Building Confidence to Present: Innovative Assessment Preparation for an Inspiring Poster Conference within the Foundation Degree Programme.
By Lisa Mauro-Bracken, Dawn Goodall, Lisa Porter and Rebecca Weston, School of Allied Health and Community
This case study focuses upon innovative and inspiring practice within the Level 5 Work-based Learning (WBL) module that consolidates learning across both years. It engages students through the planning, implementation and evaluation of a setting- based project (K1-3) assessed at a poster conference.
Using the framework of an academic conference, this assessment fostered peer engagement and appreciation of a diverse range of projects. Poster sessions, keynote speakers and networking lunch formed the structure of the day with all students leaving with provisional grades and feedback as “being able to get feedback from staff and peers…made it more of a celebration” (Student, 2014) (A3).
Since inauguration, which was attended by School Quality Committee members to witness the robustness of the assessment activity, the conference has continued to develop, reflecting the growth of the department. The introduction of Work-based Learning Tutors allowed them to take organisation of the conference in 2015. This leadership helped build upon relationships between university and placements, with placement speakers invited to join keynote speakers (V4).
In 2018, staff became aware that tutorials were becoming increasingly focussed on mitigating performance anxiety rather than project guidance (Nash et al, 2016) which was confirmed by students sharing similar concerns and asking if staff would demonstrate how to present at conference: the innovative response was to develop a mock conference with staff presenting to help reduce this anxiety.
The staff team presented posters replicating conference conditions. Posters were presented including one designed to fail the brief and learning outcomes. Each presentation was marked by students using the actual rubric which helped to mitigate performance anxiety: “[this] helped me understand what I may expect from the actual conference and was great for illustrating differing ideas and approaches in posters (Student, 2018)”.
The following year, bespoke posters were created, placing exemplars of good work alongside poor poster design and a failed project (To and Liu, 2018). This gave a more authentic sense to the poster conference, with students experiencing the robustness of the assessment process, including difficult marking decisions: “I recognised that one poster may not have been up to the pass standard…and how that feels when your work is being graded” (Student, 2019).
This innovation has resulted in a noticeable shift in student achievement, with the number of D grades reducing from 31% to 11% and, during the same timeframe, the number of C grades and B grades have steadily increased in line with a normal distribution. This shift is also reflected in consistently high student satisfaction rates in module evaluations (K5; 6).
As the FD continues to attract students with a diverse range of age and experience, with individualised goals and ambitions (V1; V2), their projects demonstrate a growing ability to plan, implement and evaluate interventions that ultimately have a positive impact upon people’s lives. Therefore, the conference remains an important celebratory forum in which students can defend their innovative work in placement.
Nash, G., Crimmins, G. and Oprescu, F. (2016) If first-year students are afraid of public speaking assessments what can teachers do to alleviate such anxiety? Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 41:4, 586-600, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2015.1032212
To J. and Liu Y. (2018) Using peer and teacher-student exemplar dialogues to unpack assessment standards; challenges and possibilities, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 43:3, 449-460, DOI:10.1080/02602938.2017.1356907
Lisa Mauro-Bracken (Senior Lecturer and Head of Department, Health and Well-being) Dawn Goodall ( L and T Co-ordinator and Senior Lecturer)
Lisa Porter (Senior Lecturer and Admissions Tutor) Rebecca Weston (Senior Lecturer) (vignette adapted by)
Jo Augustus (Course Leader – Mental Health, Quality Lead) Jennifer Hill (Course Leader – Health and Social Care) Denisse Levermore (Course Leader – CAMH)
Jo Lewis (Senior Lecturer) Jason Vickers (Senior Lecturer) Maddie Burton (Senior Lecturer)
Kirsty Fraser (Work Based Learning Tutor) Dan Howarth (Work Based Learning Tutor and Associate Lecturer) Naomie Blakie (Work Based Learning Tutor)