Making learning authentic: ‘real-world’ assessments for Masters level study

Workshop presented by Jude Brereton, Lecturer (T&S) in Audio and Music Technology, Deparment of Electronics. 30 January 2017.

Jude presented in her workshop the assessment method developed for her Masters students which can be adapted and implemented with any students, from any discipline, as it can be tailor-made and used in most modules, thus ensuring its relevancy, authenticity and meaningfulness.

When Jude devised the new assessment, she reflected on the experience of her alumni to help future students build a portfolio – making them aware of how important it is to develop their employability skills -, that they would be able to show to prospective employers, something that in her own words, would ‘survive beyond the programme’. Jude developed the assessment for a brand new MSc in Audio Music Technology taking into account the module learning outcomes and programme level learning outcomes as well as other essential criteria needed to design the new 180-credit Masters course.

She wanted students to be highly motivated in their learning and while working on their assessments, being able to both see the benefits and enjoy the process, incorporating active learning and Problem Based Learning (PBL), widely used in the Department of Electronics. Assessment tasks had to be real, not ‘pretend’ real, but actually authentic, and challenging for Masters level students. It is important to note that although the term ‘authentic’ means real, also carries the connotation of meaningful, and what is meaningful for one person might not be the same for another and so on. Therefore, when designing ‘authentic’ assessment it must be diverse and inclusive – appealing to the broad spectrum of learners, their interests and personalities.

Recently, Jude was told by an international employer that a degree was not considered essential for his company, as long as a candidate could demonstrate the appropriate professional attitude, ability, innovative thinking and could do the things that they would be expected to do at the workplace – someone with the desirable transferable skills. The employer added that for them the most important requirement was to be able to programme. Furthermore, the ideal candidate would be someone with cross-discipline skills, who could appreciate the final product, being able to work and develop the different layers of the task/job: someone who could do and understand both software and hardware; who could do programming and was able to appreciate music – in Jude’s field – aesthetically; who could do Maths but also would know how to reflect and write about the job and the process; someone who knows all the technical words but at the same time is able to communicate and engage with the general public. As Jude has put it, the future is ‘hybrid’: in this day and age, mastering one thing is not good enough; her advice to students is to do as much as you can – variety and quality – and to make sure you can show it.

In the workshop Jude also showed how she uses Google Docs to share and follow group work and provide individual feedback to each group.

Zepke’s and Leach’s article titled Improving student engagement: Ten proposals for action (2010) clearly resonates behind Jude’s assessment model – follow the hyperlink to access it.

Click here to view Jude Brereton’s presentation

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360° Employability Skills: Understanding, Cultivating and Applying Professional and Continual Development Skills

Workshop presented by Carmen Álvarez-Mayo, Associate Lecturer and Spanish & Portuguese Coordinator, Languages for All, Department of Language and Linguistic Science. 31 October 2016.

The term employability as we know it has been around since the 1980s, when international corporations, global competition/trade and technology cemented the foundations for a new economic environment. The influx of new technologies set the pace of change, and has been shaping communication and trade ever since. We live in a global world where IT keeps on developing faster and faster, highly impacting in our lives and determining the employability skills required for a successful career. It is essential to understand this in order to develop the motivation and skills required to be able to keep on evolving along its side.

Education itself no longer defines learning, but rather technology does. To set out on a prosperous career, now more than ever it is necessary to keep on learning and developing good independent/self study skills and CPD competencies. It is paramount to instil in our students a taste for trying out and doing new things – that, learning is fun; exploring and discovering new ways is not only fun but necessary. In the 21st century reading and writing are not enough; IT literacy skills and an understanding of IT’s ongoing development are essential in order to be able to keep up with progress and change, and to be successful.

Furthermore, in a global world, developing intercultural competence and communication will equip graduates and postgraduates with international skills to augment their potential and scope for work opportunities and prosper. Such skills can only be acquired through learning and using a foreign language, either spending long periods of time immersed in the culture: living/studying/working abroad, or through an international bilingual collaborative e-learning project like TANGO.

Therefore, current student work and assessment practice should be reviewed and updated in order to ensure that all skills, traditional and ‘new’ can be tested – as well as to allow equal opportunities of assessment ensuring inclusivity and accessibility. We need to make sure that our graduates and postgraduates are fully equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century job market, who need to be all-rounders and possess the full range of skills, 360° skills.

A more holistic approach to the York Pedagogy and employability would be appropriate to ensure that all the good principles and ideas endorsed in the Pedagogy are taken into account and applied, sharing them effectively with our students to allow for a successful implementation of the University’s approach to excellence in education, thereby having a positive impact in society – as underpinned in the five values of the Learning & Teaching Strategy.

Summary by Carmen Álvarez-Mayo

How do you solve a problem like literature searching?

How do you solve a problem like literature searching? Adding professional value to academic skills development

David Brown, Acting Academic Liaison Team Manager at Information Services, delivered on 14 November the third 2016/17 Forum workshop.

As the title suggests, there is a link between ‘literature searching’ and professional skills. Employability is a key word currently echoing in most university/academic contexts. The topic was discussed and highlighted from other angles in the two previous workshops (see Articulate – A toolkit to help us support students in the game of understanding and articulating their competencies), and today has been reflected upon and further discussed from another perspective.

David shared good practice reflecting on his experience working with the Nursing programme in the Department of Health Sciences and the Social Work programme in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work. As discussed in the workshop, some students, especially those from ‘professional programmes’ like Nursing or Social Work, find it difficult to see the value of ‘advance literature searching’ in their fields and, future, day-to-day jobs. Critical thinking and document use are two very important professional skills/competencies that university students will be able to acquire and further develop throughout their degrees. In order to foster appreciation of the skills among students, we must ensure that they understand the value of those skills now and in their future careers.

David worked with BSc Nursing and BA Social Work students using a flipped-classroom approach to have more productive face-to-face sessions with the students. He wanted to ensure that the students understood the why and how, not just the what, providing them with a more holistic yet concrete, meaningful and long-lasting knowledge.

View David’s presentation and find out more about his approach, which can be adapted and used with students from all departments. Included in the presentation there is a very interesting video for Health Sciences students where current students, academic staff, a practising nurse and himself discuss the importance of ‘literature searching’.

Summary by Carmen Álvarez-Mayo

Articulate – A toolkit to help us support students in the game of understanding and articulating their competencies

Dr Lorna Warnock (Biology) and Dr Amanda Barnes (Biology) delivered the first Forum workshop of the academic year. Their workshop focused on an HEA funded toolkit they have developed in collaboration with Dr Hillary Jones (University of Sheffield) to help students articulate the professional competencies they will develop through their programme of study.

Their workshop highlighted the importance for students to understand how they can best present themselves and the skills they have developed to future employers. The framework, which can be developed by academic staff, identifies the core competency developed for each programme. Academics can provide examples of how the core competencies will be achieved, which can then help students to see how they can articulate these skills to future employers.

What was really useful about this workshop was the chance to design our own framework for our own programmes – which stimulated some interesting discussions on the different types of competencies required for different programmes. It was stressed that the competency framework should be updated every two years to ensure that it is still relevant to the programme and also employer’s expectations.

We saw, through supporting videos how useful this approach was to support students, and how we could use this tool to stimulate workshops or personal tutorial sessions with students to help them focus on the skills that they have developed and those that need more development.

To find out more about their framework see:

Summary by Maddy Mossman

Learning and Teaching Conference 2014

The 2014 conference, attended by over 160 delegates, was on the theme of ‘Thinking outside the module box’.ThinkingOutsideTheBox_Logo_01

The VC, Professor Koen Lamberts, opened the day, taking questions on the vision for learning and teaching at York.

The keynote address was given by Dr Mitch Waterman from the University of Leeds exploring assessment and how it aligns to feedback and marking criteria.

A variety of workshops were run by York colleagues exploring the conference theme, including topics such as embedding employability in the curriculum, aiming to build a York graduate and skills progression.

In addition, 24 posters on current learning and teaching projects across campus were on display during lunch and tea.

Feedback has been very positive with people appreciating the chance to find out about initiatives in the university: ‘An excellent opportunity to see the diverse projects going on elsewhere’; ‘Interesting and informative day’; ‘Really looking forward to the next one’.