Achieving peak performance in summative assessment

In the world of sport, athletes structure their training so that they peak for competition. Many different factors are taken into account as part of this peaking for competition known as periodisation, but chief among them is the volume and intensity of training. Volume represents the total amount of work performed during training and the intensity represents how ‘hard’ the athlete works during training sessions. In the basic sense, a periodised programme begins with a high training volume, and low training intensity as the athlete builds their base levels of fitness. However as training progresses and competition edges closer, the volume reduces whilst the intensity increases (Figure 1). Hence as competition approaches, the intensity of training will be at or beyond the effort level required for competition to support achievement of peak performance. As such, the closer competition is the more competition like training should be. Continue reading


“Let’s talk”: the value of dialogic feedback

Formative feedback has great potential to add value by “giving students information to improve learning and allowing them opportunities to show this improvement” (Espasa et al, 2018, p502).  Beyond the specific assignment-related content, the process of delivering feedback can also provide the opportunity to interact through dialogue and build students’ confidence.  For example, O’Shea and Delahunty (2018) note how we can use feedback to reassure students that they are ‘successful’ in a way that numerical grades alone cannot.  However, students do not always take full advantage of the opportunities to ask for advice which we provide; ‘office hours’ can seem daunting and seeking feedback to help with a future assessment is not always a busy student’s most pressing issue. Continue reading

The forgotten stage of designing curricula

When academics are faced with the task of designing a module, course, or programme, they often begin by considering the overarching learning outcomes. From this, the content is selected, activities constructed, and assessments designed so that each stage is constructively aligned. When deciding upon required and recommended reading lists, the typical questions which can be used to represent this process often include: what needs to be learnt? who are the leading authors in the field that students need to know of? When were the most recent relevant texts published? The latter emphasises the importance of currency and up to date knowledge when selecting sources. These questions make for reading lists that are made up from rather superficial choices. There thus seems to be a forgotten stage of critical questioning which should be considered beforehand. This stage is one that explores the deeper levels of learning which students will hopefully achieve, reflection by the academic themselves upon the choices they make in terms of course design and selection, and engagement between academics and library staff to form a more thoughtful decolonised curricula. Continue reading

Active learning: Something we all have to get used to

In this chapter Shpend Voca attempts to break the cycle of student passivity that goes hand in hand with lecturing as the dominant form of teaching. The aim of his teaching innovation was to increase the quantity and quality of student contributions during the teaching process and the methodology he used to achieve this goal was having students work in pairs. Two four-minute blocks were included in six of his fifteen lectures. During these blocks, students working in pairs would share their experiences, if they thought they had learnt anything new during the discussion, or to raise questions. Continue reading

There is a space between a traditional lecture and Problem Based Learning

The traditional, leading place of lectures in university education has been undermined since the second half of the 20th century (Gibbs, 1981; Rhett, 2017). Although many university teachers still think that lectures are the best way to convey knowledge, this view is not supported by pedagogic research. First of all, from the theory of communication we know that there is no such thing as undisturbed copying (‘transferring’) of the lecturer’s knowledge to the student’s mind. Second, learning only takes place when information is processed in the learner’s mind. And finally, new knowledge is more operational if it has been ‘acquired’ by the student and not given to him/her readily on a silver plate. All this together gives support to the constructivist model of education. Continue reading

CPD for PGRs? “No thanks, I’m busy!”

Higher Education institutions offer doctoral researchers a variety of provisions designed to support the development of postgraduate researchers (PGRs). These offerings may take the form of compulsory programmes, courses, and/or a range of optional developmental workshops that cover topics such as research skills; technology enhanced learning tools, and presentation skills to name a few. Nevertheless, generating interest among PGRs towards CPD activities can be a hard task. Focus is on their PhD and taking time out to engage in other knowledge and skills training is, for many, not a priority. The task of putting together a developmental programme/course/or workshop is thus a challenging one. Continue reading

From unpopular course to meaningful learning experience

Ludmila Kašpárková encountered the challenge of teaching a course on an unpopular topic area that didn’t appear to enthuse students. As an early career academic and part of the teaching team, this was an opportunity for her to participate in course development. Her experience of the new approaches to learning, teaching and assessment are discussed in a study entitled “Redesigning an unpopular university course: ways to promote students’ motivation and quality of learning.” Continue reading

One step at a time; the potential of formative assessment

Nikita’s chapter on enhancing formative assessment as the way of boosting students’ performance and achieving learning outcomes is inviting. It speaks to the potential of academic intervention in effecting changes in student outcomes, in this case an improvement in their writing and argumentative skills. Continue reading

Why are learning outcomes (often) so dreadful?

Learning outcomes have become the ‘go-to’ building blocks of curriculum design and no programme or module is likely to be validated in the UK and many other places globally without specifying them. But they are not universally popular and working with dozens of universities over the years I have seen some truly gruesome learning outcomes. Continue reading

The importance of communication and collaboration skills for the employers: A student view

In her chapter, ‘Life after academia: Preparing students for successful-collaboration’, Kovačević demonstrates the importance of group work and presentations. Kovačević’s idea of improving learning via group work was implemented through a series of three seminar classes, in which the learners were required to make a poster and do two presentations. This chapter is particularly useful to seminar leaders when designing the seminar outline as they should take into consideration the level of interactivity of their classes. Continue reading