#HEASTEM13 Conference Preparation

I’m off to the HEA STEM conference in Birmingham this Wednesday and Thursday. I have to admit I’m on the back foot a bit for this conference as I had no time to prepare my presentation and the CLEARS poster before the end of semester, then time off took priority (also known as a belated honeymoon), and now it’s on Wednesday. After some rather intense effort, the poster was finished this morning and carted off to the wonderful people at KUDIS for printing.  I’ll probably put an electronic version of the poster up on this blog after the conference as a PDF.

I’m also presenting on Wednesday and talking about a project that’s in its second year on screencast presentations. I’ve set an assignment for the first years to produce screencast presentations (5 minutes, any topic in chemistry, suitable for an A-level chemistry audience) and they do various self- and peer- assessment activities around them. The beauty of the screencast presentations is that the format allows the students to avoid the awkwardness of standing and presenting in front of their peers, and also allows them to review their presentation and evaluate how they think they’ve done. My one concern regarding self- and peer- assessment (and tutor assessment for that matter) is whether subconscious biases influence marks, or if marking is being done against some unknown criteria. I’m trying to establish if we’re all  marking what we should be marking, or whether there are undisclosed things we’re looking for. I guess this concern is based in providing fair assessment and clear assessment criteria: these only work if there is shared understanding of the assessment criteria, and that those criteria are made available in advance of submission. Anyway, we do some work looking at what the students feel they should assess before submitting an assignment, what they think I should assess in their presentations as the tutor, and what they think their peers should look for. There are some differences between those things. I then look at the free text comments made by the students to try to find aspects that are commented on that they didn’t think they would assess in the first place. This allows me to modify the assessment criteria for the following year to take into account the new aspects if appropriate. I’ve got a mishmash of data right now, last years is well analysed, this years is half analysed. I keep meaning to ask the 1st years if they’d be willing to share their presentations on a YouTube channel. Some of them are very very good.

The conference programme is pretty big and there are lots of sessions that have caught my eye. Thinking ahead to some new modules next academic year, there are a few ‘must see’ presentations on the list which will hopefully offer some inspiration!