As joint staff leaders (together with Dr Nora Honkala) on the current Law Feedback Project, we recently presented a paper exploring aspects of the project to the second annual Enhancing Student Learning Through Innovative Scholarship Conference, held at University College London on 28-29 June 2016. This blog post explains a little about the Law Feedback Project, how (and why) value co-creation principles were incorporated within it, and what we found useful at the 2016 ESLTIS conference.
The Law Feedback Project and Value Co-Creation
The Law Feedback Project was set up in September 2015, in response to Periodic Review recommendations and student feedback in the NSS and elsewhere, which while generally positive, indicated some room for improvement. Periodic Review had recommended involving students in development of feedback (and other) strategies, and this provided us with the impetus to put students at the heart of the project, supported by our Head of School, Professor Susan Breau. Rather than simply seeking student views on assessment and feedback in a way potentially driven and limited by staff preconceptions and preferences, we set up the project drawing on principles of value co-creation, as espoused by writers such as Catherine Bovill and Alison Cook-Sather (Bovill et al, 2012 & 2014; see also McWilliam, 2008; Mihans et al, 2008; Tabrizi & Ackfeldt, 2013) .
CCV envisages students acting as partners in learning, moving beyond a consumer-oriented role, and has been successfully used with a wide range of teaching and learning projects. For the Law Feedback Project this would mean involving students from the start and throughout the project – in scoping, designing and running the project, and ultimately creating and implementing changes to policies and practice. Students were recruited on a voluntary basis, via the SSLC, to co-lead the project working group (alongside the three staff members). Additional students participated in focus groups which explored more widely and deeply the issues identified within the working group.
Our primary aim in using CCV was to lead to more meaningful assessment and feedback practice that better met student needs, while still recognising system and staffing constraints. The project showed that students had quite clear views on what they needed and what they liked and disliked. While often their views matched staff expectations, this was not always the case. Fears of some staff that students will always demand more feedback were somewhat unfounded – quality and specificity were favoured over quantity (although quantity mattered too). Importantly the project indicated that students did not always understand and share the language of assessment and feedback, suggesting student dissatisfaction with feedback is sometimes due to miscommunication rather than deeper failings. Involving students through CCV will assist in finding a common language for our discourse with students and allow us to identify ways to improve their assessment literacy.
ESLTIS Conference 2016
The paper was well received at the ESLTIS conference, and was followed by some interesting discussion relating to our experiences and the challenges and benefits presented by CCV. It was valuable to have the input of fellow teaching-intensive colleagues from a wide variety of institutions and disciplines, in such a supportive and thoughtful atmosphere. In total the conference was attended by well over 100 teaching focused staff from institutions across the UK and further afield, with representation from all career levels.
There were two excellent keynote speeches. The first was given by from Dr Dilly Fung of UCL, who spoke around her recent HEA publication ‘Rewarding educators and education leaders in research-intensive universities’. Her vision of what education means – and its depth and breadth beyond ‘just’ teaching – was particularly interesting. Professor Carol Evans of the University of Southampton gave the keynote address on the second day: ‘Developing and implementing holistic assessment practice’. Professor Evans looked at bringing together different aspects of good assessment practice, including the importance of students understanding the assessment and feedback – something with obvious links to our own project. The rest of the two days offered a multitude of papers under themes of assessment and feedback, scholarship of teaching and learning, supporting students, and the role of teaching-focused academics – so many stimulating ideas and new approaches to old (and new) problems. We were also treated to an entertaining panel discussion which gave insights into different institutions’ attitudes to teaching-focused staff.
The experience of running the project, and presenting at the conference, has been very rewarding. Following a CCV approach has taken us out of our comfort zone and added another dimension to our teaching and learning, and it was interesting to explore with others how to successfully involve students further in teaching design. As far as the project is concerned, it is hoped this will continue into 2016-7 (with some change of membership due to staff changes and student graduations), to develop and implement policies and assessment criteria in partnership with students. As for ESLTIS – well, the next conference, which is organised through the Teaching Focussed Academic Network, will be held in Newcastle in the summer of 2017; hope to see you there!