Strategising at North Highland College UHI

On Tuesday 22 August 2017, Keith Smyth and Heather Fotheringham from the LTA attended North Highland College UHI’s Learning and Teaching Conference in Thurso, the focus of which was assessment and feedback.

Discussion sessions in the first part of the day were structured using the work of Dylan William, Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at UCL, whose work on ‘assessment for learning’ has been highly influential. This approach to teaching has at its heart the belief that assessment is the bridge between teaching and learning, is how we find out whether our teaching is resulting in students’ learning. He outlines some key stategies for embedding assessment for learning:

  • Frequent assessment of the students to find out where they are in terms of their learning, and to give them feedback. This need not be formal and can be just chatting with students during lessons.
  • Clarity with regards to assessment criteria
  • Effective use of both peer- and self-assessment

Academic staff gave examples of exsiting good practice such as the use of online quizzes for formative assessment, use of peer observation within classes (particularly in more practical subjects such as hairdressing and construction), and use of social media for staff and students to give each other informal feedback.


Discussions during the second part of the day focussed on embedding the university’s new Learning and Teaching Enhancement Strategy. Keith introduced staff to the values underpinning the strategy, and those values relating to assessment were discussed in small groups. Staff identified some work to take forward over the coming year:

  • One-to-ones with PATs to look at all feedback that students receive ‘in the round’
  • Review of assessment within programmes to prevent repetition and overassessment
  • Programme of guest lecturers to enhance students’ employability

North Highland College UHI is the first of the university’s academic partners to adopt the new strategy and so is leading in terms of embedding it within their learning and teaching practices. Well done North Highland, and we will be following up with staff there to get some good practice case studies later on this year.

Heather Fotheringham

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