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Institute of Education Senior Manager Perspective

Mary Stiasny

Pro-Director, Learning and International



Assessment Careers: enhancing learning pathways through assessment - Assessment and Feedback programme

Digital Literacies as a Postgraduate Attribute - Developing Digital Literacies programme


Assessment is often viewed as a series of one-off events. This means that learners do not always benefit from feedback, they lack a sense of progress and self-reliance is not encouraged. The Assessment Careers project will reconceptualise assessment from the perspective of an assessment career and use this to transform the Institute of Education’s (IOE) assessment processes. Like a working career, an assessment career develops through a series of related events that join up to give a coherent and progressive pathway that is self-directed. Building on previous initiatives at the IOE and research across the sector, the project will develop and pilot an Assessment Career framework to include ipsative assessment (assessment focussed on learner progress); multi-stage assessment, and assessment career audits to help learners overcome negative past experiences of assessment.


The IOE is also undertaking a project “Digital Literacies as a Postgraduate Attribute” as part of the Digital Literacies programme. The project will investigate the needs of the institute’s three main groups of students: doctoral; taught Masters; and PGCE. It will also investigate institutional readiness for change around digital literacies; in terms of processes, relationships, staff expertise and quality of developmental resources. Guided by an in-depth base-lining exercise, the project will implement four pilot innovations, each addressing a different area of need.


Alignment with institutional agendas and strategies

The institute is currently undertaking two key high-level reviews – the first is a review of all curricula (including how they are offered and the processes involved) and the other is focused on the student experience as a whole (including parity of experience across the institute) and the major part of this is about assessment (e.g. patterns, practices, student experience) – so the Jisc projects strategically align with these on-going high-level reviews. The Assessment and Feedback project also follows on from previous work on enhancing student experience in respect of transitions and assessment (e.g. students making the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate or those from being a full time to part time student).


There is also a strategy in development, called “Open Mode”, looking at implementing mixed mode delivery including e-learning and distance learning and again, both the Assessment and Feedback and Digital Literacies projects align with this strategy too.


We have a particular focus on parity of student experience across the institution, particularly relating to assessment patterns and practices ... and our assessment careers project fits exactly with this, so it will help deliver both the student experience strategy, with assessment and parity within it, as well as the curriculum review.”


Impact on staff culture and capabilities

The combination of strategy development and Jisc innovation projects is helping to create an e-learning culture, where the institute is encouraging staff to examine their own practice and be innovative in making changes and using technology. The Assessment and Feedback and Digital Literacies projects dovetail with each other in support of this e-learning culture – both of which are initially working with key groups of staff to develop and trial changes - and where staff repeatedly say This is helping me to change my practice”.


One of the problems is that staff are all rushed off their feet and these days more than ever, there are more things to do and fewer people to do it. But I’d say that I’ve been really impressed by the way staff have really got on board and are getting involved.”


I actually firmly believe that what we’ve done is create a mind-set across the institution which means that people say, ‘Look, that’s a possibility, there’s an opportunity here. It’s also a priority and I’m tuned into that priority and I’ll get her to back me, the senior manager will back me because it’s a priority.”


Impact on the student journey

The institute believes that such projects should only be undertaken if they have an impact on the student experience and thus help to improve student progression and retention. A key element of this is to overcome “silo” areas of working in order to pull practice together in a much more coherent way, hopefully leading to greater parity of student experience and improved progression and retention. The institute also hopes to enhance international mobility – both helping facilitate those coming to the UK and those going abroad. The Assessment and Feedback and Digital Literacies projects will help to underpin this international mobility.


The good quality assessment practices will help the increased flexibility that we’re aiming for… and I want to be sure that everybody’s getting the same best quality feedback”.


Our PGCE students must be more employable if they have better quality assessment. If they have a better quality of assessment, they can then implement that much more effectively when they go into teaching and education practice, so in a sense, tangentially, yes, it will enhance employability and would certainly enhance student attainment.”


Impact on institutional efficiencies and effectiveness

The Digital Literacies project will enhance the way that staff teach, and align with the institute’s strategic direction for “Open Mode” teaching, however, such Open Mode approaches are not necessarily cheaper, though they will be more effective and efficient – thus the digital literacies project will certainly help with the institute becoming more effective and efficient. The Assessment and Feedback project will pay back in terms of improving the way that the institute works with students.


Open Mode is not cheaper but it may well be more effective and more efficient and I firmly believe it is.”


Impact on institutional management and wider engagement

Because the Assessment and Feedback and Digital Literacies projects are so integrated into the institute’s strategic direction for change and into the working groups on assessment practices (with the projects feeding in and out) it will, by definition, become embedded, including being embedded into processes, systems and staff mind-sets. The institute will also continue the evaluation of impact after the formal end of the two projects.


As a teacher education institute, they are used to (Ofsted) “improvement through inspection”, but they prefer the concept of “improvement through self-examination and innovation”. The institute will use the projects in their Ofsted inspections, particularly to highlight self-reflection.


Measurement of cost savings and cost-benefit analysis are areas that the institute probably needs to investigate further.


Jisc projects help the institute in questioning and self-examination and bringing in external perspectives and learning from practices in other institutions.


The project is influencing the sector through its CAMEL group activity.


I rate the importance of sustained innovation as vital. If we are to give the optimum experience to our students then we need to be innovating and we need to be thinking about best practice at all times.”


The Jisc projects enable us to self-examine and throw up things that have perhaps been taken for granted and help us question”.


I think this is one of the most exciting things that I’ve had the privilege to have some involvement in and my involvement is minimal, senior managers don’t get involved enough. They get mainly involved in chairing meetings, whatever those meetings are, that’s my entire life; so this is really exciting and I think this is going to make a difference.”