In this MiniCPD, Dr Sarah-Jane Fenton discusses using PebblePad as a tool for portfolio-based assessment. 

More help and advice is available through the HEFi Canvas Remote Teaching Resource. 


So I'm just going to quickly cover why I started to think about assessment differently and why I changed my approach to assessment, look at what I actually did differently, talk through some of the results - so what was the feedback from students? How did the assessment actually work in practise? - and then come to some overall conclusions.

So thinking about why I assessed differently. Well, we know that mental health’s an increasing concern within higher education settings, and there's currently very little research exploring how to design assessment methods better to support students or how to design more inclusive assessment. And so I started thinking about portfolio-based assessments that students could manage in their own time. Portfolio learning isn't in and of itself new. It's not a new concept, nor is reflective practise. And so I started weaving together some of the learning about reflective practise in portfolio-based learning that came from nursing or other programmes such as social work, along with patchwork assessment pedagogy, where you break down assessment into little pieces. And although I'd seen the portfolios were being developed, they aren't actually commonly used in existing higher education teaching for assessment. So I was curious to see if we could create a sort of blended approach using patchwork techniques and assessment methods, with these E portfolios.

So the patchwork assessment model that I've just described, was these five pieces, so they have these a thousand word chunks to complete throughout the term, and they had three opportunities for formative feedback. So they would submit a chunk, I would send feedback and they could then incorporate that into their final assignment. And on the kind of particular windows, occasionally I would put a video that would sort of spark thought about that area of assessment or what I was looking for or kind of start a debate, so that they had something to hang their personal reflections or that piece of work off as they were developing their thinking. And the feedback said explicitly that it made them less stressed and it reduced their panic and anxiety about assessment, and that that structure and that breaking it down really helped them to manage their workload so they weren't terrified of this large 5000 with summative and didn't try to do it in a rush at the end, that they actually iterated it and thought about it more clearly.

So the other benefits or positive outcomes from the feedback were that they actually performed, I kind of benchmark them against the previous year grades, and they performed very consistently. So there wasn't a drop in grade attainment and actually more students completed, so there weren’t so many dropouts in the year, which I thought was a real positive.

So in terms of the overall conclusions, I feel that inclusive assessment is possible. We need to be designing assessments that offer all our students the opportunity to showcase their skills and learning within our programmes. And I also think we're going to have to think more carefully about inclusivity, particularly as we know that there are rising rates of youth mental health and how we design assessments so that people don't miss out because that particular point in time happens to be a period of unwellness.

I've put a YouTube of a HEFi presentation I did up there on inclusive practice and assessment, and I'm very happy if you want to e-mail me to ask me questions about inclusive assessment. Thank you very much.