in the journey of shaping a teacher identity becomes explicit and shared. In their search for a teaching identity, our students tend to identify with others who embody the identity(-ies) in question. They are searching for models in the school settings, at university seminars and in their peer group. As pointed out by Danielewicz (2001) “identities do arise through participation in a [addition mine] haphazard, improvisational, and impromptu dance, […] making things public is a way to participate in the identity-making processes” (61). The students need to feel supported in “exposing the self to identity-forming processes” (Ibid). Given also that presentation and perception of the self is also shaped by the institutions we are in and the way we think that we are seen, we need to encourage articulation of the dilemmas and conflicts that emerge as an acceptable process of becoming a teacher. If the first step is to deconstruct the myths and understand better the theories of knowledge that arise from these processes, we will create the grounding for the conscious construction of personal and internal philosophies of teaching.

It’s like with assessments … teachers are constantly being assessed and I think the pressure that puts on you can sometimes like take away from the job itself because you’re so worried about the result side of it that you forget about what’s actually best for the children, and I think that’s really difficult because in a way the government’s expecting you to be professional and to go by what they want you to get out of the children, but your perception of being professional might be completely different, it might be more tailored to the child’s needs (Year 4). We feel that this point could be explored within the ITE programme. Although professional practice is grounded like other professions in certain imperatives, teaching cannot be reduced to technical aspects, observed rules and principles of acceptable conduct. Carr (2006) postulates that a distinction between professional and personal values “is difficult if not impossible to sustain” within education and teaching (172). Teaching is unavoidably associated with normative concepts evaluated with reference to externally driven standards. Ethical considerations might be constitutive of occupations such as medicine and law. However, it is in particular within the context of education that the more personal character is integral to teaching. The status of profession as a distinct category is rooted in principles that are not just contractual but moral. Given though that education is a field with contested ideas about aims, purposes and methods,

Perhaps we can start by taking into account the variability of our students’ positions. Although we can reflect on our own journey through which we are developing our identities, we cannot always rely on our past history to understand somebody else’s journey. By highlighting the complexity of 66


Manyard T. (2001) The student teacher and the school community of practice: A consideration of ‘learning as participation’ Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 31, No. 1 (50-52).

factors that influence the unfolding of identities we might obtain a better understanding of this journey. The lessons we learn urge us to provide a space for exploration that allows our students to think of themselves as agents for change and not users of knowledge. We need to consider further how we consolidate their identities as teachers to be and encourage them to be the teachers they aspire to be rather than the teachers they ought to become.

McNally J. Cope P. Inglis B. and Stronach (1997) The student teacher in school: conditions for development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 13(5), 485-498 Sachs J. 2001 Teacher professional identity, competing discourses, competing outcomes. J. Education Policy, Vol. 16, No 2. (149-161)

References Carr D. (2006) Professional and personal values and virtues in education and teaching. Oxford Review of Education. Vol.32, No 2, 171-183

Surgue C. (1997) Student Teachers’ Lay Theories and Teaching Identities: their implications for professional development. European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 20, No 3, 213- 225).

Danielewicz J. (2001) Teaching Selves. Identity, Pedagogy, and Teacher Education. New York: SUNY

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WRAP: a neat package Penny Lawrence Faculty of Education, Health and Social Care

There are a million articles to be read

One of the most important roles of the RIT officer in this scheme is to ensure a strong match between the research purpose and the extending experience for the apprentice. From the staff point of view the aim is to increase engagement with research informed teaching and to strengthen the research culture within each faculty. The idea is that the projects run after the end of the academic year, at the discretion of the academic and according to the availability of the student. Typically they run for two weeks, but one week could get the job done, or a more involved project may run for four weeks.

There are a dozen interviews/ focus groups/ questionnaires to conduct/ transcribe/code There’s a mountain/hard drive full/ boxful of data There’s a paper to be written There’s a conference looming …

So far so good, but is it all gain and no pain? This is what academics from Education Health and Social Care thought about WRAP:

Help is at hand in the form of a neat package called the Winchester Research Apprenticeship Programme. In its second year (third year in Arts) this is a scheme for academics to focus on a ‘live’ research project with an apprentice working with them.

It did involve several meetings but not too onerous, overall Penny Lawrence, Research Informed Teaching Officer in the Faculty of Education, Health and Social Care, writes about the mechanics and impact of Winchester Research Apprenticeship Programme (WRAP) in this article.

The bidding process was handled very smoothly ‘This was well-organised and easy to manage The short-listing process was not onerous

WRAP is funded by Learning & Teaching Development funding, and aims to give second or third year students a taster of postgraduate education and research activity at the University, a host of transferable skills, and a bursary for the experience. It is co-ordinated by the RIT officer in each faculty: Paul Everill in Humanities and Social Sciences; Sabine Bohnaker in Business, Law and Sport; Penny Lawrence in Education Health and Social Care; and Vanessa Harbour in Arts.

The process was extremely speedy!

What makes a WRAP project? It needs to be a project that the apprentice can operate within on independent tasks, and have a working dialogue with the academic.

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I think this is an excellent scheme as it helps tutors to continue with their research and at the same time gives students a taste of the research process.

In the first year of the programme WRAP funded five apprentice researchers in EHSC to work on: Rights Respecting Education with Dr Helen Clarke; Bringing Shakespeare to Life in the Primary School with Dr Hiliary Lee-Corbin; Evaluating the impact of visiting developing countries with Alan Hutchison and Tony Rea; analysing early 18th century book auction lists to work out what doctors actually read with Dr Louise Curth; and unearthing women’s history of education from the Bloomsbury period onwards for The Sybil Campbell Archives with Dr Stephanie Spencer and Professor Joyce Goodman.

Were the apprentices more tuned in to research possibilities as a result of the WRAP scheme? This research project has really given me an insight into this area of research and I really enjoyed working with the children and H and I do feel better prepared now to start analysing for my own research.

The academics offered training, where it was needed. For example Tony Rea trained his apprentice in the use of Endnote for references and Hiliary Lee-Corbin worked with hers on personal construct interview techniques. Each project team set up its own routine for meeting/debriefing and established a collaborative working relationship over the two weeks. Did the apprentices and academics get the job done? The output was considerable, including two conference papers and an inter-university seminar. The following quotations evidence the productivity of WRAP:

I learned a number of research methods that I can use in my own FYP. The development of these skills will be invaluable in the writing of my Final Year Project and other assignments. I have learnt to truly value my free education and opportunity to be at university.

K’s work enabled the project to make good progress at a time of year when the tutors were very busy with programme business – her contribution to the preparation for the conference presentation was crucial to this success.

What I have enjoyed the most about the WRAP project, are my conversations with S, about the unconventional lives of these pioneering women. If only history had been that interesting at school!

G interviewed a number of children on the same day. She did this very efficiently and together we were able to see the number of children required.

All the feedback concluded that the apprenticeship was worthwhile for both sides. This mutual benefit had been an aim of the scheme. I think that the project was fantastic – it offered such an insightful experience, which has helped me with my professional development.

From my point of view (and I hope the researcher’s) this was a very successful project. We were very happy with the student selected and she did a good job with the task we set her.

Look out for the project invitations in a faculty near you.

M proved herself a very able researcher, was able to work on her own initiative and gained database and analytical historical skills.’ 70

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The Kyoto Exhibition – coming soon to a school near you? Andrew Melrose Faculty of Arts The exhibition uses the text and illustrations to engage with the following concepts: how picture books are written and illustrated h ow a didactic message such as global warming can be conveyed to children through the picture book medium h ow picture books can be understood as an art form in their own right while still being child friendly While the exhibition will be viable and academically stimulating on the subject of children’s literature and writing for children it will be relevant to children, teachers and students in different ways and the authors are keen to see it being used as a template for similar projects in the primary classroom. For example, children could be encouraged to write their own text, using the pictures as inspiration. Or, they could take the text as the basis for drawing their own pictures until eventually they are able to produce their own picture books.

Kyoto is a picture book which contains a big story about a boy and a little bear and a little story about global warming, written by Andrew Melrose and illustrated by Karenanne Knight. The story is a simple one, the boy and the little bear get lost and end up having an adventure together which takes them from their Arctic landscape to a dirty industrial city before they can return home. But the project is larger than that of the book. In the first instance, it is about to become an exhibition which explains the creative and collaborative process in the writing of a picture book using original illustrations and text, while addressing the wider issue of global warming in an innovative and classroom friendly manner.

Thus, while the exhibition will provide a stimulating forum for the better understanding of the diversity and complexity of perceptions of writing for children and children’s literature aimed at understanding how a picture book is written (which teachers may be interested in) it is also designed to show how the component parts of a picture book come together (for children) and how it can be engaged with in a meaningful way. While, and at the same time, it can be an excellent classroom device for stimulating ideas on global warming and indeed on storytelling, as 73


well as being a tool to stimulate the issues raised in the story. The potential uses of the exhibition are almost endless. Ultimately this small exhibition could be an exceptional resource which will eventually have e-based cross-links and hyper-links to other material and online debating forums which, hitherto, currently do not exist anywhere else in the UK. While still in its infancy, the project’s potential is as an exceptional mobile exhibition for Primary Schools which promises to be an excellent teaching resource. Initially the exhibition will be held at the University of Winchester, at University College Falmouth and in London at the offices of National Geographic, using the original artwork. But the plan is to make a portable, mobile version of it available to schools. This will be road tested in Hampshire in the first instance but it is hoped that if there is the demand then funding can be secured to post it all over the country.

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