Inclusive Practice in Assessment and Feedback project

Time to have a bit of a catch up on the progress of projects! There has been lots happening in relation to the  Inclusive Practice in Assessment and Feedback project. That’s the project that is reviewing the approaches to assessment and feedback in the CCU with the aim of making it more inclusive. The first stage of the project was an online survey. There were around fifty responses to this survey and I have been working on analysing the results. The survey confirmed a lot of what we know about the challenges for CCU students. For example, virtually half of all respondents were in full-time employment when studying with the CCU, and juggling competing priorities is a huge challenge for these mature students. Moreover, 42% of respondents had not studied for a period of 10 years or more prior to joining the CCU, so there was a lot of useful feedback about people’s needs in terms of study skills and acdemic support.

Interestingly, there were a lot of positive comments about existing forms of assessments. For example, many people find essays and presentations valuable experiences – though whether this is just because that’s what students have been most used to doing is debatable. There was certainly a lot of interest in alternative forms of assessment, so maybe it will be more a case of introducing a wider range of alternatives rather than simply changing existing forms of assessment to something different. Whilst many of the  responses to questions about feedback suggested satisfaction with existing practices, one of the key suggestions for improvement was to have more tutuorials/mentoring, incorporating a personalised approach tailored to each student’s needs and aims.

As always with surveys, as well as answering some of the questions, they usually tend to also flag up the need for some more in-depth analysis of people’s individual experiences. I have therefore started doing one-to-one interviews with some past CCU students. I’m in the process of writing these up  – more on this later!

Finally, this Friday (2nd March) is a big day for the project, as we’re holding a World Cafe style event in the Learning Exchange (10am-12 midday) to further discuss people’s experiences of assessment and feedback. We’ll be using some of the feedback from the survey as a starting point for discussions, which will be useful in cross-checking the findings. The workshop will end with action planning for the changes. It will ofcourse be a typical CCU event – informal, fun, interactive and with some tasty refreshments! All past and present students are very welcome to come along and take part – you just need to contact us to book a place!

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Volunteering Journeys

The Volunteering Journeys project progressed a little further this week, as Penny and I facilitated a day’s workshop about research with students and community volunteers taking part in the project. Volunteering Journeys is a research informed teaching project, so the aim is to involve undergraduate students in doing research and writing up the findings. We are using digital storytelling as a method of community research, and the students will be supporting community volunteers to tell their stories, which will then be used as a teaching resource on our volunteering courses.

We wanted the day to give a real overview of the research process, and to show how research can build on everyday skills. We emphasised this from the beginning of the day, when to help people to get to know each other we asked them to get into pairs, and to find out a couple of things about each other, and about their experiences of research, and then to introduce each other to the group. As we pointed out at the end of the exercise, each person had begun the day by carrying out a semi-structured interview! Other activities looked at the meaning and purpose of research; what some of the key terms mean; what the steps are in the research process; what skills are needed and what it means to carry out ethical and participatory research. All of the activities were designed in an interactive and fun way.

As anyone who has got to know me through the CCU will probably know, I am passionate about social research and so I’d been really looking forward to delivering this workshop. As it turned out, most of the group had experience of some kind in research, and this made the discussions all the more interesting, as people came from a range of backgrounds. As intended, the style of the workshop meant that there was plenty of chance for people to talk and to get to know eachother, which generated lots of laughter and hopefully lots of learning from each other’s experiences.

Most of the academic research that I have completed to date is quite traditional, in that I recruit people do be interviewed, then I go and record the interview, take away the data, analyse it and write it up. I am really enjoying developing a research project that is much more participatory….that involves training of other researchers, and most importantly that actively involves participants in the entire process.

By the end of the day, each student had teamed up with a community volunteer and together they started discussing possible ways of recording stories. We’re hoping that by Christmas each volunteer will have an initial ‘storyboard’ to use as the basis for recording their story.

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Maria Whatton’s Storytelling Workshop

On Wednesday this week, professional storyteller Maria Whatton delivered a one-day workshop as part of the Creative Communities Unit’s Volunteering Journeys project. Two volunteering students took part, along with six community volunteers and Penny and Jackie from the CCU. Maria began the workshop by telling some stories – one of which touched on some of the values that are at the heart of volunteering. It was about the fact that everyone needs a bit of a lift at times in their life, and that by giving something to someone and by showing some faith and belief in them, you are effectively giving them a metaphorical ‘gold bar’. People were then asked to tell a story about a time in their lives when they had been given that ‘gold bar’, or when they had given it to others.

The afternoon was a further oportunity to tell stories and to explore creativity. The activities focused on remembering a time in the past that was particularly happy. We then drew a picture of that time, after which we compiled our memories into a ‘Map of Memories’. On a large sheet, we drew an island, and then each of us added a picture symbolising our happy memory, and named our place on the island. We concluded the workshop by telling the story of our memory to the rest of the group.

It was an excellent workshop. Everyone took part with great enthusiasm, and sharing our stories was both interesting and often inspiring. Our Volunteering Journeys project involves using digital storytelling as a method of researching communities. More specifically, students will be working with community volunteers to help them to tell and record their stories of volunteering. These stories will then be used as a teaching resource on the volunteering courses that are run by the Creative Communities Unit. The next workshop will be happening on Wednesday 23rd November and will provide an introduction to community research. Students and community volunteers will also be teaming up at this workshop to begin to record the stories.

 

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Countdown to Volunteering Journeys

Lots has been happening this week with the projects that I’m working on at the moment in the Creative Communities Unit. The online survey has gone out to hundreds of students who have studied with the CCU to find out about their experiences of assessment and feedback. We are starting to get some responses and hopefully this will really help us to see how we can change our assessments to make them as inclusive as possible.

We are also counting down to next week’s Storytelling Workshop with Maria Whatton as part of our Volunteering Journeys project. Quite a few folks have signed up for the workshops, both students and community volunteers….though we’re still trying to encourage a few more by speading the word through Facebook and Twitter.  I’m looking forward to taking part in the workshop and to hopefully taking lots of lovely photos to record the event!

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Ageing Creatively

This week I attended a conference at Manchester Town Hall entitled Ageing Creatively. I recently completed my PhD on the subject of arts and ageing, so it’s a topic that deeply interests me. I became interested in the subject through observing the impact of arts participation in later life on my two grandmothers, one of whom gained an A level in art at the age of 74. When I began my research in 2006, there seemed to be very little interst in the subject, but this is rapidly changing. There were 230 delegates at the conference, including artists, researchers, representatives from arts and cultural organisations, and from health organisations. There were some really interesting older artists there, including a 91 year old theatre director.There was also a fantastic performance by the Golden Voices Community Choir.

The event had been organised by the Baring Foundation, which funds arts work with older people. They had also commissioned the Mental Health Foundation to conduct a literature review involving research that addresses the impact of arts work on older people. My own research is a qualitative study that looks at the meanings that older people attach to their participation in group arts activities throughout their lives. I did not attempt to actually measure that impact. However, the challenge of measurement is something that now interests me increasingly, especially because of the potential to influence policy by demonstrating measurable benefits. Perhaps one day arts activities will be widely available on prescription from our GP! I came away with lots of ideas for future research projects – watch this space!

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Volunteering Journeys

This week I have been busy letting everyone know about another project that is happening in the Creative Communities in the next few months. My colleague Penny Vincent and myself recently successfully applied for funding to develop a research informed teaching project. The idea of the project is to get degree students involved in learning about and doing real life research. This includes helping to write up articles about it, and eventually presenting at a conference.

We have previously done some work involving digital storytelling, and we thought that it would be a great idea to involve students on our Volunteering Action and Experience module in working with other community volunteers to help them to tell their story of volunteering. If they’re happy to record and share the stories (using voice recorders, photos, video etc) then they can be used as a teaching resource on our volunteering courses. We think it will really add something special to the volunteering workshops to be able to hear and talk about people’s real-life volunteering!

We’re also really excited that the project will begin with a one-day storytelling workshop at the university with award-winning storyteller Maria Whatton. This is happening on Wednesday 26th October. Everyone involved in the project will be able to come along to this and it should be a great day!

So – the publicity about the project has been sent out and we’ve already had several positive responses. Now that students are back, we expect that the student places on the project will be snapped up fast!

 

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Welcome to Jackie’s blog

I work in the Creative Communities Unit here at Staffordshire University (http://www.staffs.ac.uk/schools/humanities_and_soc_sciences/ccu/.

I’ve never blogged before but having recently started work on several new and exciting projects in the CCU, I’ve decided that it’s time to join the 21st century and to tell everyone about what’s happening!

Since coming back to work after my summer holiday, I’ve been working hard on our Inclusive Practice in Assessment and Feedback project. We are reviewing the ways that we assess students at the moment. We want to develop new approaches that will address any problems that students might have experienced in doing current assessments. This could (for example) be because of particular learning styles, or disabilities, or because of being out of education for a long time.

In the CCU, we place a lot of emphasis on participation and empowerment in communities, and so true to this, we want to involve all of our students, past and present in taking part in this review. The first step is to set up an online survey for students to complete. They will be able to give feedback about their experiences and make suggestions for changes. I will be meeting Hamza Badenjiki from the Learning Development and Innovation team this afternoon for a bit more guidance on building a survey. So my first ever Blog entry and my first ever online survey all in one day!

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