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Method: Critical Discourse Analysis

I have been working with undergraduates, exploring Critical Discourse Analysis as a method to critique government policy. They have found it a mindset change from the more traditional structure of research, but they enjoyed the detective work of finding out who wrote the policy, who was the audience and who were the hidden voices. We used Huckin’s Framework for Critical Discourse Analysis (Grbich, 2013), which splits the evaluation into two parts, Identifying and Interpretation. It maybe something you want to explore in your research. You can see CDA in action in article on my website at:

HE Assessment Conference – 28/29 June 2017 – Manchester

I recently attended the Assessment in Higher Education Conference in Manchester, hosted by the University of Cumbria. There was a large selection of presentations and workshops from across the University Sector in the UK, Europe, USA and Austrialia.
The first session I attended discussed the use of ‘Concepts inventories’ as assessment of learning gain – University of British Columbia

They explained how they had moved from lectures to more inquiry based learning – Justified through the development of skills

The University of British Columbia used the following framework:

1. Formulate the question
2. Lead them to resources and compile evidence – come up with proposal
3. Evaluate information and synthesise

Students worked in groups of 4 and the content is not fixed, therefore assessment an issue. Muli-faceted assessment had to be implemented, as they cannot rely on exam.

First year students – like doing a full scale research – with a group

1. Use online information and quizzes to support development and formative feedback.
2. Oral proposal and discussion (assessed similar to presentation)
3. Assessed via individual articles
4. Exam specific to their topic areas

The exam is made up of a concept inventory – with built in distractors (wrong answers) built around the common misconceptions – based on confidence in content handling.

There is a need for repeating the performance (soft skills) – cannot just do it in the module. Enhancing digital literacy and employability through portfolios assessment

Dawn Nicholson Manchester Met University (Geography)

Manchester Met made used of wordpress to develop a portfolio. However, they did suffere from lack of engagement in the weekly tasks as the driver in the use of eportfolios.

They had a dedicated learning technologist in a weekly workshop to support students.
Used Trello as a step-by-step guide
Belbin team roles as a spreadsheet (!)

Same issues and benefits as we found.
– They made the students make the tutor adminstrator so the tutor could see any changes made and the development of the portfolio.

* -Sloane university used wordpress and said that they used a screencast of the learner talking through the wordpress site and submitted that.
* Perhaps we could get our Masters/BA dissertation students to screencast their proposals?

– Consitency menu/content created/uploaded by the students e.g. Structure/template?
– Any issues of rigour in academic writing? Plagiarism?
– How did you get through uni regulations?



Using posters for formative and summative assessment

Little empirical research on the use of posters for assessment (Sadler, 1989) – lots of how-to-guides and reports on innovation. Issues raised include student puzzlement and rigour.

Sadler states that students need to see a concept of the work looks like and the criteria to allow them to reach that standard. The lecturer offered three models of posters; one graded at 50%, one at 60% and one at 70%

They used them on a Introduction long thin module- component 1: poster submitted after first term. The topic was to based on a particular article or book. Supported by component 2: an essay.

Last year’s issues – LOs not clear, Students found it an issue to choose a topic and they had not been given a chance to practice.

This year:
* Explained the role of posters
* Be clear poster format
* Session on how to actually read a journal article
* 4 articles on 3 themes
* Students worked in a group to produce a formative poster on 2 articles
* Poster workshop 1 min pitch
* Seminar discussion
* Whole group feedback comments on posters strength and weaknesses
* Must have clear grading criteria in advance
* Students continued to ask how much text and detail is needed – need to emphasise the KEY ISSUES
The department covered the printing costs

Gamification overview for NQTs

Summary Note:

Why do we play?

Impressive number of studies on serotonin and oxytocin release during game and gamification engagement – there is research linked to Mine’s work.

Psychological studies have shown that gamers often experience altruistic encounters in video games, as more experienced players help “newbies”.

Being there without being there (simulation)

Creativity, creative thinking and problem solving – competition AND Socialising


What is Gamification?

Overlaying Game Mechanics onto real world scenarios or activities


Principles of Gamification

• Achievement
You can show this through design elements like a high score table, progress bar or a digital badge

• Competition
There should be an element of competition for the user either against themselves to beat a personal best, a computer opponent or a real opponent

• Fun
Your gamification design should have an element of fun, after all that is the essence of any game. There is a difficult balance in making a game accessible for anyone to use, but with enough challenge to keep the user motivated, while maintaining the fun (see Candy Crush app for a good example)

Does it exist? Is it just good learning design?

‘Crap LMS overlaid with crap gamification just won’t cut it any more!’ – @donaldclark


Who is playing games?

Average age of gamers in the UK – 57% players in the UK are male and 43% female. The largest single age/gender demographic is 15-24 year-old males ( )

Mobile games have a lot to answer for – 47% of UK smartphone owners use apps on their phones to play games – more that use apps for online banking (40%) or reading the news (33%) ( )

University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine what to avoid ‘default mode error’ and increase problem solving by offering 3 plausible solutions to consider

Financial service creating games to teach risk-assessment

There are a couple of examples of early years research from the Australia (Tootell and Freeman) and Canada (Nolan and McBride)
What are the elements of Gamification?

• Scenarios
• Challenges
• Rewards / Level up – Jacqui’s was better, you are a level 2 origami master
• Feedback – OfSTED handbook ‘planning next steps’
• Chance to Fail – developing resilience
• Social – connected to other children and adults

You can see how these link to the neural level, as mentioned by Mine

4 mistakes – too many rewards, doesn’t fulfil learning objectives, focuses only on competition, game mechanics are faulty.
How do we apply Gamification to learning?

Scenario-based pedagogy / Experiential pedagogy / Role-play

Recording the 3D elements of play in early years – avoiding intervention

Parental engagement

You must strike a balance between behaviourist/extrinsic gaming and cognitive/intrinsic gaming
Tools to use
– ClassDojo ( )
– Kahoot ( )
– SMS-based games (Aberdeen University, Bradford College)
– Learning Management Systems or Virtual Learning Environments

• Time consuming to set up
• Maintaining motivation
• Fun vs Learning
Further Reading:

Dichev, C. and Dicheva, D. (2017). Gamifying Education: what is known, what is believed and what remains uncertain: a critical review. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education 14(9) 1-36

Dominguez, A. Saenz-de-Navarrette, J., De-Marcos, L., Fernandez-Sanz, L., Pages, C. and Martinez-Harraiz, J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education 63 380-392

Hamari, J., Koivisto, J. and Sarsa, H. (2014). Does Gamification work? A literature review of the empirical studies on Gamification, in Proceedings of the 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, HICSS

Kapp, K. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Fransisco: Pfeiffer

Turan, Z., Avinc, Z., Kara, K. and Goktas, Y. (2016). Gamification in Education: Achievements, Cognitive Loads and Views of Students. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning 11(7) 64-69 on gamification in education –

Gamification in maths –

Gamification Neuroscience to reduce decision error -

Business simulation game –

Gamification mistakes –

Make games using PHASER –

ClassDojo –

Kahoot -

Reading list –

Blogs make assessment grading fun!

It is that time of year again, I am trawling through (virtual) piles of marking from the different cohorts I have worked with this semester. However, I am really enjoying marking the blogs my BA Ed Studies group have written for the ‘Digital Learning for Educators‘ module.

The quality of the work varies, as with all groups, but each one demonstrates the journey they have taken to increase their skills and confidence in using digital resources in learning.

Abubukor and Arsalan, in particular, made me smile while reading their post about the use of Periscope to broadcast live lectures,



It was a joy to read through Ibrahim’s blog, documenting his journey through digital technology –  It was clear that his confidence to use and critique digital resource grew throughout the course.

Throughout the course, the learners were encouraged to blog after each session (virtual or physical) and reflect on the digital tools used. During the assessment, I saved a snapshot of each of the learner’s blogs and ran them through a plagiarism detection software before assessing them against a rubric I developed to assess the clarity and use of multi-media in the blog, and the academic quality against the module learning objectives.

Podcast from on Gamification

An excellent podcast on Gamification by the e-learning coach, Connie Malamed, featuring Professor Karl Kapp. The podcast tries to define gamification, discusses the differences between simulation and games, and engagement. Find out more about the broadcast at: or just listen


I will certainly be looking into some of the gamification platforms he suggested to continue my research in gamification in education.

A – Z of Social Media from the THS

Why should academics be using social media? And which social media should they be using? There are so many tools and networks that could be of potential use to scholars that it can be difficult to keep track.

Times Higher Education has teamed up with Andy Miah, chair in science communication and future media at the University of Salford, to offer you the definitive guide to the social media tools available to academics, and how you can use them as you go about your scholarly work.

21st Century Pedagogy


Even through the rhetoric over the last decade has been on topics of student-centred learning, active learning methods and building colleges of the future, the evidence of practice still demonstrates curriculum made up of discreet subjects and learning environments of classroom based delivery. Robinson (2006), Leadbeater and Wong (2010), and Mitra (2010) argue that education needs to be reformed in the light of new working practices and the Information Age. We are now digitally connected, swamped by information and tasked with challenges not envisaged less than a decade ago. Employers continually demand that school-leavers and graduates are empowered with the ‘soft-skills’ of teamwork, communication and problem-solving (Adams, 2014). As educationalist, we need to review pedagogy to enable it to be fit for purpose for our learners.


Creative pedagogy

We need to develop a creative curriculum that makes use innovative ways to evidence learning. Exploring methods that are appropriate for the content and supports the learners to express themselves in a way that shows off their skills; avoiding the reliance on ‘traditional’ methods of assessment. Web 2.0 technology has enabled the learners to take charge of the creative curriculum. Students as producers is a key part of 21st Century Pedagogy, creating video diaries and digital stories. Cloud computing allows the sharing of image files and collaborative creation, and software such as YouTube enables learners to create video original video work or showcase work created in the physical world.

Saavedra and Opfer (2012) suggest that we consider the following when devising a 21st Century Pedagogy,

“(1) make learning relevant to the ‘big picture’; (2) teach through the disciplines; (3) develop lower and higher order thinking skills to encourage understanding indifferent contexts; (4) encourage transfer of learning;(5) teach how to ‘learn to learn’ or metacognition; (6) address misunderstandings directly; (7) promote teamwork; (8) exploit technology to support learning; and (9) foster students’ creativity.”

The metacognition mentioned by Saavedra and Opfer is key to 21st Century Pedagogy. Time is needed within the curriculum to develop skills learning to handle large amounts of digital information and the tools required to support the manipulation and curation of this information. In particular, learners need to develop skills to make use of connectivism. Building knowledge and personal learning networks (PLN) to support the learner while studying in the institutions and beyond is essential for lifelong learning and employability.

It is also worth considering rewarding extracurricular activities and academic achievements with badges. Being mindful that the badges must have strict and transparent criteria to allow learners to know the evidence they need for success. These badges also make an effective tool to track progress of self- and peer-assessment.


Collaborative pedagogy

Modern school, college and university spaces have been architecturally designed to enable collaborative learning. However, teachers are still craving a classroom and reverting to their expectation of learning, which involves a constant base. We need to encourage teachers to get out of the classroom and utilise ALL of the spaces available! Mitra (2013) suggests that we can move learning beyond the classroom, or even the school, and create Self Organised Learning Environments in which the learners are empowered to use all available spaces and resources to enhance their learning.


There is a wide range of technology techniques and tools available to support collaboration across the curriculum; ranging from virtual learning environments to social media. With this in mind, we need to think ‘Mobile First’ when designing the curriculum and learning resources. 71% of people in the UK access the internet via a mobile device or smartphone (ONS, 2016). The use of mobile ready learning resource enables creativity on the go, collaboration through a mobile device and engagement through a learning resource that is always in their pocket.

One consideration is the use of social media as a conduit of communication and learning. You need to be clear on the objective of the use of social media in any curriculum setting. Using social media as Institution to create a community may not gain as much engagement as a less formal group. However, it will be clear on expectations and participant rules. You should not be concerned about students creating their own back channel to the curriculum. Learners have always needed a space to ‘sound off’ about the course and to work through issues with peers, e.g. cafe or pub. A social media space where they can do this virtually is a space the educators do not need to be.


Problem Solving pedagogy

McLoughlin and Lee (2005) advocate the problem-based learning environment to support collaboration and personalisation. In the world of work, employees are presented with problems all the time and use strategies to identify the solutions. The 21st Century Pedagogy should support the development of these skills and be effective employees of the future.

To develop a Problem-Solving curriculum, we need to lose the module structure. The learning outcomes should be designed around the exploration of scenarios and solutions, instead of discrete subjects and modules. Learners demonstrate how they have met the learning outcomes through the work that they produce. Gamification of pedagogy allows educators to set up scenarios in an engaging way to motivate learners. However, I am more interested in the way in which Gamification allows learners to fail and start-again in a safe environment, knowing that they get another chance. How many times are they allowed to do that in



What can we do within current constraints?

First of all, plan for altering those constraints at every opportunity. When we get a chance for curriculum change, make it mobile first, make use of collaborative tools, and get rid of modules. The curriculum should be problem-based and allow teachers to personalise the experience.

While we still have constraints of 19th Century universities and exam boards, we can work within the learning objectives and examination structure to develop a 21st Century Pedagogy.

Make use of:

  • Student blogs
  • Social media for communication (allowing learners to create their own back channel)
  • Allow students to be producers of material (showcase digitally)
  • Encourage team work and collaboration, with clearly defined roles and individual objectives
  • Create scenarios to allow learners to explore situations in a safe environment, rewarded through elements of game mechanics.

Make students part of the curriculum development process “design for partnership” approach that can be incorporated, as an underlying pedagogical approach to facilitate the creation of meaningful learning experiences in a technology-enhanced teaching and learning environment (Liezel, 2017).



Adams, S. (2014). The top 10 skills employers most want in 2015 graduates [online]. [1 March 2017]

Edutopia (2015) 10 Hallmarks of 21st Century Teaching and Learning [online]. [1 March 2017]

McLoughlin, C. and Lee, M.J.W. 2007. Social software andparticipatory learning: pedagogical choices with technologyaffordances in the Web 2.0 era. ICT: Providing Choices forLearners and Learning: Proceedings Ascilite Singapore2007, pp. 664-675. [7 July 2016].

Mitra, S. (2013). Build a school in the cloud (online video). TEDConference 2013. [1 March 2017]

Leadbeater, C. and Wong, A. 2010. Learning from the Extremes:A White Paper. San Jose, Calif., Cisco Systems Inc. ‪ fromExtremes_WhitePaper.pdf (Accessed 24 May2014).

Liezel, N. (2017). Students as collaborators in creating meaningful learning experiences in technology-enhanced classrooms. British Journal of Educational Technology. Early veiw online.

ONS (2016) Internet access – households and individuals: 2016 [online] [1 March 2017]

Robinson, K. (2006). How schools kill creativity (online video). TEDConference 2006. Monterey, Calif. [1 March 2017].

Saavedra, A. and Opfer, V. 2012. Teaching and Learning 21stCentury Skills: Lessons from the Learning Sciences. AGlobal Cities Education Network Report. New York, AsiaSociety. les/rand-0512report.pdf [8 July 2016].

UNESCO (2015). The Future of Learning 3: What kind of pedagogies for 21st Century? [online] [1 March 2017]