Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sally Brown, Leeds Met, on "A Respect for Marks"

There's a long article this week in the Higher by Sally Brown of Leeds Met. I met her briefly at a conference there last year, which was all about retention, but I've been aware of her work for many years.

In this latest article she reflects on her work, and especially on assessment. A typical paragraph is:

"If we want students to behave like effective learners, for example by selecting and using relevant sources rather than just downloading stuff from the web, we need to privilege these behaviours by according them marks. Rewarding slovenly scholarship is daft. If we set predictable tasks, we should not be surprised when students plagiarise."

Ring any bells? Many of the assignments I have dealt with as plagiarism cases were those where the question was essentially "Research and write about something in your non-native language."

Worth a read.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I've been visiting secondary schools recently, choosing one for my eldest son. At two of them I saw firstly images and then a presentation on "Shifthappens".

This was originally created for a presentation at a high school in the US, entitled "Did You Know?". Since then various other versions have been created, and released on YouTube.

The wiki describing the project is at

Initially the presentation was created as a means of prompting discussion about education for school aged students. But it is equally applicable to much of what we do as well.

Questions that it raises for us are:
What do we think it means to prepare students for the 21st century?
What skills do students need to survive and thrive in this new era?
What implications does this have for our current way of doing things?
Do we need to change? If so, how?
How do we get from here to there?
What challenges must we overcome as we move forward?
What supports will we need as we move forward?
What kind of training will we need to move forward?

(taken from

This is the UK version of the video:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On line Resources for Learning

We all know there's lots of material on the web we can use for teaching - and there's an awful lot that students can copy and paste and submit as assignments!

Much of the material is not always structured in a way to be used for teaching and learning processes. Jas (our e-learning coordinator) has built up a collection of resources that she can share, but I thought the following two might be of interest (for those who have not come across them before).

MIT has, for a number of years, run a project on open courseware. They provide a variety of materials - lecture slides, course outlines etc, and have a number of lectures on iTunes as podcasts. Have a look at MIT.

Another really useful site is from the OU at LearningSpace. Here the "units" are structured like our modules, many have built in formative tasks and all can be used free of charge provided OU is recognised.

If resources like this match what we need, surely there is a case for using these instead of always re-inventing the wheel?