For many of us, the window into a Learning and Teaching Forum has been via our laptops in recent years – last week’s event was the first fully on-campus forum since 2019. I had several encounters during the day where I felt like I knew someone well and then we both realised this was our first meeting as humans outside of emails or Zoom meetings. There was something nostalgic about the feeling of all being together in the same space, but also energetic and forward-thinking – particularly with the day’s prominent theme of the future of assessment.

Following the disruption with David Boud

After an Acknowledgement of Country from Associate Professor Annette Gainsford, Kylie Readman (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Education & Students) introduced key note speaker Professor David Boud.

David noted, before reflecting on changes in the history of assessment, that higher education has undergone considerable disruption in recent years, with considerable impacts on assessment. We can either accept a return to the pre-2019 status quo or use the external disturbance as an opportunity to address problems of assessment that have been unresolved for some time.

We’re getting back to normal. What is normal? It’s certainly not the normal that we left behind.

David Boud

So, what does assessment need to do now? Recent disruptions (more than just GenAI!) offer all kinds of opportunities to look afresh at some of the assessment practices taken for granted and engage with new ones that are now becoming apparent. David argued that there were three key purposes: 

  • Assure – assure that learning outcomes have been met (Summative assessment)
  • Enable – enable students to use information to aid their learning now (Formative assessment)
  • Build – build students’ capacity to judge their own learning (Sustainable assessment)

David advised that we need to acknowledge each issue in assessment and name it correctly. He outlined the following challenges for assessment design today and their associated solutions:

  • Assure and report learning outcomes – take the outcomes seriously and assure students can meet the threshold standard
  • Assessment for assurance is accepted as a program-/course-wide responsibility
  • Eshew spurious levels of accuracy
  • Portray what students can do (e.g. transcripts aggregate results by program learning outcomes and take the form of validated digital credentials)
  • Digital assessment, not just digitally enabled (digital certification is also needed)
  • Normalise students judging themselves and others, and introduce this as everyday practice throughout courses
  • Assessments are always designed as inclusive, not relying on special consideration
  • Use student-activated feedback processes, with students engaged in as many feedback encounters as possible (e.g. peer, non-human)

“The door to change is ajar,” says David, in closing. “Are we going to push through it, or are we going to pretend it isn’t ajar and go back to our comfortable home?”

David Boud’s presentation (51:38 mins)

Student panel on GenAI

Professor Simon Buckingham Shum facilitated one of the traditional highlights of the forum – the student panel. Students Andrea Meridores, Evangelina Darmaputra, Nour Al Hammouri, Ria Narai and William Chen discussed their various entry points into and usage of Generative AI.

This led to discussion around cognitive offloading and outsourcing your thinking, plus what meaningful assessment means and how GenAI changes this. As ever, there’s nothing like hearing individual student voices, and comparing and contrasting their experiences, so we will be developing more content about the student experience of GenAI to share with you in early 2024. In the meantime, watching the full video of this entertaining panel is highly recommended:

The student panel on GenAI (52:25 min)

Presentations and Provocations

There were a couple of new innovations introduced to the forum this year. The Wall of Provocations was an interactive artefact on display in the LX.lab throughout the day (mostly perused during the lunch hour). Attendees were invited to use post-its, pens and emojis to highlight their joyful failures, hopeful learnings and intentional, emergent futures for 2023.

The afternoon concurrent sessions were diverse this year and many will be reproduced as blog posts early next year – stay tuned! Running alongside was another new addition: the ‘Seeking feedback, ideas and collaboration’ program. Covering both data for enhancement and studio-based learning, the various pitches ended with a ‘call to action’ for feedback and collaboration opportunities.

See the full program of the day’s events and contributors, including abstracts.

The day closed with the announcement of the Learning and Teaching Award winners – congratulations to all the recipients! We look forward to coming together as a community again and celebrating with you at the ceremony in 2024.

Highlights from the 2023 Learning and Teaching Forum

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