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Keynote Speakers

sueProfessor Sue Bloxham, University of Cumbria

Keynote: Developing and diversifying assessment for a 21st century university education

Research tells us very forcefully about the importance of assessment in higher education. It shapes the experience of students and influences their behaviour more than anything else. Therefore, we should look to our assessment methods if we want to improve student achievement, engagement and satisfaction. However, higher education assessment practice has proved surprisingly difficult to change, made all the more demanding by embedded disciplinary traditions and increasing class sizes. This keynote will draw on current research to consider these challenges and will posit practical ways to transform assessment. It will consider issues such as how assessment can work effectively for diverse students and 21st century learning outcomes and discuss the integration of teaching and assessment, authentic assessment, effective feedback, and plagiarism.

Workshop: Transforming assessment at the module level

There are a number of good reasons for developing a broader range of assessment methods: greater validity, engaging students, driving appropriate learning, reducing marking loads and improving their inclusivity for an increasingly diverse student population. Above all, there is a strong case for rethinking how our assignments can focus on assessing higher level, holistic learning that is valuable well beyond the purpose of gaining a qualification. This workshop will explore assessment strategies and tasks which are coherent and worthwhile and closely align to programme outcomes. There will be an opportunity to debate and share different forms of assessment including the design of authentic tasks. The intention will be to enable participants to develop concrete ideas for their own teaching responsibilities, whether on academic or professional programmes.


Sue Bloxham is Emeritus Professor of Academic Practice at the University of Cumbria. She has published widely in the field including the best-selling 'Developing Effective Assessment in Higher Education' (Open University Press) with Pete Boyd and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2007. She has also researched and published on matters such as authentic assessment, student skills development, group assessment, feedback, course design, marking, moderation and external examining. She was a co-author of the Higher Education Academy’s 'A Marked Improvement guide to transforming assessment in the University sector'. Sue was chair of the international Assessment in Higher Education Conference until 2017. In recent years, her research has focused on communicating assessment expectations to students, the use of standards by academics and driving assessment change at the institutional level. She was principal investigator for the Higher Education Academy’s influential 2015 'Review of External Examining Arrangements' and is now playing a key role in the HEA’s Degree Standards Project developing external examiners and comparability of standards in higher education. Sue is regularly invited to speak on the topic of assessment at Universities and conferences in the UK and abroad.

Twitter: @Sue_Bloxham

jacqueline_stevenson.jpg Professor Jacqueline Stevenson, Head of Research, Sheffield Institute of Education.

Keynote: Why is there still an attainment gap? Findings from research and practice.

Despite sector-wide awareness of the ‘BME’ degree attainment gap the gap persists across most universities. In this keynote I will explore how institutions may be misplacing their trust in the possibilities afforded by equality initiatives, allowing a level of institutional self-delusion to persist - that change is taking place - and so preventing wider and much needed action from being either conceived or implemented. In doing so I will argue that a more radical approach to change is needed if the gap is to be reduced.

Workshop: Framing approaches to addressing the attainment gap.

This workshop will use findings presented in my keynote to explore ways in which academics can frame pedagogic approaches to help reduce the degree attainment gap. This includes decolonisation of the curriculum, the use of Positive action approaches, using Participatory Action Research to develop interventions, and framing practice using the concept of Community Cultural Wealth


Professor Jacqueline Stevenson is Head of Research in the Sheffield Institute of Education. She is a sociologist of education with a particular interest in policy and practice relating to equity and diversity in higher education, widening participation, access and student success, pedagogic diversity and the stratification and marketisation of higher education. Key areas of interest are the social and academic experiences of religious students, Black and Minority ethnic students' degree attainment and success, and policy and practice relating to the higher education experience of refugees and international students.

She co-convenes the Society for Research into Higher Education's Access and Widening Participation Network and is a member of the Executive Committee of the National Education Opportunities Networks and the Higher Education Race Action Group. She is currently working with London Metropolitan University to evaluate HEFCE's National Networks for Collaborative Outreach and, in partnership with five other HEIs, investigating the impact of financial support for the Office for Fair Access. Her forthcoming edited book brings together national and international research exploring religion and belief in higher education. Jacqueline was previously Professor of Higher Education at Leeds Beckett University.

Twitter: @ProfJStevenson

rayland2.jpg Professor Ray Land, School of Education, Durham University


Ray Land is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education at Durham University and former Director of Durham’s Centre for Academic Practice. He previously held similar positions at the Universities of Strathclyde, Coventry and Edinburgh. He has been a higher education consultant for the OECD and the European Commission and has recently been involved in two European Commission higher education projects in Europe and Latin America. He has published widely in the field of educational research, including works on academic development, learning technology and quality enhancement. He is best known for his theory (with Jan Meyer) of Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge. His latest book (with George Gordon) is Enhancing Quality in Higher Education: International Perspectives (Routledge 2013). He has given presentations on his research in over forty countries across six continents.