Assessing Employability Skills? – A view from Hong Kong

I attended a seminar by Dr. Cecilia Chan from Centre for the enhancement of Teaching and Learning (cetl) the University of Hong Kong at Aston University yesterday (31 May).

The seminar was titled: “Curriculum Reform at the University of Hong Kong – Assessing Employability Skills”. Universities in Hong Kong are going through changes both in higher education and in secondary education,  known as the “334” (essentially, changes from 3 years University to 4 years) . Cecilia shared with us the strategies and changes University of Hong Kong has put in place in respond to this change.

Particularly interested to us from a project perspective is their introduction of assessment policy. While there is an emphasis on uses of diverse assessment methods and the need to assess employability skills, the policy I feel has a heavier emphasis on assessment of learning over assessment for learning. I understand that this has got to do with the Hong Kong, and especially University of Hong Kong context where they have a world leading reputation to maintain. I have no idea how changes can happen in such an research intensive context where staff are even less willing to engage with learning and teaching than perhaps some other institutions.

However, the cetl team did experience with technologies to promote the idea –

Cecilia told me that not every staff were very receptive of the videos, butI feel this is something worth thinking about. We often talked about technology enhanced learning (TEL), but how are we using technologies to promote TEL?


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A visit from Dr. Cath Ellis from JISC ebeam project

We were very happy that Dr. Cath Ellis from the JISC ebeam project was able to come and speak to us on Wednesday(30th May) about electronic assessment. One of our colleagues had the foresight to invite Cath to do a seminar for us before I met Cath at the JISC first project meeting.

The title of Cath’s seminar is “Electronic Assessment Management: the benefits for students, staff and the institution”. Cath gave us a little background into the her experience with Electronic assessment at the University of Huddersfield and some key benefits that staff and students experienced.

Karen and I both felt that there are similarities in Cath’s findings to ours. After the seminar, Cath suggested that maybe we should consider exchanging data between our projects to provide an even wider picture of the use of GradeMark. It is definitely an exciting prospect!

Cath also talked about assessment analytic. The idea of using assessment information we already have in a way that will help lecturers to understands their students in ways that were not conceived before is definitely exciting. More importantly, the information should allow us to have more meaningful dialogue with students is a huge benefit.

All in all, it was a great seminar and I enjoyed it very much. I was a little disappointed that there were not a huge number of staff at the seminar as it is “marking” season. However, I am glad that we recorded the session and we will make it available to our staff who could not attend.

Thanks again Cath for coming to Wales and I hope you had a good time visiting the world-famous Grogg shop! 😉

For more information on the ebeam project please visit their blog.

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“Doesn’t really bother me how I get my feedback, it all depends on how good the feedback is.”

Photo Credit: dieselbug2007’s on under Creative Commons

“Doesn’t really bother me how I get my feedback, it all depends on how good the feedback is.”  – 1st year psychology student

The above quotation is from one of our students at a recent focus group. I think it sums up really nicely the key to technology enhanced assessment and feedback.

The tools could enhance the student experience,  but the most important thing is still the quality of the feedback. It seems like common sense but as the literature and NSS scores tell us, we still have a long way to go.

Alice (analysing our student focus groups in Sunny Wales!!!)

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Poster Session at the Experts Meeting on Tuesday 24th April

At the Learning Experts meeting on Tuesday, Sue Stocking and I had the opportunity to see posters from the other projects which was really helpful as we hadn’t been at the start-up meeting as our other team members, Alice Lau and Cath Jones, attended.  We really enjoyed the opportunity to share initial findings and were delighted at the level of interest and objective comments made by colleagues viewing the project poster.  It was good to share initial findings and to hear observations from those who have also tried GradeMark in their own institutions.

From Birmingham I then travelled to Wrexham for the Inaugural Graduates for our Future conference as part of the Welsh Enhancement Theme work, so its been a busy few days but very enjoyable!

Back at Glamorgan today, and Alice and I have had chance to catch up and plan the next phase of work – we are putting together some video clips from the various student focus groups and staff interviews.  So the project (and the rain) continue 🙂 



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The iteam webinar -‘Efficiency of assessment – initial thinking from the ITEAM project’

I attended the a webinar by the iTeam project from the University of Hertfordshire on 15 March and really enjoyed it. (Click here for a recording of the webinar). It was especially useful for us as we have been thinking about how to capture the efficiency of assessment diaries and GradeMark.

I especially like the matrix by Hornby (2003) that Mark drew our attention to. Definitely something we can use not only in our project but also in our staff development events.

Hornby, W. (2003). Case studies on streamlining assessment. Aberdeen: Centre for the Enhancement of
Learning and Teaching, The Robert Gordon University.

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Do staff really change their perception of GradeMark after our interview with them?

At our team meeting today, we had a little look back on the notes we made at our interviews. Karen made an interesting reflection about an interviewee where “you can almost see the changes in their thinking” about GradeMark during our interview with him.

Image Credit: Karola Riegler from under Creative Commons

This specific interviewee is currently a non-user of GradeMark. At the start of the interview, he was explaining to us why he is not using GradeMark and feel that he does not see how he can use it in his subject discipline. However, as the interview progress, this specific interviewee started to change his pre-conception of GradeMark. He said that maybe he can try it or maybe with a small group? He even started to give us examples of how he might be able to start using GradeMark.

Whether he will eventually go on to experiment with GradeMark, we will have to wait and see. Of course, we can all be cynical and say that this interviewee only said that at the interview to stop us asking him “why you are not using GradeMark”. However, I am going to see this as a positive thing and us this as an example about the importance of dialogue between colleagues.

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The Interim report

Karen and I have been working on the interim report lately. It’s amazing how fast time has passed and we are already 6 months into our project. The project is well under way and despite Karen an I both had to take some unexpected leave away from work during the last 6 months, we have  managed to stay mostly on target!

Photo Credit:The Hamster Factor on under Creative Commons

We are really enjoying the new way of completing the interim report on the wiki. It definitely feels less daunting than the traditional 20 pages of word document!

We have been analysing the interview scripts with our staff and I am extremely pleased to see that despite some minor technical issues, most of the staff really buy-in to the underpinning idea of the use of the assessment diaries. In particular, one of the staff mentioned that the diaries has definitely “open up a clear line of communication” between her and her students. I wonder if the students feel the same? This will be interesting to find out when we carry out student focus groups in two weeks time!

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