Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: collaboration (Page 1 of 2)

WiseFlow – Looking in the mirror with reflective portfolios in WiseFlow

Hey there, fellow exhausted souls!

Can you believe it? We’re finally coming towards the end of the academic year, and boy, has it been a fun ride!  Our WiseFlow pilot has gone from strength to strength as we support academics through a new assessment process.  More importantly, we have successfully run two separate assessments using our innovative approach of using WiseFlow as a reflective portfolio – the first use case of this we know about!  We’ve grown, learned, and potentially discovered an exciting prospect for the future of reflective portfolios at Portsmouth University, so let’s take a moment to reflect on the journey we’ve been on. 

You may have read our previous blog post on “Unlocking the power of WiseFlow: Transforming ePortfolio assessments” where we discussed the possibilities of using WiseFlow as a viable reflective portfolio platform and the benefits a reflective portfolio approach brings.  For students, this helps develop their metacognitive skills and self-awareness as learners over a period of time.  Academics, on the other hand, can use reflective portfolios to assess students’ learning outcomes in a more comprehensive and authentic manner.  This is all part of our wider WiseFlow pilot to provide one integrated assessment platform that serves our current (and future) assessment needs within Portsmouth University, which Mike Wilson spoke to us about recently on our podcast – you can listen here

Teach Well and Research-Informed Teaching

This year we ran two reflective portfolios within WiseFlow as part of our pilot project – to test the water and find out if this was even possible. The first was within our Researched Informed Teaching module, which supports early career academics to apply their learning in educational enhancements into their own contexts, through reflection and innovation.  Students will draw together higher education policy, research methods and educational developments to build students knowledge for their future work.  Secondly, we ran a reflective portfolio in our new level seven Teach Well: Principles to Practice module, which is a professional development route for those in roles related to supporting student learning. Students in this module embark on a pedagogical journey through three pillars of practice for teaching well in higher education, gaining the confidence to critically evaluate learning and design approaches and reflecting on what it means to teach well across different modes of study.  We recently caught up with Maria Hutchinson who runs this module in our podcast series, if you missed this one, you can listen here

We’ve worked closely with these academics and our support teams to develop reflective portfolios for these modules that can be used as a summative assessment vehicle which is both intuitive for learners and versatile enough to encompass a broad range of tools which enable the course learning outcomes to be demonstrated in an engaging and meaningful way.

What the students said…

Following the submission of reflective portfolios into WiseFlow, we sent out a survey to participants to gain their feedback and views.  Some of the headline figures are detailed below…

  • 90% of students found the WiseFlow reflective portfolio easy to navigate
  • 90% of students agreed that a reflective portfolio suited this type of assessment (compared with traditional essay-based assessment methods)
  • 82% of students felt their own students would enjoy using a reflective portfolio in WiseFlow
  • 71% of students enjoyed the interactive assessment methods, such as histograms, voice recorders etc. 
  • We received multiple comments about the clear instructions that were given on how to access and use Wiseflow as well as its reliability and stability as a platform.  Many users also commented positively on the functionality that WiseFlow offered compared to previously used portfolio solutions. 

Students also commented on…

  • If there was a need to add another system to Portsmouth University’s available assessment platforms – “There are too many platforms for submitting the work, Moodle, ePortfolio, WiseFlow, it is really confusing and frustrating that is necessary to learn how to use different platforms for different modules.”
  • The lack of formatting transfer from applications such as Word, when copying and pasting into WiseFlow – “Transfer of formatted MS Word document to WiseFlow could be improved. Currently, the document format is lost during the cut & paste process which then requires more effort to re-format within the WiseFlow portal.”
  • Better integration with Moodle and WiseFlow – “I’d like to see direct access from Moodle”. 

The data presented highlights the positive reception of WiseFlow as a reflective portfolio solution by students. The high percentage of students that recognized the suitability of a reflective portfolio as an assessment method, in comparison to traditional essay-based approaches and praised its usability is a really positive sign. The positive feedback on the interactive assessment methods further emphasizes the adaptability of the question bank in a traditional FlowMulti assessment to be used in an innovative way. 

However, some concerns were raised by students, such as the frustration of managing multiple assessment platforms at the university, indicating a need for better integration. This all links to our Digital Success Plan to (re)design robust assessments to meet the needs of the diverse student population within a blended and connected setting and incorporate a robust specialist end-to-end assessment platform. Our aims in the project were to make it easier for academics to design assessments, easier for students to find their assessments and feedback, and support staff by reducing the manual workaround assessments for academics.  During the next stage of the pilot project, integration into our current systems is a top priority and will alleviate these challenges.  Furthermore, the lack of formatting transfer from applications like Word to WiseFlow was highlighted as an area for improvement. These critical comments provide valuable insights for further refining and optimizing the WiseFlow system.

The evidence is clear to see – WiseFlow has the ability to provide a viable solution to reflective portfolios, with a bit of refinement – it could be excellent. 

What the staff said…

It was also vital to us that we gathered feedback from our academic staff.  

  • 100% of staff agreed that WiseFlow allowed them to develop their assessment in ways that were not previously possible
  • All staff agreed the WiseFlow reflective portfolio allowed them to fully cover learning objectives and meet the needs of their students
  • We received multiple comments about the speed of the platform, intuitive nature and search functionality which made the verification/moderation process seamless.  Staff also commended the accuracy of the rubrics for grading and how new interactive elements made them rethink how they could better use this type of functionality in the future.

Staff also commented on…

  • Comparisons to previously used portfolio platforms – “Historically the module used [another portfolio system] which was really clunky and didn’t work well at all. I really liked that Wiseflow could be scrolled across (as opposed to clicking through each page) and the layout was great”
  • Design elements within the marking interface – “It would have been useful to have had the comment box movable (I work with two screens and being able to drag the box to another screen to write on would have been a nice touch – several times I had to keep opening and closing the box as I wasn’t able to see the text underneath it)”
  • Having more time to explore the platform – “I did not feel I had enough time to play before it went live for students, but this was not WISEflow’s fault – it was just timing”. 

As an honest answer, we’ve been blown away by our staff feedback.   The unanimous agreement that WiseFlow enables new possibilities for assessment development speaks very highly of this solution and its potential in enhancing the teaching and learning experience for students at Portsmouth University.  The potential to create authentic assessments through the use of reflective portfolios is exciting.  The accuracy of the grading rubrics was also very highly commended – allowing students to have a greater chance of achieving a clear and defined target and making academic decision-making easier, fairer and more accurate.  In terms of developmental areas, the movement of the comment box is a fair point – we’ve heard from other academics about the size of the comment box before – hopefully, something that WiseFlow’s New Marker Journey will alleviate. 

Where do we go from here?

As we raised in our first blog post – the reflective portfolio solution in WiseFlow is far from perfect, with a few simple tweaks the solution could become very appealing. Sadly, some of these are out of our hands and lie within the code of the platform.  We’ve learnt a lot during the duration of this assessment as a project team, including developmental areas we have highlighted for the future.  

The single biggest limiting factor when using a reflective portfolio is when using a file upload question type.  This is limited to twelve files that are no more than 10Mb each – multiple file upload questions can be used, but will still have limits on them.  We have approached WiseFlow about this for development purposes, however, we have yet to have any significant movement on removing this limit.  The removal of this limit puts WiseFlow in an incredibly powerful position to offer another “string to their bow” in terms of assessment choice and would truly open up the use of reflective portfolios within the platform.  Sadly, with this limit in place, using reflective portfolios with some faculties such as our Creative and Cultural Industry, where students would regularly upload large .psd, CAD files, HD video, and high-quality audio etc) is just not a viable option.  Creative students will often build a “portfolio career” and we would love to be able to work with them on developing reflective portfolios, but this limit stops us.  Until this is removed, careful consideration must be taken at the planning stage of an assessment as to whether the reflective portfolio is the correct solution.  Further to this, other limitations must be considered – for example, once the reflective portfolio is live for students to complete, it cannot be altered, changed or adapted.  During the pilot, we’ve worked extensively with academics and our support teams to iron out any issues prior to release. Careful planning and consideration must take place in the authoring phase of an assignment, which will then be rigorously checked prior to release – in the same way an exam would.  This has worked at a small scale but we would need to ensure appropriate support mechanisms are in place at a larger scale.  

Our student feedback gave us valuable insight into the process of using WiseFlow.  Although reflective portfolios save every 10 seconds, if a student deletes a file or a piece of text and exits the platform, this cannot be recovered.  Over the duration of the assessments that took place, we encountered one reported instance of this. We also had some reports of formatting that will not copy from Word documents.  Again, we approached WiseFlow regarding this and it is recommended to copy/paste plain text from Word and finish the styling in the text editor of WiseFlow.  Although this solution works, having formatting that copies across would make students’ work translate much easier – particularly for those who write on external documents before copying into the platform at the last minute (like myself). In terms of progression beyond WiseFlow, we’d love for students to be able to take their work from the platform and have the ability to store it themselves or share it beyond the WiseFlow platform.  Currently, there is no solution to this.  A “zip folder” that contained all exports and uploaded files of any inputted answers into WiseFlow would be a great starting point.  Again, we’ve put forward the idea to WiseFlow, but have yet to have any movement on this.  

Where do we take our pilot now?

Although these are risks with using a reflective portfolio solution in WiseFlow, the prospect and the potential gain of this authentic assessment are exciting.  We’ve taken the plunge and proven the concept works, highlighting potential development areas which we really hope get some traction and we’d like to think WiseFlow will be open to listening to these developmental ideas.  As for our pilot project as a whole, we move into a second phase of the pilot with a continued focus on reflective portfolios but also some other areas of assessment we have struggled with in the past, such as large file submissions.  We have a plethora of training and support we are actively developing and working with local teams to ensure staff feel confident using the systems.  

We continue to have a waiting list for academics who are wanting to work with us to develop reflective portfolios in WiseFlow. I find myself meeting with academics on a weekly basis to discuss potential projects and reflective portfolio solutions in their disciplines.   So far, we’ve done no real advertising, and this interest has been created from word of mouth and from those who have used it as students. We are keen to share our experiences with other Universities in WiseFlow user groups, who are actively keen to explore this and want to learn about our innovative approach. However, we need to be open and honest about the limitations that this solution has at the moment. Collectively, we might hold enough power to make change happen but until that point, caution must be taken before embarking on a reflective portfolio to ensure this is the correct fit for assessment.

The potential of this solution is game-changing, not just for us, but for a lot of other Higher Education institutions across the world.

The future of reflective portfolios in WiseFlow is exciting – keep watching this space.  

Chris

Credit Image: Photo by MidJourney 

Guest Blogger: Co-Creating Expectations with Vevox

Introduction by Tom:

I was asked by Vevox (a company we work closely with that facilitates audience response) to run the first session in their autumn webinar series. I was happy to do this and you can watch the recording of the session on Youtube.

After the session, Joe from Vevox was asked if I would mind someone writing a blog relating to the session. I was flattered and said of course. Dr Rachel Chan from St Mary’s University in Twickenham wrote her blog and shared it with me and I asked her if we could re-publish it here on TelTales. She was happy to let us use the blog…so this blog is a short reflection from Rachel after attending my webinar on “Co-Creating Expectations with Vevox”.

Co-creation Blog

St Mar's logoMy name is Rachel Chan, I am a Senior Lecturer – Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist teaching on the BSc in Physiotherapy at St Mary’s University in Twickenham. Throughout my academic career, I have always been hugely committed to Teaching and Learning. I recently listened to a talk by Tom Langston from the University of Portsmouth about co-creation and thought it might be valuable to write a short blog to share some of his key messages.

Tom began by asking us a question ‘What is co-creation?’ We were all on the right track, people suggested things like ‘student partnership,’ ‘collaboration’ and ‘support.’ Bovill and colleagues(2016) define it as ‘…when staff and students work collaboratively with one another to create components of curricula and /or pedagogical approaches.’ Great, so, Where does it work? Tom showed us that co-creation can work in many areas of pedagogy including setting expectations, assessment criteria, curriculum content and assessment design. I was already sold by this point but there are many, less obvious benefits, to adopting co-creation in your pedagogical practice.

  1.  It enables you to better meet expectations (the students’ expectations of you, your expectations of the student and more subtly but equally important, the students’ expectations of each other). An important tip Tom shared was setting these expectations as early as possible so that everyone knows the playing field from day 1.
  2. It facilitates a dynamic approach to your teaching practice, encouraging you to reflect on what you do and allowing you to evolve as an educator. CPD in action!
  3. It gives the students’ a voice – of course, it is impossible to accommodate all of their suggestions, no one is suggesting that you do. Phew! But listening to students, and showing them that you will try to accommodate some of them, opens the channels of communication – they know that you care and that you have heard them. This is SO important.

The idea of co-creation may make some educators feel anxious and, in some areas, it will be easier to implement than others (assessment design may be more challenging for example) but you can and should start small. Bovill and Bulley have created a ladder that models co-creation, it shows dictated curriculum at the bottom and an anarchic level of students in control at the top (ttps://eprints.gla.ac.uk/57709/1/57709.pdf). Tom wasn’t suggesting you aim too high but believes adopting some co-creation in your practice will have huge benefits for all.

How to adopt this principle of co-creation? There are many ways in which you can successfully include co-creation in your teaching such as using an EVS to make quizzes or simply creating a collaboration space to stimulate discussions with students.

My take-home message…Step 1. always try to engage your students in your teaching, and perhaps more importantly…Step 2. respond to that engagement. Thanks, Tom, I am inspired!

If you have any questions or would like to know more about co-creation, please contact Tom at:  tom.langston@port.ac.uk

Explore – A guide for academic staff

Considering ways to enhance a blended and connected learning experience? Looking for a resource that can provide the basic information on digital tools at UoP? Need help and support with content capture but not sure which tool is fit for purpose? Maybe Explore can help!

What’s Explore?

In collaboration with Professor Ale Armellini, the TEL Team have designed and developed a resource called Explore – A guide for academic staff. We hope it will help provide answers to questions surrounding tool selection in blended and connected learning and teaching.

In the ever-changing world of technology, it can be difficult to stay up to date with the digital tools being used within the University, and the range of tools can often appear overwhelming. For any given teaching situation, knowing which tool will provide the best solution for you and your students is a challenge. For support staff, understanding the purpose behind a given technology is key in aiding learning and teaching. Explore can help you choose the right tool for the job; if you need training on the tool, Explore points to development opportunities.  

Pedagogy and technology go hand-in-hand and when a mutual understanding is achieved great things happen.

 

‘Pedagogy is the driver. Technology is the accelerator’ Michael Fullan

Learning types

Explore uses Diana Laurilliard’s 6 learning types and Assessment to categorise the various tools and technologies supported by UoP. Most tools can support activities within any learning type. What determines the choice of tool is pedagogic purpose in each context. Explore is a framework to guide decision making and help innovation within learning and teaching.

  • AcquisitionLearning through acquisition is what learners do when they listen to a lecture or podcast, read from books or websites, and watch demos or videos.
  • Collaboration – Learning through collaboration embraces mainly discussion, practice, and production. Learners take part in the process of knowledge building itself through participation.
  • Discussion – Learning through discussion requires learners to articulate their ideas and questions, and to challenge and respond to the ideas and questions from teachers, and/or from peers.
  • Investigation – Learning through investigation guides learners to explore, compare and critique the texts, documents and resources that reflect the concepts and ideas being taught.
  • Practice – Learning through practice enables learners to adapt their actions to the task goal, and use the feedback to improve their next action. Feedback may come from self-reflection, from peers, from teachers, or from the activity itself.
  • Production – Learning through production involves motivating learners to consolidate what they have learned by articulating their current conceptual understanding in the form of an artefact, product, display or another deliverable.
  • Assessment – Learning through assessment is the way the teacher can gauge the knowledge of the learners, formatively or summatively, and give feedback designed to improve the learners’ performance.

Explore - A guide for academic staff

Under each learning type on Explore, we have included some examples of digital tools that are currently in use at UoP and that could be used to achieve certain learning outcomes. For instance, if you are thinking about acquisition-type activities in your teaching you could use Panopto to create videos for your students. By clicking on each tool in Explore, you will find information about the tool itself; how to access it; key features; top tips by current users; useful links to guidance and training; media such as videos; quotes about the tool from UoP and other staff; and examples of other learning types in which the tool could be used.

Feedback 

We asked a range of academics and Online Course Developers to ‘test drive’ Explore within their roles. The feedback we received has helped us to further develop the resource.

‘’Due to delivering a blended / mixed-delivery programme, this tool will spark ideas for development and innovation (it has done so already).’’

 

‘’Excellent. I've wanted a one stop place for this kind of thing since last Spring. I particularly like the way it is so condensed, but enables the user to drill down…’’

 

‘’It's something I will refer my academic colleagues to as I think it's an excellent demonstration of the number of the resources available to them so they can review and consider the resources that are most appropriate for them, their learning materials and their students.’’

To conclude

We hope both academic and academic support staff will find Explore beneficial in shaping their decisions regarding learning and teaching over the coming months. If you have any feedback then please contact us at:  ale.armellini@port.ac.uk  tom.langston@port.ac.uk or marie.kendall-waters@port.ac.uk

If you are using any of the tools from Explore in an innovative way, and would be willing to share your experience, then please let us know – we can include this as we continue to develop the resource.

Explore can be accessed directly via explore.port.ac.uk or within the Learning and Teaching Innovation site.

Thank you to everyone who has provided content and feedback – we hope you enjoy using Explore!

 

Google in a time of lockdown

2020 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the beta version of Gmail, Google’s first move beyond being just a search engine. Since then Google has created an extensive suite of applications many of which are extremely useful for teaching and learning. In this blog I’ll be looking at some of, what I think, are the most useful apps and why, during the current lockdown, Google can be useful in helping deliver online learning.

Possibly the most useful change Google has made in light of the lockdown was to extend video conferencing (Hangouts Meet)  to all GSuite accounts allowing up to 250 participants in any online meeting. Setting up an online meeting using Hangouts Meet can be done via the Google calendar thus notifying participants automatically. While this particular app lacks some of the functionality of Webex, it is useful for hosting and running a simple meeting or online seminar.

In this time of distributive learning, collaboration can still be facilitated and Google provides tools such as jamboard that will allow students to contribute to online tasks and discussions. Jamboard provides a pin-board style interface onto which students can pin their ideas and contributions to group tasks. While apps such as Google docs do clearly provide opportunities for online collaboration, jamboard provides a tool for more focused tasks with a clear and easy to read interface.

On the Degree Apprenticeship programme, we make major use of G Suite including Shared Drives and Google Docs, indeed without these, it would be difficult to see how we could manage some of the required administrative tasks. The ability to enhance the functionality of some Google products such as sheets, also means that they can be tailored to best meet the needs of our students. For example, all degree apprenticeship students are required to keep a log of their off the job training activities, such as their weekly University sessions, to help them complete these logs we use Google forms linked to Google sheets. Being able to add a script to the sheets means that emails can automatically be sent out allowing course administrators to more easily monitor log entries.

In terms of teaching and learning, one of the most useful Google products, and certainly the most ubiquitous in terms of videos, is YouTube, bought by Google back in 2006. By virtue of having a Google account, all members of the University automatically have a YouTube account. This, combined with the unlimited storage offered by Google, provides staff and students with an invaluable teaching and learning platform. Google’s screen capture app, Screencastify, integrates nicely with Youtube allowing users to edit and then upload directly to their YouTube channel.

So, out of the range of apps, Google provides, which ones are my favourites?

Having worked with apprenticeship students in the Business faculty for over two years, helping them with their ePortfolios, I’ve become a convert to Google Sites. I found the old version while having plenty of functionality, a bit clunky and not that user-friendly, often having to write HTML to achieve what I wanted. A downside of New Google Sites was the lack of template functionality, but this issue is being addressed as the addition of templates is currently in development.

But, on a day to day level, Google docs and Shared Drives have pretty much transformed the way I work, simplifying working collaboratively with colleagues and students. 

The pace of development of Google products is also impressive and I’m looking forward to making use of Smart Compose (https://gsuiteupdates.googleblog.com/2020/02/smart-compose-ga.html) and neural grammar correction, currently in beta. While Word does ship with far greater functionality and even slightly complicated Word documents do not convert well to Google, for the majority of users, the tools available with Docs are generally more than enough and thinglink (https://www.thinglink.com/scene/1282367584611598339) is great for those new to Docs. Google has also made it slightly easier to share documents with non-Google account holders, users can now use their existing email address to set themselves up with Google to enable access to shared Google docs, Sites etc. while a PIN verification system, currently in beta, will remove the need to set up any kind of Google account at all.

The current situation has thrown up considerable challenges in continuing to provide engaging and high quality teaching and learning especially in terms of students working collaboratively, Google clearly does not provide all the solutions required, but its suite of apps are certainly a good starting point.

Image by Saveliy Morozov  from Pixabay

Into the unknown – part 2

Digifest (#digifest20) as a conference is awe inspiring, Jisc really know how to create that wow factor on entering the central auditorium. It was an area divided between trade stands, a village green and a futuristic stage. Next to it housed a massive screen that projected holographic messages signposting exhibits like AR, as well as when sessions were due to start. 

The first two sessions of Digifest were thought provoking and relevant to what we are all facing, a greater need to work online and provide a digital solution to our traditional working practices. Unsurprisingly enough, this is even more relevant now! Since I wrote part 1, we have gone through a seismic shift in learning and teaching, and had to adapt at a rapid pace to the new ways of working. 

This ties nicely to the third session that I attended called Digital Imposter Syndrome in Pracademia. We are all now facing a new way to interact with colleagues, students and our families. The fact that in the not so distant past, people would shy away from attempting new ways of using technology, yet are now being forced to change and adapt. This session had the perfect message for our current working environments. 

Just give it a go! It might fail. If it does … so what? 

We are a diverse community of practitioners and academics that are rallying, more than ever, to provide support and resources for each other and our students. 

The previous worry and the point I would have made, had I written this when Digifest was fresh in my mind, was that our students know more than us. That might well be true in certain technological areas, but actually, this is also a challenging time for them too. We are in a prime situation for students to give us their feedback, which can only benefit us and them in collaborating going forward.  This idea of digital support and digital co-creation is something that the TEL team are happy to discuss so please let us know if this is something you are doing or want to know more about (you can start with me tom.langston@port.ac.uk or the general help email elearn@port.ac.uk ).


At the time I made this tweet, it summed up nicely where we stand today. At the moment quick wins are the name of the game, being adaptable and using new tools to try something new. 

Back to the wider Digifest angle, and each session I attended, offered new and creative ideas for teaching. Harlow College provides their students with an iPad for their studies and with it they are creating digital scrapbooks to help with dementia patients in the community, writing and directing drama performances for the community around evocative subjects like cyber-bullying. It lets the students’ creativity flow through all their studies and is not fixed to traditional technical subjects. This is key when thinking that ‘they’ know more than we do. We, as academics, understand that the generations surrounding us have different skills to offer, and to ignore that is only going to slow innovation. If we develop why we want to use the technology and think about the pedagogic rationale, maybe the students can run with the theme and ideas and inspire us in how we work, assess and challenge our previous norms. 

Digifest was an amazing space to share ideas and hear about innovations in teaching that are surprisingly easy to implement. So far I have written only around day 1, day 2 was equally fruitful. The final blog post in the series will look at the highlights of day 2 and what we can do going forward with the enforced digital revolution that we are all now part of.

Peermark – a tool for group feedback.

Recently Coventry University released a new plugin for Moodle around the idea of group and peer feedback. A colleague highlighted the new tool to me and at first glance I thought it looked like a promising solution to one of the requirements many academics have while running group work: the ability for students to score the contribution of individuals within the group and provide either public or anonymous feedback to group members.

Currently Moodle provides various options to support group work and peer learning, because Moodle HQ realises that these approaches hold an important place in the arsenal of many academics. Firstly, Moodle provides a generic framework for creating groups – these can then be allocated to an activity (such as discussion boards, wikis or group assignment submissions).

Secondly, and with a greater focus on the use of peer learning, Moodle provides the Workshop tool.

While groups can be Moodle Workshop screenshotadded and used within the Workshop, the idea is predominantly that students add a submission. The submission is then allocated to a specified number of their peers, who then grade and provide feedback on it.

If you haven’t used the Workshop tool in anger, here is a quick overview of how to use it as a peer-assessment tool:

  1. All students submit their work (traditionally this will be an essay, but it could be work in some other format).
  2. The work is allocated to the other students. This can be scheduled and automated if required.
  3. Every student marks the assessments they have been given (academics can also provide feedback, although this is not a requirement).
  4. Each student receives a final grade for the submission and a grade for their ability to assess the work (academics can overwrite grades should they feel the process has proven unfair).

This tool provides students a fantastic opportunity to reflect on their own writing and work while comparing it to that of their peers. However, it does not allow for a group to provide anonymous feedback to their peers on projects. To do this academics currently have to find solutions outside of Moodle. The most notable option for this is TeamMates. TeamMates allows groups to feedback on the overall project work and then score the engagement of the rest of the team throughout the project.

We now have a new Moodle-based solution! Peerwork, created by Coventry University, is an integration with Moodle that provides a peer feedback option for group work. You can learn more about this approach from the video they have produced:

While working through Peermark, I was really impressed with its simplicity of set-up and use. I created the framework as an academic, but also completed the process as a student. Using multiple test accounts, I was able to understand how the process would work from both sides and see how you can adjust the overall grade given to a group though the peer reviews on the work.

The only criticism was really just my understanding of what the tool did (so not really a criticism of the system). When I uploaded a document as a student it cascaded it to each other members of the group. Each student does not need to upload a file, it is targeting the students for feedback on their peers and how the group worked throughout a project. The upload was almost a secondary consideration to the process.

Peermark is not the Workshop reimagined. They are two very different tools that serve a specific purpose.

The Workshop facilitates a student writing a piece of work, submitting it and other students provide feedback and evaluation of that work.

Peermark allows groups to discuss, rank and analyse how the entire team worked together over the course of the project. The work is created by the team for evaluation by the academic but the feedback given by the group on each other member will directly affect the shared grade of the team.

Peermark is currently on a test installation of Moodle.

If you would like a demonstration to see whether it would fit your need, please contact tom.langston@port.ac.uk

Image taken from Unsplash :John Schnobrich
John Schnobrich

Through the mirror – learning through reflection

It’s easy to get swept along in the hustle and bustle and the hum-drum work-a-day life. The constant flow of work emails and phone calls, running from one meeting to the next, information going in one ear and out the other, you feel like you’ve run out of hours in the day before you’ve even begun! However, all the things you do at work, although might not feel like it at the time, have a purpose, and result in a solution that provides information that can help others!

So let’s take a step back and breath!

Let’s start with a little activity: go and make a cup of tea and ask yourself:

‘when was the last time I sat down and actually reflected on my work?’

It may sound like a silly question, but I bet most of you don’t actively reflect on your daily work life – things that you’ve achieved, things that didn’t go so well, new things you’ve learnt, ways you’ve helped people, provided new ways of doing things, seen or read something interesting that could help your team or section, events and conferences you’ve attended – there will always be something that you or your peers can learn from.

Can you think of any examples? If so, jot them down.

By sharing these experiences that we don’t always think are significant, we could aid others to learn and develop new skills and improve communication within a team/section and organisation.

The importance of reflection 

Reflecting helps you to develop your skills and review their effectiveness, rather than just carry on doing things as you have always done them. It is about questioning, in a positive way, what you do and why you do it and then deciding whether there is a better, or more efficient, way of doing it in the future. By reflecting on a regular basis, it soon becomes habit and can be incorporated in your daily working life.

Reflection is an important part of learning and we encourage our students to actively self reflect – so why aren’t we?

The Open University explain the importance of reflection as: 

‘You wouldn’t use a recipe a second time around if the dish didn’t work the first time would you? You would either adjust the recipe or find a new and, hopefully, better one. When we learn we can become stuck in a routine that may not be working effectively. Thinking about your own skills can help you identify changes you might need to make.’ [1]

This in turn helps you develop within your role and learn from your experiences. So how can we learn from our experiences and evolve by reflecting?

Putting reflective writing into practice

By regularly self reflecting and keeping a record of our experiences through writing we can put what we have learnt through reflection into practice. Reflective writing includes both analysis, description and helps clarify your thoughts, particularly important aspects and identifies areas where you need more support and can help work out strategies for problem solving. It can help you to personalise and contextualise your own learning experience.

The way you respond to situations, opinions, events or new information can aid in exploring your learning and achieve clarity and understanding of what you are learning. Blogging and online journals are a great way of keeping a record of your experiences and practicing reflective writing on a regular basis.

The benefits of reflective writing

It can be difficult when you’re busy to find time to reflect, but by doing so you’re learning an important skill. You’ll not only improve your writing skills, but you’ll increase you’ll self-awareness and develop a better understanding of others. Reflective writing can help you to develop creative thinking skills and encourages active engagement in work processes.

Did you know reflective learners share the following common characteristics:

  • Very motivated – know what they are trying to achieve and why.
  • Proactive in expanding their understanding of new ideas and topics.
  • Use their existing knowledge to develop their comprehension of new ideas.
  • Understand new concepts by aligning and comparing them to their life experiences.
  • Accept and understand that research and extensive reading will improve their comprehension and add value to their writing.
  • By evaluating of their previous learning experiences, they will develop their future learning and thinking.
  • Become self-aware and are clearly able to identify, explain, and leverage their strengths and work on their weaknesses

Learning by doing – Reflective learning cycle – the theory bit!

Graham Gibbs’ (1988) Reflective Learning Cycle was developed to give structure to learning from experiences.  It offers a framework for examining experiences, and given its cyclic nature lends itself particularly well to repeated experiences, allowing you to learn and plan from things that either went well or didn’t go well. It covers 6 stages:

  • Description of the experience
  • Feelings and thoughts about the experience
  • Evaluation of the experience, both good and bad
  • Analysis to make sense of the situation
  • Conclusion about what you learned and what you could have done differently
  • Action plan for how you would deal with similar situations in the future, or general changes you might find appropriate.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle

Carol Dweck (2007) takes this a step further by looking at the growth mindset – which reinforces the idea that everyone can learn and learn most things well. Reflection can help you to fulfil your potential by believing you can improve.

‘In practice reflective learning allows students to step back from their regular learning methodology and develop critical thinking skills to enhance their future performance by analyzing and reviewing their learning experiences – both the content of what they have learnt and the emotions, if any, attached to the learning content.’ [2]

Carol Dweck – growth mindset https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve#t-353

How we are ‘Learning by doing’ – Tel Tales and the Tel Team

Tel Tales is an example of reflective writing in practice, it’s a community of practice, where we regularly share our experiences, ideas, failures and learning through blogging. It can often feel difficult and challenging as a form of self reflection and academic writing as it does involve writing about our errors and anxieties just as well as our successes. It’s often hard to find the time to stand back and reflect but it’s also crucial for us in developing and evolving as individuals and as a team within the current university climate.

Reflection is an important skill in learning and developing one’s self and helps us to personalise and conceptualise our own experiences. Collaboratively, it’s a great way to share our experiences whether bad or good, and develop as a team whilst raising our profile and improving our writing and critical thinking skills.

We are always looking for guest bloggers, so if you would like to contribute to our blog and did have time to have that cuppa and reflect, then please get in touch with me and share your ideas!

Further reading:

Using Blogs to Enhance Critical Reflection and Community of Practice https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4c24/86837c8ee3bc4a52b925143cb20d5cdd45a9.pdf

Reflective Cycle
https://www.toolshero.com/management/gibbs-reflective-cycle-graham-gibbs/


References:

[1] The Open University, 2019: http://www.open.ac.uk/choose/unison/develop/my-skills/self-reflection 2019.

[2] Li-ling Ooi, www.colourmylearning.com, 2019:https://www.colourmylearning.com/2017/11/collaborative-blogging-as-a-reflective-learning-tool/ – Gibbs’ Reflective Learning Cycle.

Credit image: Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

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