Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LTEA conference: Phil Race

I have been at the Learning Through Enquiry Alliance conference in Reading. I will provide a few reports.

The keynote today was from Phil Race. He was aiming for us to learn about "7 straightforward factors which underpin successful learning". He posts his main slides on his website at so they will be there soon and there are lots of sets of slides there already.
He did not reveal the 7 factors until the end of his talk, but for people who don't want to read any further they are:
- learning by doing;
- learning from feedback;
- wanting to learn;
- needing to learn;
- making sense of things;
- learning through coaching & explaining teaching;
- learning through assessing: making informed judgements.

He did a post-it exercise, where we had to complete the sentence "Teaching would be much better for me if only I.." and then swap round our post-its and a few people read some out (wanting more time and connecting with/ understanding students were themes). His point was really about the post-its as "non threatening space" for people to express their thoughts.

He then talked about assessment as learning (rather than of learning or for learning). He felt that assessment in Higher Education was "broken": there was strong awareness of what we ought to be doing (and research backing that up) but it doesn't always happen.
Another point was "Timing of feedback is critical", I think in particular criticising people who ask questions in class and don't wait long enough fot answers, or don't stimulate activity to answer the qustions. I must say that I stopped just asking questions like that in class some time ago, since I don't find it terribly productive. Interestingly to me, Phil Race was framing that as getting students to handle this as information and process/communicate it.

In terms of what helped people learn something they were good at: practice, trial and error often emerged as key. This led to Professor Race identifying Inquiry Based Learning as helping people to make mistakes in the right place, at the right time, so they can learn from them.

Two items he recommended at the end of his talk were:
Sadler, D.R. (2009). Indeterminacy in the use of preset criteria for assessment and grading in higher education. Assessment and Evaluation in higher education, 34 (2), 159 - 179
Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E. and Ecclestone, K. (2004) Learning Styles and Pedagogy in post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre
Photo by Sheila Webber: Professor Race asked us to put post-its we'd swapped on the wall as we went out, so we did.

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