Keynote Speaker

The second annual Learning and Teaching Conference featured Professor Sam Elkington as keynote speaker. 

Sam is a Professor of Learning and Teaching at Teesside University where he leads on the University’s learning and teaching enhancement portfolio. Sam is a Principal Fellow of Higher Education (PFHEA) and National Teaching Fellow (NTF, 2021).

He has worked in Higher Education for over 15 years and has extensive experience working across teaching, research and academic leadership and policy domains. Most recently Sam worked for Advance HE (formerly the Higher Education Academy) where he was the national lead for Assessment and Feedback and Flexible Learning in Higher Education.

Sam’s most recent book 'Enhancing learning through formative assessment and feedback' explores contemporary themes in formative assessment and feedback in higher education. 

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Keynote abstract 

Whatever happened to the assessment revolution?

It is a well-established view that assessment practices in most universities have not kept pace with the vast changes in the context, aims and structure of higher education. The case for assessment reform has been widely made in both the literature and wider sector and yet change has been slow until the recent pandemic when new opportunities were identified and limitations to our existing practices were exposed.

Though such developments compelled universities to rethink how the significant resources devoted to assessment might be reconfigured to better support student learning in the short-term, understanding the longer-term implications for sustained assessment innovation requires us to carefully consider what is known (and has been revealed) about the nature of effective assessment change in an increasingly uncertain higher education environment.

This, in turn, involves critical questions about the direction of educational travel post-pandemic and how best to position university assessment now and in the future. Presently, however, the sector’s post-pandemic response reveals a familiar sense of complacency, coupled with a comparative lack of future perspectives in the design of assessment processes.

A new kind of assessment system is needed – one which is not biased only toward stable performative measures of student success, which is instead set up to meet students where they are, recognising notions of inclusivity and diversity, as well as the need to be innovative in the face of a largely resistant and inflexible assessment system.

In this talk, Sam presents the case for embedding ‘flexibility’ as a fundamental principle in assessment design, demonstrating that such assessment arrangements can be created to allow for a valid representation of student achievement with respect to the diversity inherent within student cohorts.

Sam considers the latest research evidence, alongside practical ideas, and strategies for devising inclusive, authentic, and flexible assessment designs that to the greatest possible extent can benefit all students allowing them to produce their best work – no matter their mode of study.

Sam suggests that core to such approaches is the requirement that educators think more pragmatically (at the level of practice and action) about the function and form of the assessment arrangements they choose to deploy, taking steps to offer students a variety of different ways in which to understand and take hold of their learning.