Building back learning and teaching means changing assessment – WONKHE, 24/1/22

Debbie McVitty finds out what it takes to make assessment change happen and Vikki Hill speaks about pass/fail grading.

“Our hope is to change assessment to reduce harm to students. We’re looking at grading: what it is, and what it does, and asking staff and students to question that. In the fishbowl it’s hard to see outside, but the idea of grading creates competitive environments that are not real or replicable in terms of students going out into the world or industry. The symbolic power of grades is incredibly powerful but incredibly problematic as well – we need to ask how these beliefs about the necessity of grades affect our learning and teaching and our policy.”

Vikki Hill, educational developer, University of the Arts, London

UAL leads national project to promote student belonging through assessment

The UAL Academic Enhancement team was recently recognised for excellence in collaboration. The team has now won £10k funding from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) to lead a collaborative project to enhance equity in student outcomes.

‘Belonging through assessment: Pipelines of compassion’ proposes a key role for student belonging in arts’ assessments practices to help address issues of social justice linked to the awarding differentials that exist between white students and students of colour.

UAL will work with The Glasgow School of Art and Leeds Arts University over the next 18 months to look at ways that belonging in the creative higher education (HE) can be enhanced through compassionate assessment.

Image credit: Mona Bakht-Talaga. BA Fashion Communication, Central Saint Martins, UAL

Leeds Arts University in national project to promote belonging through assessment

Over the next 18 months the project, named ‘Belonging through assessment: Pipelines of compassion’, will look at ways that belonging in creative higher education can be enhanced through compassionate assessment. The collaboration of Leeds Arts University, Glasgow School of Art and UAL will develop important insights and resources that will be published openly for the creative education and wider HE sector.

The project will propose new quality indicators that focus on belonging, compassion and equity, in critique of traditional metrics. It will identify approaches to assessment that nurture belonging through meaningful, compassionate interactions and practices.

Sam Broadhead, Head of Research, Leeds Arts University said, “We are very excited to be part of the Belonging through assessment: Pipelines of compassion project and are looking forward to working with our colleagues from University of the Arts London and Glasgow School of Art. We will instigate a range of activities including a blog and a symposium to explore how student belonging in arts’ assessments practices can address issues of social justice linked to the awarding differentials that exist between white students and students of colour. We welcome the contribution from Leeds Arts University’s educators and students; their expertise and experiences will enrich the conversation.”

News Release: The GSA to partner with UAL and Leeds Arts University on major QAA-funded research project

In December 2020 the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) called for expressions of interest to lead Collaborative Enhancement Partnership projects which offered Higher Education institutions the opportunity to work together on areas of shared interest. Thirteen projects were successful including a collaboration between The Glasgow School of Art, University of the Arts, London (UAL) and Leeds Arts University. Over the next year and a half the three leading specialists in creative education will partner on a research project with the specific aim of promoting students’ sense of belonging, and tackling issues of social justice by improving assessment practices and policies.

The Covid pandemic has deepened feelings of unbelonging for many students and exacerbated existing inequalities. Against this background the partnership will explore how the sense of belonging in creative Higher Education can be enhanced through compassionate assessment. Led by Dr Vikki Hill at UAL, it will identify approaches to assessment that nurture belonging through meaningful, compassionate interactions and practices. The project will also seek to address issues of social justice linked to awarding differentials which exist between between Black, Asian and minority ethnic students, and White students.  Outcomes from the project will be made available both for creative education and the wider HE sector. 

GSA blog text
Focus is on enhancing students’ sense of belonging through compassionate assessment
Outcomes will also seek to address awarding differentials that exist between Black, Asian and minority ethnic students and White student

The approach to running these Collaborative Enhancement Partnership Projects draws on the successful collaborative clusters which have been a part of the Scottish sector Enhancement Themes for a number of years, including the GSA’s collaboration with the Royal Scottish Conservatoire and Edinburgh College of Art looking at how to define and capture evidence of enhancement in learning and teaching in creative disciplines.

GSA is really pleased to be participating in this collaborative project with colleagues from other world class art & design institutions in the UK,” says Allan Atlee, GSA Deputy Director, Academic. “Understanding and enhancing assessment cultures in our disciplines is really important to make sure all students achieve their creative potential.”

“Doing this work in partnership with our students is a fundamental part of the project and will help to build a better understanding of how students entering the art school for the first time find their place and develop the confidence to thrive.”

By its conclusion in autumn 2022 the project will deliver a symposium on compassionate assessment; a briefing paper on the project’s activity; a blog documenting the organic development of materials and providing a space for exchange of ideas; and a participatory digital resource. 

The GSA’s Collaborative Cluster project

Between 2017-19, GSA lead a Scottish collaborative cluster with the Royal Scottish Conservatoire and Edinburgh College of Art which looked at defining and capturing evidence of enhancement in learning and teaching in the creative disciplines. A key outcome of this cluster was the production of a toolkit which programme teams and their students could use to explore the impact of higher education learning and teaching together. The final output from this Scottish cluster, which explores the dilemmas of measuring the value of creative arts higher education in the devolved context, is due to be published on the collaborative cluster’s QAAS website in May 2021