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Published by the Learning and Teaching Unit
Winter 2003
ISSN 1477-1241
Learning and Teaching in Action logo

Vol 2 Issue 1: Assessment

LTiA home page

Rachel Forsyth

The Concept of Plagiarism
Bill Johnston

Plagiarism Detection Software - a new JISC service
Rachel Forsyth

Can students assess students effectively? Some insights into peer-assessment
A. Mark Langan and and C. Philip Wheater

Exploring the potential of Multiple-Choice Questions in Assessment
Edwina Higgins and Laura Tatham

Developing a new assessment strategy
Gaynor Lea-Greenwood

Assessing the Un-assessable
Tim Dunbar

How to assess disabled students without breaking the law
Mike Wray

Returning Feedback to Students via Email Using Electronic Feedback 9
Phil Denton

Tools for Computer-Aided Assessment
Alan Fielding and Enid Bingham

Faculty Learning and Teaching Reports

Learning and Teaching News from the Library

Faculty Learning and Teaching Reports

Faculty of Art and Design
The Business School
Faculty of Community Studies, Law & Education
Crewe + Alsager Faculty
Faculty of Food, Clothing & Hospitality Management
Faculty of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Science & Engineering


Faculty of Art and Design

The Faculty of Art and Design Pedagogic Research Group

The Faculty’s Centre for Learning and Teaching has joined with the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art & Design, MIRIAD (, to focus on the development of a Faculty Pedagogical Research Group. The first meeting of the group took place in January, with members agreeing that a main focus would be on the concept of integrating a subject with its teaching, through individual or joint critical reflection on creative and educational practices in arts and design subjects. The model shown below defines the rationale.

The nature and purpose of educational research was discussed and the group found the following definitions useful:

  • to inform understandings of educational issues, drawing on and developing educational theory, and in some cases, theory from related disciplines (eg sociology, psychology, philosophy, economics, history, etc.).
  • to improve educational policy and practice, by informing pedagogic, curricular and other educational judgements and decisions.
    British Educational Research Association (2000). Good Practice on Educational Research Writing.

It was agreed that staff questioning and critically reflecting on their learning and teaching in relation to creative practice could form a body of informal research. In turn, this would help identify issues that could be explored through more formal or ‘hard’ research studies that may meet both the definitions above.

A second edition of the Faculty’s READ (Research in Education in Art and Design) publication has been commissioned with members of the group contributing ‘position’ papers to open up further debate across the Faculty.

Sue Bailey
Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow
telephone: 0161 247 3532

The Business School

Assessment Matters

The Business School is presently undergoing metamorphosis, from a department-based structure to a matrix of subject groups across programmes of teaching and research. As part of the process it has been decided to bring all undergraduate course in line and offer common modules across the whole school. A similar process is being taken through the post-graduate offering.

Under these circumstances, the School’s executive and the Faculty Learning and Teaching Committee have agreed some L&T priorities in the School, which inevitably include some under the heading of Assessment. Three assessment projects have been identified, and come broadly under the titles of Over-arching Assessment Philosophy, Portfolio of Assessment Methods, and Plagiarism.

  • Under the departmental system, each department had more or less well-defined criteria for logging student work in degree-divisions, usually with lists of descriptors or statements applying to the standards of work at a variety of levels. A working party is being formed to assemble a full statement of assessment philosophy within the Business School, encompassed in the University ethos and consistent with regulations.
  • Building on a recent student project in the field, another project has been started to share best practice in efficient and effective marking and feedback methods, in the first instance by gathering as many as possible of the pro-forma and tick-off marking systems, and also by exploring recent work and research in the field. The end-result will be to offer staff a portfolio of assessment methods alternative to those they presently use, together with such documentation as will be useful for them to adapt. There will undoubtedly be unfreeze-change-refreeze issues, which the project team must and will address.
  • Finally, each of the former departments employed a variety of procedures in the definition, detection and handling of plagiarism, as well as teaching, briefing and instructions to students on refraining from or avoiding accusations of plagiarism. There was also not just variation of views on systems of referencing and the compositions of bibliographies, but even open conflict of opinions! A group of staff has been commissioned to set off in the direction of a Business School statement of policy and procedure on plagiarism, closely following the University’s efforts in this matter.

All of these working parties are presently under the chairmanship of Brian Stone, SLTF, (, extn 3843) who would be happy to share the progress of each with other Learning and Teaching colleagues, and who would be more than grateful for any material or information on similar projects in the University or beyond.

Brian Stone
The Business School, Aytoun

Faculty of Community Studies, Law and Education

CSLE Faculty Learning and Teaching Committe Events
Spring/Summer 2003


Date Time Event Venue
Wed 26 Feb 12.30 with lunch Faculty Learning and Teaching Seminar
New Ways the Library can Support Learning and Teaching
Lunch in Library Seminar Room 5 and workshop in Didsbury Computer Suite
Wed 26 Mar 12.30 with lunch Faculty Learning and Teaching Seminar
Online Learning- Getting Started Using Web CT
Location will be posted
Late March TBA Faculty Learning and Teaching Workshop
SENDA : Sharing Good Practice in Meeting the Learning Requirements of Disabled Students
Details will be posted
Wed 30 Apr 12.30 with lunch Faculty Learning and Teaching Seminar
Developing Online Learning- What Can Web CT Offer?
Location will be posted


Annual Faculty Learning and Teaching Conference
Wednesday 21 May 2003

If you have a particular topic or theme that you would like to see covered or would like to contribute to the programme please let us know by contacting Kate Kirk or Eddie Higgins, Snr. Learning and Teaching Fellows. Planning for this event will take place at the Faculty Learning and Teaching Committee on Wed 2 April 2003.

Kate Kirk
Applied Community Studies, Didsbury
telephone :0161 247 2132

Edwina Higgins
School of Law, Elizabeth Gaskell
telephone :0161 247 2431

Crewe+Alsager Faculty

The Crewe+Alsager Faculty has developed a detailed strategy and action plan document which identifies key priorities for learning and teaching and means by which to achieve these. The key priorities have been grouped around three themes: Academic and Professional Development, Student Support and Innovation in Learning and Teaching. Three separate (but with some overlapping membership) working groups have been set up to take the action plan forward. The working groups are chaired by the Senior Learning and Teaching Fellows (Mary Issitt, Nuala Byrne and Jane Artess); their first meetings being held on January 22nd immediately following a faculty learning and teaching seminar on Reflective Practice - led by Mary Issit and Ian Purchase. The Faculty Learning and Teaching Committee (FLTC) will oversee progress toward the meeting of its priorities and make appropriate amendments to the plan. The number of meetings has increased to two per term currently - which is indicative of the volume of activity being considered.

Jane Artess
Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow
telephone: 0161 247 5115

Faculty of Food, Clothing and Hospitality Management

The Faculty L & T committee met at the end of the autumn term and at the beginning of the spring term. One of the main areas of concern for the committee is the audit of the L & T developments in the Faculty. This essentially covers the e-learning developments in the Faculty to try and avoid duplication and to provide a better means of disseminating those things that have been developed. Diana Massam, the site librarian, and her team have agreed to take on board the preliminary stages of the audit process with future L & T developments in the Faculty being recorded with the library.

The CDT Department’s ‘e-Telestia’ project is developing with some of the website actually up and running. Colleagues Phil Reilly and Clare Culliney had been to Luxemburg in January to report on the progress of the project to the European Commission. The project is on target and by later this year the ‘virtual clothing factory’ should be available for use with students.

Further development of the Faculty’s ‘Research Methods’ website is going ahead as British Council funding has been made available to develop this in association with the Indira Gandhi National Open University in India and a visiting fellow from Central Queensland University. This should provide a more up to date resource for both post-graduate students and staff across the University.

The committee also intends to run another L & T day in the early autumn, this time with some inter-active workshops available. Some suggestions for topics have already been made but other ideas would be most welcome. The committee would also be glad to hear from colleagues in the Faculty who would like to pursue some kind of L & T development and a modest amount of funding could be made available to help pump prime such a venture.

Michael Jeffrey
Chairman Faculty L & T Committee
telephone: 0161 247 2775

Faculty of Humanities and Social Science

The Faculty's Senior Fellows have planned a further series of events during this academic year, which started on December 9 with an afternoon workshop on Equal Opportunities led by Brian Simpson.
Early in the Summer term the major event will be a day school devoted to issues of disability, focussed on the DDA and SENDA, sponsored jointly by the Faculty Learning and Teaching Committee and FASC.
There will also be a lunchtime workshop on ‘Plagiarism – Key issues and Solutions on Wednesday 2nd April and another larger event in the summer term discussing the progress made by the Faculty's Plagiarism Project, together with a further workshop which will report on the Faculty's Attraction, Retention and Support Project, (dates to be announced later).

Phillip Lloyd has continued to co-ordinate the History Department staff professional development programme which has so far included a workshop on QAA, one on SENDA given by Trish Richards, one on assessment practice by Brian Turner, and the annual Staff Away Day – this year at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Phillip has also revised and co-ordinated the Faculty's annual monitoring
Exercise; has jointly authored a paper with Louise Willmot on attraction,
retention and support for the ILTHE members' resource area; is a member of the university working parties to revise the QAP and to revise monitoring statistics, and is coordinating History's 'Developmental Engagement' with QAA, which occurs in June and has been trained to be the University's Institutional Nominee for the event.

Last term in the Department of Sociology, Bill Johnston established a small-scale IT mentoring scheme with a difference. We have many students who possess both good communication skills and considerable IT skills. We also have some tutors who need help on a one-to one basis in very specific areas of IT. So we put the two together. We now have a team of five student mentors working with six tutors on a range of skills support. Both sides report that it is working well. The only real problem we had was finding a mechanism whereby we could pay the students for the work they had done. In the end we contracted this out to STEAM (Manpower's Student & Graduate Recruitment Centre) A full report and evaluation of the scheme will be available at the end of the year.

The Faculty’s research project on ‘Issues in Plagiarism’ is gathering momentum. Our research assistant, Mo Jacques, has been collecting and collating various statements on plagiarism from around the departments and has interviewed key staff on their experience of both its prevalence and the ways in which it gets handled. A full report of the work done to date will be produced for the Faculty Learning and Teaching Committee in the summer term. One somewhat alarming finding thus far is the considerable variation in both staff attitudes towards plagiarism and also in the ways in which they respond to it.

Connected with this research is the movement by the University towards taking part in the JISC trials of plagiarism detection software. It is hoped that one or more pilot trials of this will be undertaken this session, and Rachel Forsyth and Bill Johnston have written a paper for consideration by the University Learning and Teaching Committee to progress this.

Bill Johnston continues to be involved in a range of international projects. His work as external evaluator for the new University of the Arctic culminated in a final evaluation report in July 2002, which was presented to the University of the Arctic Council. See review article in Learning and Teaching in Action. Next term he has been invited to collaborate with an ongoing Finnish project - SCOPE (the South African–Finnish Cooperation Programme in the Education Sector) and Bill will visit two educational institutions, Kimberley College of Education in the Province of Northern Cape and Ndebele College of Education in the Province of Mpumalanga to help in promoting information and communications technology in teaching.

Bill has also been awarded a grant from the PRS-LTSN for research into interactivity in traditional and non-traditional Philosophy courses. He aims to establish by means of a comparative study, which elements of interactivity are seen as being key to the facilitation of high quality learning and teaching in on-line Philosophy courses. In particular the project is designed to assess how far interactivity and dialogue are encouraged or repressed by on-line delivery, and to establish to what extent the models of interactivity being used on-line are distinctive and radical and to what extent are they merely extensions of the kinds of interactivity prevailing in off-line provision? The final report on this project is expected by the end of the spring term 2003.

The Department of Information and Communications is continuing to develop and exploit its local intranet called “Courseware”. A seminar on intranets was organised by the Department on 8th January in the Geoffrey Manton building. It attracted over 50 people from across the University and identified scope for further collaboration. For further details of subsequent developments, contact

The Department’s strategy for online learning is to create short tutorials for use in teaching the same topic on different courses and at different levels. This enables greater use by students and allows more staff to gain experience. 10 members of staff are using WebCT with students for some of their teaching this academic year.

  • Three action research projects are underway under the overall title of DIAMONDS (Developing Interactive and Accessible Materials for Online Delivery to Students), with some funding from the Faculty and from the LTSN for Information and Computer Science.

    A forum to support research in the Department has enabled all staff and research students to gain some experience in using WebCT’s communication tools. WebCT will be used during the Summer term to support students undertaking dissertations.
  • A WebCT version of the Internet Detective tutorial was introduced to all students new to the Department during the autumn term 2002. Netskills (who own the copyright) have given permission for internal use of the tutorial within MMU, prior to making it available more widely under their licensing scheme.
  • The Citing Proficiency Test tutorial will be introduced in the Spring term. This project, in partnership with University Library staff, is based on research into the most frequently occurring errors made by students during the autumn term and aims to make learning more fun through being more interactive.


Bill Johnston
Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow
telephone: 0161 247 3025

Margaret Kendall
Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow
telephone: 0161 247 6141

Faculty of Science and Engineering

The Faculty Learning & Teaching Committee is carrying out a survey of the academic and professional development needs within the faculty. The survey is being undertaken as part of the university's Learning & Teaching strategic plan to provide a basis for future staff development and support activities. Dr Maureen Dawson has adapted the questionnaire used at Crewe+Alsager, but with two important differences. 1. This survey will be anonymous, although staff are asked to supply their department so that subject specific needs can be identified. 2. This survey will delivered via a web-based form, although printed versions are available on request. The use of the web-based form should simplify the subsequent data processing and analysis.

Small working groups are starting work on two important topics. First, we are beginning a review of the operation of the Faculty Learning & Teaching plan and a preliminary investigation into the possible impacts of the new Higher Education white paper on the future of learning and teaching within our faculty. We will also be completing a review of our 'Bids to make a difference' programme, which provides small grants for a broad range of learning and teaching projects.

We are continuing our programme of lunchtime seminars and workshops. Finally, we are putting the finishing touches to the programme for our annual Learning & Teaching event, LT2003, which will be held in September under the general theme of assessment.

Alan Fielding
Senior Learning and Teaching Fellow
Telephone: 0161 247 1198


February 2003
ISSN 1477-1241

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