Phil Race

Assessment, learning and teaching in higher education

St Mary’s University: 7th April

First, congratulations to St Mary’s for achieving full University status very recently. I enjoyed my visit today. Here are the main slides we used (plus the additional ones on self-assessment which I promised). St Mary's University (21) They are not necessarily in the order in which I presented them, as I dipped and dived into various presentations. (for anyone who wished for more, there’s more on Lectures in the Edinburgh post below, and more on assessment in the Plymouth post below and on the Assessment page of this website).

Written by Phil

7 April, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Plymouth PGCAP: 4th April

Here are the main slides I used in our workshop together Plymouth Pgcap (31). You can find more detail of my thinking on essays and exams on the ‘Assessment’ page of this website. I enjoyed working with you all, and will be working on the paperwork we generated about the pass/fail criteria, which will go up on your course web pages soon, and look forward to working with you again on 3rd June.

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4 April, 2014 at 5:53 pm

University of Edinburgh: 31st March 2014

Here are the main slides we used – thanks for being a great group. Edinburgh 2014 (51). For regular followers, you might be interested in the set of quotes about lectures which I composed from the literature yesterday, and which appear here for the first time as slides.

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31 March, 2014 at 2:55 pm


Those who’ve been at my workshops will have heard me rage against the over-use of essays as an assessment device. I often say ‘we can’t mark them fairly’. Or ‘we tend to reward waffling and wordsmithing rather than depth of thought’ and so on. More important, except for exam essays, do we really know who did them? ‘Whodunit?’ is a real problem in coursework essays. Don’t blame the students – it’s our fault for using a dodgy assessment format!
And they take for ever to mark (let alone all the time to write them). It’s like the bear hunt – we can’t go over them, we can’t go under them, we’ve just got to go right through them!
I’ve tried to put some of my thoughts into words in my last two books, and am revisiting these thoughts in the forthcoming editions of these, and attach these thoughts here, in case they are helpful to you – especially if the bane of your life is marking essays (or indeed writing them!). Essays (290)

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27 March, 2014 at 8:27 pm

University of Bath: Pharmacy & Pharmacology: 26th March

Here are the main slides I used in our afternoon workshop Bath (53). I hope our thinking together will help you in re-assembling your curriculum to provide a good assessment strategy to satisfy the professional body concerned. There’s lots more on my website in recent posts about the problems with some traditional assessment formats and processes, which should give further food for thought. It was great working with you all this afternoon.

Written by Phil

26 March, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Extracts on traditional handwritten time-constrained exams

This download shows some of my comments on traditional time-constrained written exams, as in my final manuscript of ‘Making Learning Happen: 3rd edition’ (now at proofs stage and due out in May this year) and a short extract from ‘The Lecturer’s Toolkit: 3rd edition’ (2007) presently being revised for a new edition in 2015. Exams extracts (68) There are also extracts from the latter revised source in some recent posts on my site.
(In both books, I then go on to analyse in a similar way many different assessment formats, including structured exams, OSCEs, essays, reports, portfolios, presentations and so on).

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12 March, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Easton and Otley College: 11th March

Here are the main slides I used in our afternoon together. Thanks for inviting me back – you were a great group to work with. Easton and Otley College: 11th March (48)

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11 March, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Glasgow Caledonian University: 26th February

Thanks for asking me up for the Summit on ‘Learning outside the lecture: developing students’ social and cultural capital’ Based on the premise ‘if we don’t try hard to measure it, it won’t happen’, I helped you towards working  out (1) what does the evidence of achievement look like? and (2) How best should we try to measure it? Here are the main slides I used. GCU Summit (49)
For anyone who didn’t get a copy of the ‘Cultural Inclusivity’ booklet, here is the pdf of the booklet: Cultural inclusivity (45)

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26 February, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Track changes feedback

I’m drafting a piece about the pros and cons of using track-changes to get feedback to students. Now improved, thanks to Rob Reed, Simon Thomson and Louise Naylor for very helpful suggestions. More suggestions welcome. Track changes feedback (107) Right file this time!!

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20 February, 2014 at 5:18 pm

What do written exams really measure?

Here’s an agenda for discussion, which can lead to better performance in written exams. What do exams really measure (138)

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17 February, 2014 at 8:57 pm

West Suffolk College: 14th February

Great to be back in Bury St Edmunds today. Now home in Newcastle after a busy but punctual train journey, despite the weather. Here are the main slides I used in my two workshops with you. West Suffolk College (54) (Don’t tell other people about the four letter word).

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14 February, 2014 at 9:31 pm

North West Regional College

Thanks for a great day at your college. Here are the main slides I used in my morning keynote, and in the very short workshops on smarter feedback. There really wasn’t nearly enough time in 45 minute workshops to get our teeth into feedback (and the last workshop was only 30 minutes), and I necessarily did some different things at the three different workshops, but I hope the slides I have added to those of the morning session will server as reminders of some of the ideas we played with. Making learning happen: smarter feedback (93)

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7 February, 2014 at 10:17 pm


Way back last spring I posted (and Tweeted) a link to a one-page summary of the UK Professional Standards Framework, and the link is buried way back in my posts and Tweets. 431 folk seem to have downloaded it to date, so there may be more folk who could use it now. Just in case anyone who is currently trying to make sense of the overall scheme, I’m re-posting it here. UKPSF grid (532)

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6 February, 2014 at 9:44 am

Update on ‘Ripples’ model

I’ve today updated the download on my discussion of seven factors underpinning successful learning, including many of the slides I often use at workshops, and my criticism of the learning cycles approach. Ripples model seven factors (20845). This is written up in ‘Making Learning Happen’, in the 2010 version and the forthcoming 2014 version, and mentioned in several other things I’ve written.

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3 February, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Discipline problems?

I know that maintaining order can be difficult, but I am worried about the proposed punishments the Minister mentions, such as picking up litter, tidying up after meals, and writing lines. This is very demeaning to those people who are paid to pick up litter and tidy up after meals – are they being punished? (They are probably not paid much for the work they do anyway). What would happen to anyone who pointblank refused to write lines? You might want to print out this file (if you agree with me) and stick it to notice boards!! lines (69)photo

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2 February, 2014 at 9:59 am

Carlisle College: 29th January

Great working with both large groups of you today – I was very well looked after. Here are the main slides we used: Carlisle College (79), and for anyone who wants to use the ‘robbery’ exercise with your students, here’s the sheet: Statements exercise sheet (71). Please do raid my website for anything else which is useful to you – that’s what the site is for. I got the feeling that there’s a great atmosphere at the College – your students are very fortunate.

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29 January, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Designing Exam Questions and Marking Schemes

Those of you who know me will know that I am very critical of traditional time-constrained (hand)-written exams for all sorts of reasons. However, many people still need to write exam questions and marking schemes, and the download here may be helpful to them. (This is adapted from the 3rd edition (2007) of ‘The Lecturer’s Toolkit’ [London: Routledge] and I am working up the ideas for the forthcoming 4th edition – do email me with suggestions for improving this topic. Designing exam questions and marking schemes (128)

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28 January, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Feedback in 24 hours

Students (rightly) grumble that they don’t get feedback on their assessed work quickly enough. How fast can we do it? Within 24 hours? This is an extract from the forthcoming 3rd edition of ‘Making Learning Happen’ due to be published by Sage in May 2014. It’s based on the existing edition (2010) but with a few tweaks. 24 hour feedback (178)

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27 January, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Swansea University

Here are the main slides I used in our day together. They’re not, of course, in the same order as we used them, as I was dipping in and out of a wide range of items. Great working with you all, Swansea University (61) You might also find the following link about learning styles gives good food for thought:
ince the workshop, I’ve also been working up the following ideas relating to exams: Designing exam questions and marking schemes (128)


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23 January, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Feedback versus marks

How can we know whether our feedback is working? The attached piece may throw some light on this Feedback versus marks (217)

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20 January, 2014 at 8:03 pm