Reflections from an Assessment and Feedback festival: a two-part blog. Part 2

The keynote Lecture, entitled “Reflections on transforming assessment and feedback: complexity and collaboration” was presented by Bournemouth University academics Debbie Holley and Anne Quinney to the Medway universities’ Creative and inclusive Assessment and Feedback Festival September 2020.


 Part 2: Reflections from Debbie Holley and Anne Quinney – keynote speakers

This was a first for us – a joint keynote, separately and online. We have delivered several conference papers and workshops together in person (Quinney et al 2019; Quinney et al 2018) but since Covid-19 restrictions meant that travel to conferences was no longer possible we had gained experience of delivering joint conference papers separately from our own homes online (Holley and Quinney 2020, Goldsmith, Holley and Quinney 2020),  and learnt ‘on the spot’ what worked well and what to have contingency plans for.


It was important to consider how to create a sense of social presence, particularly important for a Keynote which will set the scene for the day and link to conference themes and the concerns of the delegates, without being present and without the energy generated between us when presenting in person.


Some practical considerations and our solutions.

Whilst we were comfortable with the potential content of the keynote, the process needed equal consideration. We had learnt from our experiences delivering a previous joint conference presentation that one of us would share their screen and the other would monitor the chat facility, with the session chair having a copy of the presentation should we have any technical hiccups and being ready to step in and share their screen. We had also learnt from experience that using screenshots to demonstrate resources was preferable to embedded links, to avoid difficulties returning to the presentation. In previous presentations and in teaching the use of Anne’s own photographs had created a strong visual link to the subject content and had generated opportunities for reflection and deeper understanding.

Our priority was to deliver a keynote that was both visually engaging in an online environment whilst promoting interactivity between the delegates and the presenters and between delegates in order to promote a sense of ‘social presence’ despite everyone attending the conference ‘at home’.  Our solution was to ask an ice-breaking question to gauge the audience’s priorities followed by posing a series of ‘dilemmas’ for the audience to respond to in the chat facility., and to trigger reflection and debate in the delegates’ programme teams and institutions.


Ice-breaker: What are the hot topics or sticky problems in assessment and feedback at your institution?

The topics shared in the chat facility reflected the focus in the literature of assessment and feedback and it was heartening to see that delegates interacted with one another in ‘liking’ and commenting on posts. Topics shared included clarity and consistency; assessment clustering; over-assessment; the BAME attainment gap; lack of engagement with feedback; turnaround times; and professional body requirements. We had included some of these concerns in the Keynote content, particularly in relation to the Bournemouth University Assessment & Feedback Toolkit.


Academic Dilemma 1: Choosing an appropriate assessment method. How many different assessment methods are used on the programmes you are familiar with?

The number in the responses ranged from 5 to 15 and policy restrictions were expressed as  a concern.  With an increasing focus on technology enhanced leaching and learning and on authentic assessment we used this as a link to demonstrate the ’50 ways to assess students’ section of our Toolkit. Bournemouth University’s radical policy review of assessment design principles provides a case study of what is possible with a partnership approach.


Academic Dilemma 2: Students don’t always understand how to use feedback. What ideas do you use to help address this?

The range of responses included giving feedback before the mark; feedback tutorials; self-grading activities based on the feedback; seeking feedback; and including reflections on feedback in an e-portfolio. Sharing practice across disciplines was evident with discussion about how the ‘crit’ from the art disciplines might be used in other disciplines for work in progress ie formative feedback. We anticipate that our input in the Keynote based on our Toolkit will enable other strategies to be adopted.


Academic Dilemma 3: How to adopt authentic learning experiences? How might you use technology to support this?


We used this as a contingency plan should we have more time but on the day it was not possible to include it.  It is useful to have additional material and to have an alternative ending should anticipated timings change during the live event.



The unsolicited generous feedback to us on the chat facility enabled us to see how the ideas and experiences we had shared had resonated with the audience and triggered ideas to embed in their day to day practice. Our aim to stimulate, challenge and inspire in an interactive format appeared to have been successful, with comments including “Lots of food for thought”, Thank you Anne and Debbie – that was fascinating”  “I think this session has made me rethink my practice” and “This has been a really energising conversation. Lots of ideas flowing”.



Link to the BU Assessment and Feedback Toolkit


Link to blogpost on designing assessment principles


Link to the presentation here


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