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  • Joint Arts & Humanities and Social & Historical Sciences Best Practice Sharing in Assessment

    Presentations Summary

    1. Blogging Assessments: Global Environmental Change: @GEOG3057

    Ans Mackay (Geography)

    In setting up a new course which tackled the big environmental issues of the day I wanted to embed innovative assessment which would allow students to engage with the issues. To this end, having students maintain a blog on an environmental topic of their choice seemed like the obvious thing to do. The blog has deep pedagogic principles in terms of allowing students to engage deeply with a topic for assessment, as they keep the blog for a period of about 14 weeks. However, it is also novel in that the blogs are public, so that they can comment on each others pieces, and invite comment from external scholars and the public. This I believe has been a great success in terms of democratising the intellectual input they put into their assessment, as well an helping to internationalise this particular aspect of the curriculum.

    2. Object-based coursework, wikis and video podcasts: alternative assessment methods at the UCL Institute of Archaeology

    Marcos Martinon-Torres (Archaeology)

    This presentation outlines the rationale, benefits and challenges of three types of assessment used by staff at the UCL Institute of Archaeology:

    a) To write or update an entry in Wikipedia

    b) A 5 minute video for the general public

    c) Different forms of object-based assessment ranging from archaeology through conservation to materials science characterisation

    3. Do marking rubrics offer interesting possibilities in the assessment of the humanities?

    Carl Gombrich (BASc)

    Rubrics are widely used for marking assessments in schools (particularly in the US) but are not yet widespread in the UK university sector. This short presentation considered the possibilities for the use of rubrics in assessing humanities subjects at university – with a focus on whether they may best serve in assessing new types of assessment such as podcasts and blogs.

    4. Assessing Individual Coursework Projects via Final Exams -- Some experience on WIKI and Blogging Tasks in Economics

    Christian Spielmann (Economics)

    This presentation considered how project work (in the form of blogs, wikis and group projects) can be integrated into final exam-based assessment.

  • 5. ANTH2008: ‘Being Human’

    Sara Randall (Anthropology)

    This presentation outlined the experience of a new second year compulsory module in Anthropology which had the following aims:

    • To encourage students to develop a broad based anthropological approach to topical issues • To develop staff-student relationships so that all students are known by name and have

    worked with at least 4 members of staff (one each from each subsections) • To facilitate student led discussion and learning in a (very) small group context • To develop students’ independent learning and writing (preparation for dissertation)

    World Café Handouts

    6. Student peer review for formative assessment in FREN1101: The Making of Modern France and FREN1102: Reading French Texts

    Katherine Ibbett (SELCS)

    These handouts are the guidelines for student peer review in first year literature courses that teach the core skills of literary analysis that will be used throughout the degree.

    7. HIST1006: ‘Writing History’

    Andrew Smith and Chris Jeppesen (History)

    This compulsory first year module in History is intended to develop students’ skills and confidence in writing.

    8. NUS Assessment and Feedback Benchmarking tool

    Simon To and Keir Gallagher (UCLU)

    This benchmarking tool is the latest in a series of resources NUS has produced to help students to improve the quality of feedback and assessment.

  • @AnsonMackay

    Global Environmental Change: @GEOG3057

  • Sustenance vs Sustainability – the energy debate (Joon Koh; 2013)

  • Assessments are varied

    • peer-peer • mid-term formative assessment • summative assessment

  • Summative Assessment (50%)

    • Academic understanding of 10 (absolute min) papers

    • Level of engagement

    • Progression of ideas, expression of thoughts, development of an individual ‘voice’

    • Engagement with, and links to, a wider audience

  • Benefits

    • Innovative • Internationalised curriculum • Enhanced research / public engagement skills • Fledging blogging careers

    – Patrick Thompson – Becca Gale

  • Object-based coursework, wikis and video podcasts: Alternative assessment methods at the UCL Institute of Archaeology

    Marcos Martinón-Torres [email protected]

  • • Diversification • Transferable skills • Peer-support • Social responsibility

  • 1,500-2,000 word entry in Wikipedia ( 500-1,000 word introduction (not included in the online version) where you explain: • choices you made • criticisms of the previous entry

    • ways in which your entry could be expanded or improved (which may be highlighted in the entry as stubs).

    ARCLG108 ARCHAEOMETALLURGY Postgrad, 15 credits 50% of final mark

  • • Immediate feedback from others • Democratisation of knowledge • Motivation • Familiarisation with copyright law etc • Peer-pressure and peer-learning • Digital literacy • Factual-style of writing • Breadth of sources and synthesis • Research build-up

    • Ran out of terms • Caution: if it reads like an essay, it will be removed immediately! • Limited critical engagement?

  • 5 minute documentary video on any archaeometallurgical topic, aimed at general, educated, non-specialist audiences (submitted to co-ordinator of uploaded on any public site) 200-word abstract List of sources 500-word evaluation (optional)

    ARCL3001 ARCHAEOMETALLURGY Undergrad, 0.5 units 50% of final mark

  • Supported by an E-Learning Development Grant Two annotated examples A wiki guide Technical support for students

  • • Transferable skills • Democratisation of knowledge • Motivation • Familiarisation with copyright etc • Peer-pressure and peer-learning • Digital literacy • Visibility

    • Technical skills and equipment? • Time-consuming • Appointment of cross-disciplinary TA

  • • Transferable skills • Democratisation of knowledge • Motivation • Familiarisation with copyright etc • Peer-pressure and peer-learning • Digital literacy • Visibility

    • Technical skills and equipment?

    ARCLG120 APPROACHES TO ARTEFACT STUDIES Postgrad, 30 credits 33.3% of final mark

    PORTFOLIO A set of 10 objects from the UCL collections (or the Thames foreshore). 1. Introduction 2. Finds recording sheets 3. Object database 4. Object catalogue (including object photographs and drawings) 5. Grant application 6. Bibliography


    SCIENTIFIC REPORT Single object Physical documentation and analysis of its microstructure and chemical composition The emphasis of the assessment is on method description, data handling and reporting

  • ARCLG142 ISSUES IN CONSERVATION: UNDERSTANDING OBJECTS Postgrad, 15 credits 100% of final mark

    ETHNOGRAPHIC OBJECT ASSESSMENT Focused on the Material Culture Collection UCL Anthropology Builds on the experience and skills you have gained during object handling sessions in the first half of the term •Recognise material •Research ethnographic background •Condition assessment

  • ARCLG112 INTERPRETING POTTERY Postgrad, 15 credits 100% of final mark

    ASSEMBLAGE ASSESSMENT Select a small pottery assemblage from the Institute’s collections. After analysing this material write a brief report on the assemblage. Then critically discuss the benefits and limitations of your report.

  • • Transferable skills • Professional skills • Visibility • Engagement • Knowledge of our own collections

    • A risk to the collections?

  • Object-based coursework, wikis and video podcasts: Alternative assessment methods at the UCL Institute of Archaeology

    Marcos Martinón-Torres [email protected]

    Any questions?

  • Carl Gombrich (BASc), Do marking rubrics offer interesting possibilities in the marking of the humanities?

    Carl’s talk began with a quote from his father, Richard Gombrich, Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University between 1976 and 2005.

    I dislike exams intensely! I regard them as the enemy of education. To a small extent tests are of course necessary: you have to find out whether someone graduating in civil engineering knows how to build a bridge that will not fall down. But my father said a wise thing to me: If results are what matter, then why can exams at university be taken only once?

    If for example, you are taking a driving test in this country, you can take it any number of times until you pass; then you can drive a vehicle, because you now have the requisite knowledge and skill. If the result is what matters, then why can you not take a university exam many times as well? […]

    The only justification for studying the Humanities is curiosity. While I was still in post, I used to say so to my students. I said that I would not teach them for the exams; but on the other hand, if they studied with real interest, they would probably be at no disadvantage in the exams. The exam situation is getting ever worse. Now in Britain an examiner is required to justify every mark they give. If they give 66% to an essay on the Buddha, they must explain why they think it is not good enough to get 67% but deserves more than 65%. This is not merely ludicrous. Since there can be no rational reason to determine the mark of 66%, the poor examiner is actually forced to be dishonest, to lie. What a betrayal of educational values!

    Quantification has become a pernicious fetish. If the Humanities can teach us anything, surely it must be that human qualities cannot be expressed by a percentage.

    The most basic requirement of a university education should be to teach intellectual honesty. That is brother to the personal responsibility the Buddha taught.

  • Rubric for Approaches to Knowledge assessment 1 (podcast).

    Category   Final  Mark  Awarded  

    20-‐16   15-‐11   10-‐4   5-‐1   0  

    Disciplinary  Grounding  

      Each  discipline  is  outstandingly  characterised  in  the  context  of  the  topic  chosen.  Its  scope  and  limits  are  clearly  defined,  either  explicitly  or  implicitly.  There  is  interesting  detail  which  applies  to  the  topic  under  discussion  as  well  as  big-‐picture  understanding  of  the  discipline  in  a  wider  context.  

    Each  discipline  is  well  characterised.  Its  scope  and  limits  are  generally  well-‐defined,  although  there  may  be  vagueness  or  uncertainty  in  the  presentation.  There  is  some  detail  relevant  to  the  topic  under  discussion  and  some  grasp  of  the  bigger  picture.  

    Each  discipline  is  only  poorly  outlined.  There  is  substantial  blurring  of  concepts  or  it  is  unclear  where  the  boundaries  of  the  disciplines  are.  Irrelevant  detail  or  misunderstanding  of  bigger  picture.  

    Each  discipline  very  poorly  outlined.  Much  confusion  in  presenting  the  disciplines  as  disciplines  or  more  general  serious  misunderstanding.  

    No  attempt  to  show  an  understanding  of  different  disciplines.  

    Ideas  for  synthesis/integration  of  two  disciplines  

      Ideas  for  synthesis/integration  of  the  two  disciplines  are  excellently  presented  –  either  argued  throughout  the  piece  or  as  a  final,  stand-‐apart,  conclusion.  

    Ideas  for  synthesis/integration  of  the  two  disciplines  are  well  presented  –  either  argued  throughout  the  piece  or  as  a  final,  stand-‐apart,  conclusion.  

    Poor  attempt  at  integration/synthesis  of  disciplines  in  addressing  the  topic.  

    Very  poor  attempt  at  integration  /synthesis  of  disciplines  in  addressing  the  topic.  No  new  light  shed  on  the  task  by  integration.  

    No  attempt  at  synthesis  /integration.  

    Technical  competence  

      Faultless  to  excellent  in:  pace,  audibility,  recording  quality.  

    Generally  well  presented  but  some  issues  in  any  of  pace,  audibility  or  recording  quality.  

    Competently  presented  but  some  major  issues  in  any  of  pace,  audibility  or  recording  quality.  Impedes  intelligibility  of  presentation.  

    Very  poor  in  either  pace,  audibility  or  recording  quality.  Presentation  seriously  impeded.  


    Flair,  Surprise,  Originality  

      Superbly  original  piece  –  may  contain  great  humour,  drama  or  originality  in  construction  or  presentation.  

    Some  nice  touches  of  originality  OR  competent  and  engaging  without  being  original.  

    Not  very  original  and  rather  dull  in  presentation.  

    Very  dull  presentation.  Uninspired  and  hard  to  listen  to.  


    Overall  Mark  and  Comments.  ‘You  would  have  gained  higher  marks  if…’  

  • Rubric for Approaches to Knowledge assessment 2.  Category   Weight   Final  


    Content.    Choice  of  subject,  relevance.  

    15%     15-‐12.  Excellent  and  original  choice  of  topic.  Perfectly  relevant.  

    11-‐8.  Good  choice  of  topic.  Close  relevance.  

    7-‐4.  Irrelevant  in  some  areas  to  considerable  misunderstanding  of  brief.  

    4-‐1.  Very  far  from  relevant.  Serious  misunderstanding  of  brief.  

    Argumentation.  Logic  of  writing.  

    20%     20-‐16.  Outstanding  to  excellently  argued.  Clear,  concise,  flowing.  

    15-‐11.  Very  well  to  well  argued.  Some  minor  to  more  serious  issues  in  logical  progression  or  flow.  

    10-‐6.  Substantial  instances  of  poor  logic.  Weak  progression  of  argument.  

    5-‐1.  Very  hard  to  trace  argument  -‐  to  unintelligible.  

    Appropriate  register  for  blog.  Style  (use  and  level  of  English  language  to  be  included  here).  

    15%     15-‐12.  Excellent  register  and  style.  Consistent,  attractive,  highly  appropriate.  Excellent  English.  

    11-‐8.  Good  to  moderate  register  and  style.  Mostly  consistent,  mostly  engaging,  some  issues  of  appropriateness  or  use  of  language.  Some  errors  in  English.  

    7-‐4.  Moderate  to  poor  or  inconsistent  register  or  style.  Inappropriate  for  a  blog  of  this  nature.  Poor  English.  

    4-‐1.  Highly  inappropriate  register  or  style.  Very  poor  English.  

    Appearance.  Font,  graphics,  subtitles  etc.  

    10%     10-‐8.  Excellent  and  attractive  presentation,  including  use  of  images,  videos  or  fonts  which  clearly  enhance  the  text.    

    7-‐5.  Good  to  moderate,  clear  presentation  but  nothing    exceptional.  

    4-‐2  Moderate  to  poor  presentation.  Inappropriate  font  or  badly  placed/chosen  images  etc.  

    1-‐0. Very  poor  or  inappropriate  appearance,  use  of  graphics  etc.  

    Referencing  (including  correct  citations  for  any  images  or  videos  used).  

    20%     20-‐16.  Perfect  to  almost  perfect  (one  or  two  slips)  referencing.  

    15-‐11.  Good  to  moderate  referencing.  All  main  points  of  style  correct.  A  few  (approx.  3-‐6  errors).  

    10-‐6.  Moderate  to  poor  referencing.  Inconsistent.  >  10  errors.  

    5-‐1.  Wrong  referencing  system.  I.e.  not  Vancouver.  

    Reflection.   20%     20-‐16.  Highly  thoughtful  and/or  original  but  appropriate  reflection.  Excellent  detail  and  big  picture.  Some  insights  more  often  seen  at  masters  level.  

    15-‐11.  Good  to  moderate  reflection.  Some  good  detail  and  overall  clear  understanding  of  what  was  achieved  and  issues  that  arose.  Minor  errors  of  fact  lose  1-‐2  marks.  

    10-‐6.  Moderate  to  poor  reflection.  Considerable  lack  of  detail  and  overall  clear  understanding  of  what  was  achieved  and  issues  that  arose.  More  serious  errors  of  fact  lose  3-‐5  marks.  

    5-‐1.  Very  poor  to  no  reflection.  Major  misunderstandings.  

    Overall  final  mark  and  comment.  ‘You  would  have  scored  higher  marks  if…’    


  • Best Practice Sharing Session on!ASSESSMENT

    !!Examining coursework projects

    in the final exam.

    Christian Spielmann (Economics)

  • Engaging students

    WIKI Group Project:!• Economics of the Public Sector!• WIKI on Education Policies (i.e. “Early

    Childhood Learning”. “Financing Higher Education”)

    BLOG Discussion Project:!• Economics of Tax Policy!• Individual Blog contribution on self-defined

    policy topic and group commenting task

    Small group independent research project:!• Economics of the Environment!• Own research on ‘current topic’ using the computer

    models introduced in the course. Research Report.

  • Examples‘A preliminar


    investigation into 




    In Botswana’

    ‘The Effects of Deforestation on the 
Giant Panda Population in China’ ‘The

    environmental costs of increased Arctic shipping’

  • How to examine?

    • Group work versus individual mark?!• Free-riding!• Incentives to participate!• Hesitation to make coursework large part of final 

    mark.!!• Assess via 30% “Part C” question in final exam. !• Advantage: Individual contribution, group 

    engagement pays off.!• Challenge: Topics are very diverse. How to 

    phrase question? Don’t just ask: Report on your
research project…

  • Solution / Sample exam question…

    Essay type question !• some specific course material. !• ability to report on the research experience.!• Apply research topic to course material.

  • Solution / Sample exam question…

    Outcome: Motivated engaged students, Group research and learning experience, Individual marks.

  • ANTH2008: Being Human

    AIMS • To encourage students to develop a broad based

    anthropological approach to topical issues • To develop staff-student relationships so that all students

    are known by name and have worked with at least 4 members of staff (one each from each subsections)

    • To facilitate student led discussion and learning in a (very) small group context

    • To develop student’s independent learning and writing (preparation for dissertation)

  • ANTH2008: Being Human

    Structure • 4 blocks of 2 weeks • Social / Biological / Material Culture/ Medical • Wednesday 9-11 in staff offices (though staff may

    choose to run slightly shorter sessions) • Students read 3 staff provided readings per week PLUS one self identified reading • Discussion in small group of issues / concepts / ideas /

    disciplinary approaches • Each staff member may choose to manage their

    session in slightly different way

  • Each week

    1. Read the three articles on the reading list for that week for that tutor

    2. Identify a further article / chapter on that topic

    • Use bibliographies / databases / googlescholar • Medline / Popline / Web of Science / UCL library

    search • Keywords / disciplines • Use googlescholar to follow up citations

  • Your identified article • 400 (ish) word summary • Key points of article + reflection on how fits in /

    doesn’t with the other material on the topic • Upload onto database BEFORE 17:00 on the

    MONDAY before the session • Come to the session prepared to discuss

    a) The three articles allocated by the tutor b) Your article talk briefly about findings / issues / complements / contradictions with tutor’s articles NOT formal presentation

  • Assessment Uploaded articles – 8 articles 25% Marking scheme 0 nothing uploaded 1 very basic and brief summary / summary unclear 2 reasonable summary of article but little reflection 3 good summary of article, plus commentary 4 excellent summary highlighting key relevant points and excellent reflection and contrast with other material Essay (3000 words) 75% ‘What does it mean to be human?’

    Any reasonable anthropological direction Encouraged to draw on at least two subdisciplines More from Timothy later……

  • Student response to the course

  • Peer Review: First Year French courses

    Teaching students to review and criticize their work is one of the principal aims of the ‘content’ core courses, 1101 and 1102, in First Year French. To further this aim, a process of peer review is provided for each piece of work you submit throughout the year. You will be assigned to a group of three or four students who are all expected to read each other’s work and provide constructive criticism. This exercise is designed to improve the work of both the author of the assignment and its reader. The advantages to the author are obvious. If there are weak points in what you have written, the feedback affords an opportunity to tackle them before submitting it and thus to achieve a higher level of performance which can then be built on in the future. But learning what others consider the piece’s strong points to be can similarly furnish a basis for revising your essay or commentary, opening the way to attaining a higher mark. Our aim is to encourage you to approach your work by asking yourself not ‘how good is it?’ but rather ‘how can I make it better?’ Moreover, the idea that excellent academic work is the product of an ongoing process of criticism and revision, rather than a once-off performance, is the reason why this peer-review exercise is of benefit to the reader as much as the author of the assignment. The questions you will be asked to answer in order to give feedback to the other students in your group will help you to develop critical reading skills which you should apply systematically to every piece of work you write. For example, learning to analyse in detail how an argument is constructed will help you to acquire the habit of constantly asking yourself if your own argument is clear and easy to follow. The questions are designed to help you think about the methodology as well as the content of a piece of work. In other words, you learn to focus on how you argue as well as on what you argue. The peer-review exercise is thus underpinned by the belief that helping your co-students to identify where there is room for improvement in their work will hone the skills you need to criticize your own work effectively. The pedagogical evidence shows that students help themselves by helping others in this way. Although some students may worry that they are weakening their position within the class by sharing ‘their’ ideas with others, experience indicates that strong students have as much to gain from the exercise as weaker ones. To assuage this worry, however, you should note that all the assessment of your First Year coursework is ‘formative’ rather than ‘summative’, that is, none of it counts towards the final grade which is awarded entirely on the basis of the end-of-year examination. The process of peer review should in effect be beneficial for all concerned. There is one important caveat: it is crucial the criticism be delivered constructively. Please refrain in particular from using any sweeping negative comments. As a general rule of thumb, the more specific you can be, the better. For example, rather than saying things such as ‘the overall argument is confused’, it would be more helpful to say ‘the shift from paragraph two to paragraph three needs to be made clearer’. You are not being asked to judge each other’s work; you are being asked to help each other to improve it. How the Peer Review exercise operates: For each piece of work you write, you must download the relevant Peer Review Form from the course’s Moodle site and complete Part A. If you wish, you may use the initial questions to flag up a particular area of your essay where you feel feedback would be especially useful; if you prefer, you need only enter your name and the essay title. You should then email the form to the other members of your group as an attachment along with the draft of your essay; they in turn will email you their drafts. You next read the essays you have received and fill in Part B of the form for each student whose work you have read (as you type your answers to the questions, you will create space). You then need to print out the forms in order to be able to return them in exchange for those commenting on your own work at the class allocated to discussing the drafts (weeks 4 and 10). When you have revised your first draft following the class discussion, you fill in Part C, explaining how you modified your work in the light of the feedback you received. You then enclose the signed forms with your final printout and submit them to your seminar teacher. Professor Mairéad Hanrahan

  • Peer Review Form: 1102 Reading French Texts Part A (to be filled out by the author) Name: Essay Title: I am particularly interested in having feedback in relation to question(s): I would also appreciate any comments about the following: Part B: Feedback from reader (name) __________________________ Structure: 1. Does the opening indicate how the commentary will be structured? 2. Does the commentary follow the structure outlined at its beginning? If not, where is there a problem? 3. Is the chosen structure appropriate? For example, if the piece for analysis has been broken into sections, do these sections make sense? If not, where is there a problem? Content: 4. In your view, does the commentary account for the most significant formal features of the text? If not, what else should it consider? 5. Is there any point at which the commentary merely describes the text rather than analyses the effect it produces? (An example might be to identify a sudden flurry of questions or a pronounced alliteration in the text, but without commenting on how this affects the reader.) 6. Is there any point at which the commentary falls into paraphrasing the text (ie just restating what it says in different words)? 7. If the text for analysis is an extract, is there a short paragraph situating it in the context of the work as a whole? 8. Is there any moment where you feel the commentary is particularly strong or weak? Presentation: 9. Are the paragraphs coherently organized? 10. Are there any mistakes in spelling, punctuation, grammar or syntax? 11. Are quotations correctly presented (and referenced, if necessary)? 12. If any works are cited, is there a bibliography giving the author’s name, publisher, and place and year of publication, and are the titles of books and of journals italicized? Part C (to be filled out by the author) Feedback on feedback: The parts of feedback I found most useful were: In response to the feedback, I modified my commentary as follows: Student Signature: ______________________________ Date:

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    A compulsory course for first year module 0.5 Units, taught in the first term

    Course convenor 2013-14: Adam Smith


    Welcome to Writing History. This is a half-unit module that will help to develop your skills and confidence as a writer, get you thinking about how best to study and introduce you to some of the resources available to you as a historian at UCL. History is a discipline grounded in reading, reflection, and writing. However good your ideas are, and however sophisticated your understanding of historical sources, you will only get the credit if you can express yourself clearly on paper. Nothing is more critical to your success as a History undergraduate than your ability to write well. Some students arrive at university believing they have nothing more to learn as a writer. Some arrive with very little confidence in their ability to write even though they’ve done well in exams. Even more arrive here never having really reflected on the process of writing at all, at least not since primary school. Writing is a skill – a craft – that you can, and should, continue to work on throughout your life. As with any craft, there are basic techniques that you can learn if they are explained to you, but the best way of improving is by observing others’ craft (in this case by reading) and, above all, by practising yourself. And, like all crafts, the people who become most proficient at it, tend to be those who enjoy it. We want you to become better writers, and to do that we believe you need to enjoy the process of writing: thinking about how to best convey an idea, what word is most appropriate in a given context, how an argument ‘flows’. Great history essays are not (just) those that display the widest reading or the most work, they are also those that display insight, clarity, even wit. When you decided to come and study History at university you made a stunningly good decision for many reasons, but one of them is that you have chosen to work in a discipline that still values good writing. There is no need for jargon here. Historians want to communicate to a wide public. We want our work to be accessible, not just decipherable to those with inside knowledge. This is one of the reasons why History graduates are so employable – they are great at explaining things. This course will give you the tools to become an even better communicator than you already are. It is not the purpose of this course to make you adhere to a set of ‘rules’ about what constitutes good historical writing (although there are plenty of ‘rules’ out there, and we will talk about them) but to get you to think critically about your own writing, to learn how to evaluate what makes effective writing, and to offer constructive feedback to your peers. Stop for a moment and think about this paragraph. You’ve just read it, but how readable is it? What is its purpose? Does

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    it achieve its aims, or does it rely too heavily on sub-clauses (and parentheses?) Is it as clear as it could be? What other styles could it have been written in? Much of what makes for good historical writing applies to most other forms of writing. It should be clear and direct, with a sense of purpose. Assertions should be backed up by evidence. Never use three words where one will do. Never use a jargon phrase when you can write in straightforward language. Above all: don’t hide. This is your writing. We want to hear your voice and your ideas. I’ve already said that one of the rules of this course is that it will not give you a formula or a simple set of ‘rules’ for you to follow but like all rules, that rule is now going to be broken. So here is a ‘rule’: banish the passive voice! Never write ‘it can be argued that…’ (can it? Then argue it!). Feel free to use the first person. It is your writing. Let’s hear you! Like all disciplines, however, History has its own conventions. An academic ‘discipline’ is a way of organising knowledge and understanding of the world in a coherent way. If you were studying Anthropology, English or Politics (all disciplines which overlap with History), much of what you learn in Writing History would still apply. But there would be differences, and the lectures address some of those History-specific conventions, to do with the nature of argument and scholarly conventions like referencing (the ‘technical’ side to this course). All good historical writing (here’s a generalisation coming), whether a 200-word précis, an essay, or a book, needs to combine clarity with complexity. The world is a complicated place, evidence is rarely clear-cut, narratives are never one-dimensional, motivations impossible to discern with certainty. The task of the historian is to deal in a sensitive, nuanced, intelligent way with the mass of uncertainties in front of her (or him) and yet still produce writing that is engaging and clear. Simply presenting unorganised, undigested complexity is not history, it’s just stuff. Conversely, presenting a simplistic (albeit satisfying) story that denies complexity isn’t history, it’s fiction. We, as historians, need to tread that fine line: telling a story or making an argument about the past that makes sense without being overly simplistic. How can this be done? Historians have adopted many approaches. Some are self-consciously ‘literary’; others hew close to the evidence, larding their writing with quotations or statistics. Some build an argument in a very structured way, much as a social scientist might do; others prefer to allow an argument to ‘emerge’. Different strategies suit different topics, different personalities, different groups of readers and different genres or types of writing. In this course we will look at historical writing in different forms, but our focus will be on the essay, since this is the principal form of writing that you will have to master during your time at UCL. This is a module of two halves. The first half will be delivered via lectures and large group ‘workshops’ (see below for details) and address general issues to do with writing. The second half will be delivered in small group tutorials will be related to one of the Survey Courses you’re taking. So while the first part of Writing History deals with historical writing in a more generalised way, the second part will give you the opportunity to think about writing as it applies directly to the material you are covering in one of your other courses. There will be three teaching sessions for this part of the course.

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    This module will have succeeded if it makes you more aware of your writing and more interested in it. Hopefully it will enable you to enjoy your writing and be more confident about it.



    Registration week Department Tutor Lectures 1 & 2: Introduction to studying History at UCL These sessions will cover: using libraries, using the internet, expectations about essays, other forms of writing you will do at UCL. We will also talk about the various types of historical writing that you will encounter as a student: monographs, articles, book reviews and so on. Library Tours: conducted by the Subject Librarians Cumberland Lodge Workshop I: What is ‘good writing’? In this session we will compare some pieces of historical writing in order to analyse what makes them work. Among other things, we will think about: audience, purpose, the use of ‘rhetoric’ (or techniques of persuasion), argument, evidence. Week 1 Workshop II: Reading for writing In this session we will discuss how to find out things: the most efficient ways of reading and note-taking and will include a practice ‘speed-reading’ session. We will talk about how to read speedily, efficiently and purposefully, by thinking about contents, indexes, and things like topic sentences. Week 2 Workshop III: Assessment This session will explain the marking and feedback process in the department. We will look in detail at the department mark scheme and you will have the chance to ‘mark’ a piece of work. About half of the assessment on your degree comes from exams, so this session will also focus on the particular challenges of writing in an exam setting. How to prepare? How do you know what to expect? How might an exam answer differ from a coursework essay? At the end of each of the three workshop you will be asked to spend exactly 3 minutes sitting and writing down your reflections on what you’ve learned in that

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    session. Those reflective commentaries (only a couple of sentences long in all probability) will form part of the Portfolio of writings that constitute 25% of your mark for this course. (See below for more information on the Portfolio). Weeks 3-5 2x 45-min Tutorials The tutorials will have no more than 4 students in them. Your tutor will be familiar with, and will probably be teaching on, one of the Survey courses you are taking this year. In each tutorial, students will prepare in advance a short piece of writing – basically a paragraph of no more than 200 words -- and circulate it to the rest of the group. Your tutor will explain to you exactly what form the writing should take but it will probably be one of the following: i) the introduction to an essay ii) a précis of an essay (i.e. a summary of the argument you would make were you writing the entire essay) iii) an explanation of a key concept that has been addressed in the Survey course iv) a review (or summary) of a book or article (Note: the purpose of using the tutorials to discuss such short pieces of writing is because one can see clearly, in concentrated form, the strengths and weaknesses of writing. Remember the famous quote by George Bernard Shaw: “I’m sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”1 These pieces of writing will be circulated in advance by email. In the tutorial, each student will offer a short commentary or critique of the others’ writing. These may or may not be written in advance. This discussion of each others’ writing replicates in miniature the process of ‘peer review’ with which historians – and most people for whom writing is a key part of their professional life – are familiar. When professional historians write, they always expose their writing to feedback from their peers – in research seminars, by ‘readers’ for journals or presses, and informally among their colleagues. While most of your writing at university will be assessed by a tutor, the judgements they hand down should not, in the end, come as a surprise to you. One aspect of the learning you will undergo while an undergraduate is learning to assess your own work. The ‘peer assessment’ we will practice in these seminars is an example of that. Weeks 6-10 A one-to-one tutorial (c30 mins)

    1 Or perhaps it was someone else. Most famous quotes are either from the Bible or Shakespeare, but this one is from neither. A prize* will be given to the student who provides the most convincing account of the origins of this phrase, complete with appropriate scholarly references. *prize to be awarded by the course convenor. The judge’s decision is final.

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    A one-to-one 30-min tutorial will be arranged with the tutor from your Survey course who led your other two tutorials. In advance of this tutorial, you will need to write an essay answering a question set by your tutor. The purpose of the tutorial is to discuss the essay in detail. You will need to submit a revised version of the essay for assessment in the first week of January. You will find that it is not normal practice in the History Department for tutors to read drafts of essays but this course is an exception: it is specifically designed to give you the opportunity of feedback before the essay is finally marked. The essay may well be an expansion of the précis or the introduction you submitted for one of your earlier tutorials. This essay will form 75% of the assessment for the Writing History module. The re-written version of the essay will be marked in exactly the same way as an essay for any of your other courses, and you will have the opportunity for one-to-one feedback with the tutor. To clarify: although the essay will be on the subject of your Survey Course, the mark for this essay will contribute to your mark for Writing History, not the Survey Course. Suggested reading How to write William Strunk and E. B. White, The Elements of Style Phyllis Creme and Mary R. Lea, Writing at University: A Guide for Students George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”, online at Some practical help with writing you may find useful: Below is a very subjective list of examples of historical writing, grouped according to period, which (some!) members of the Department find striking because of how they integrate what the historian is arguing with how they argue or express it. Ancient Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo (1967) M. Keith Hopkins, A World Full of Gods: Pagans, Jews and Christians in the Roman World (1999) Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History (2000) Mario Liverani, Israel’s History and the History of Israel (Eng. trans. 2005) Medieval R. W. Southern, The Making of the Middle Ages (1953) Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity (1971) Francis Oakley, ‘Celestial Hierarchies Revisited: Walter Ullmann's Vision of Medieval Politics’, Past and Present, 60 (1973), pp. 3-48, Robert Bartlett, England under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225 (2000)

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    Early Modern Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (Eng. tr. 1972) Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (1984) Quentin Skinner, ‘Sir Geoffrey Elton and the Practice of History’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series, 7 (1997), pp. 301-316 Modern Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It (1948) Bernard Bailyn Atlantic History: Concept and Contours (2005) Michael O’Brien, Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860 (2010)


    ASSESSMENT a. Workshop commentaries (5%) You will be given 3 minutes to write at the end of the session. Those of you with a laptop and an internet connection can then immediately upload it onto the moodle site. The rest of you will need to do so later. Either way the purpose is to have your commentary on moodle by the end of the day in which the lecture takes place. It will necessarily be short. The commentary should be a personal reflection on what you’ve learned. b. Course summary (10%) a short paragraph, written at the end of the course, summarising what you’ve learned about how to write effective history essays. You could, if it helps, imagine that you’re writing an email (in the first person) to a new student who wants to know how to go about writing a history essay. c. Tutorial exercises (10%) the 2 short writing exercises you complete for your tutorials (see above) d. The Essay (75%) An essay, c2500-words in length, submitted at the end of term, after a first draft has been discussed with a tutor in a one-to-one tutorial.


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    Aims: • to develop student’s understanding of the requirements of academic

    writing, and to effective approaches to study, in the discipline of history • to ensure that students are aware of the resources available to them as

    writers at UCL • to give students experience of peer learning and to develop their ability to

    offer constructive criticism • to give students the opportunity for a one-to-one formative feedback

    session on an essay

    Teaching/contact hours 3 2-hr lecture/workshops 2 1-hr lectures by department tutor 1 45-min library tour 2 45-min tutorials with 3 students in each 1 30-min one-to-one tutorial 1 15-min essay feedback session TOTAL CONTACT TIME: 13 hours

  • Principle First steps Developing Developed Refining Outstanding practice: Partnership

    Diverse forms of assessmentdesigned toassess a rangeof skills andknowledge

    There is little variety in the forms ofassessment used on each programme.Assessment is not clearly linked tolearning objectives and little thoughthas been given to the skills andknowledge tested. Summativeassessments may require different skillsthan those developed during the course.

    Some thought has been given to howthe mode of assessment is chosen tobest demonstrate the learningoutcomes of the course. Students areadequately prepared for summativeassessments with the skills they learnon the course.

    Assessment methods are chosenthrough a clear link to the learningoutcomes of the course. Severaldifferent types of assessment are usedthroughout the course, e.g. exam,written essay, poster presentation, grouppresentation, reflective log.

    Programmes are planned so that thediverse forms of assessment will coverskills that are desired in the wider world,e.g. by employers. Students have somechoice in the assessment methods theyare offered.

    Students are empowered and given thetools and support to co-design theirassessment methods in partnershipwith academic staff. Programmes areplanned holistically to assess a broadrange of skills and knowledge through avariety of forms of assessment. Studentsare able to articulate the skills they havedeveloped through the various forms ofassessment on their programme.


    Assessment criteria are vague,confusing and often contradictory. They are hard to find and students arenot directed to them.

    Assessment criteria are mostly clear anddetailed enough to be of use, butstudents may not know about them oruse them.

    Assessment criteria are clear and easyto understand, and students are awareof where to find them. They are clearlylinked to the learning outcomes of thecourse.

    Assessment criteria are linked tolearning outcomes and referred tothroughout the course. Students fullyunderstand what is expected of them inorder to achieve each grade.

    Assessment criteria are clear, easilyaccessible and linked to learningoutcomes. Students fully understandand are supported to use them. They aredesigned in partnership with students toensure accessibility.


    Submission procedures are inflexible,complex and inaccessible, usuallyinvolving a set date and time to returnpaper copies to the institution. There isno provision for students to submit theirwork in any other way, even if they are ona year abroad.

    Submission procedures are relativelysimple, although largely paper-based.Year abroad students may experienceproblems depending on whichdepartment they are in. There are someaccess issues that haven’t been dealtwith very well.

    Submission is largely electronic,although some departments may dothings differently. Feedback may or maynot be provided online. There isprovision for year abroad students tosubmit electronically in all departments.

    Submission is electronic where possible,and feedback is provided online.Submission processes are the sameacross all departments.

    Submission is simple and flexible,through an online system that confirmsreceipt and delivers online grades andfeedback. Accessibility for students isthe paramount concern. Processes arereviewed frequently in partnership withstudents.


    Deadlines are clustered together, oftenall at the end of the year. Students arepoorly informed about deadline dates atthe start of their course.

    Deadlines are slightly more spreadthroughout the year, but there is littleplanning and clustering may occurdepending on what modules studentschoose.

    Assessments are planned withindepartments to avoid clustering.Deadline dates are made available tostudents at the start of their modules.

    Assessments are planned acrossprogrammes to avoid clustering,including for joint honours students.Deadline dates are made available atmodule selection.

    Assessments are planned so that allprogrammes have their workload spreadfairly across the year. A calendar ofdeadlines is available before moduleselection. There are on-goingdiscussions with students throughoutthe year, with the option to changedeadlines if necessary.

    Anonymity and externality

    Summative work is routinely notanonymised. There is little externality inthe process.

    Practice on anonymity varies acrossdepartments, although the UK QualityCode requirements for externality are met.

    The institution has a policy onanonymous marking that is mostly wellimplemented. Course reps are aware ofthe role of external examiners.Moderation or non-blind double markingis the norm.

    All summative work is anonymous as faras is possible. There is a strong use ofexternality, with high use of blind doublemarking. Course reps refer to externalexaminers’ reports in meetings.

    Departments’ approach to anonymity forformative work is agreed in partnershipwith students. Any centralised policiesare based on principles and allowenough flexibility for Departments towork in partnership with students. Allsummative work is anonymous as far asis possible. There is a strong use ofexternality, with blind double marking asstandard. Course reps have the ability tomeet external examiners.

    Markingconsistency and distribution

    Marking is not consistent withindepartments: some teachers are knownto be “easy markers”.

    Marking is consistent withindepartments, but joint honours studentswithin cognate disciplines may seedisparities. Many subjects do not usethe full range of marks.

    Marking is consistent withindepartments and cognate subjects, butmay differ across the institution. Activesteps are being taken to encourage allmarkers to use the full range of marks.

    Marking is broadly consistent acrossevery student’s programme of study.There is an expectation that all markerswill use the full range of marks.Guidance and clear grade/classificationdescriptors are provided.

    Marking is consistent across everystudent’s programme of study. Use of thefull range of marks is regularly reviewed,including students in the process, andsupport is provided for staff to ensure ithappens.


    Students receive feedback too late touse it for improvement. Some studentsdo not receive any feedback at all.

    Students receive feedback that they canuse to improve, but often not in time tocomplete a summative assessment.

    There is an institutional policy in placethat is mostly well implemented.Students receive at least one piece offeedback before they complete asummative assessment.

    All students receive feedback in time toact on it in their next piece of work.Feedback is returned within threeweeks, including on summativeassessments.

    Feedback timeliness above aninstitutional minimum standard isagreed in partnership between staff andstudents in departments. Studentsreceive continuous verbal, written oremail feedback throughout their courseand understand that feedbackencompasses more than just commentson assignments.


    Feedback is poor and does not helpstudents to improve. Often, only gradesare provided, or comments such as“Good” with no explanation of why themark has been awarded.

    At least a sentence of feedback is givenfor each piece of work, with somejustification of the mark awarded orareas for improvement. Feedback onexams is hard or impossible to get hold of.

    Feedback quality varies acrossdepartments, although there is aninstitutional policy or guidance in placethat is generally adhered to. Feedback,although not detailed, clearly identifiesareas for improvement. There aremechanisms in place for feedback to begiven on exams, although this may begeneric or group feedback.

    Individual feedback is provided on allforms of assessment, including exams.Feedback is detailed enough to clearlyidentify areas for improvement andexamples of good practice. There areopportunities to discuss the feedbackindividually with a tutor, although thismay not be the marker.

    Detailed, constructive feedback isprovided on all forms of assessment,including exams. The opportunities toreceive feedback are clearly explained tostudents at the start of the course, andstudents can choose the format inwhich they would like to receivefeedback. There are opportunities todiscuss the feedback individually withthe marker.

    Formativeassessment and feedback

    There is no formative assessment, andlittle opportunity for informal formativefeedback.

    Most modules include formativefeedback, although this may be informaland ad hoc. Students may be providedwith past papers but they are unlikely tobe marked.

    Formative feedback is planned intoevery module. There is at least oneopportunity for formative assessmentbefore undertaking a summativeassessment of the same type.

    Formative assessment is a key aspect oflearning and encourages students toreflect on their performance anddevelop their skills. Peer learning is partof formative feedback.

    Formative feedback is consideredholistically as part of students’ personaldevelopment. There are opportunitiesfor students to design their ownformative exercises, in which criteria arelinked to learning outcomes.

    Self-reflectionand peerlearning

    There are no opportunities for peerlearning and no formal self-reflection.

    There is some peer interaction, forexample through seminars or discussiongroups, available for most students. Self-reflection is mainly discussed by thecareers service and has little formal rolein students’ academic lives.

    Peer learning is encouraged andcommon within the institution, althoughit plays less of a role in formativeassessment. Feedback encouragesstudents to reflect on their performancein order to improve.

    Formative feedback regularly includespeer input and self-reflection. Studentsare encouraged to reflect on thefeedback they have been given by peersand tutors and to develop their skillsholistically.

    Peer learning and self-reflection areembedded in the curriculum. Students’personal development takes account ofall the feedback they have receivedthroughout their course. Discussionsare regularly held between staff andstudents to ensure the balance oftaught, peer and self-learning is accurate.

    Assessment and feedbackbenchmarking tool











  • This benchmarking tool is the latest in a series of resources NUS hasproduced to help you to improve the quality of feedback andassessment at your institution. You can use it in conjunction with theFeedback and Assessment Campaign Toolkit and other resourcesavailable on NUS Connect.

    The tool is based on ten principles of effective feedback. In 2010, aspart of the Student Feedback Project, NUS produced a Charter onFeedback and Assessment. This benchmarking tool is based on theprinciples of this charter, but the principles have been updated toreflect the priorities and needs of a new cohort of students.

    How to use the toolYou can use the tool at a course, departmental, faculty or wholeinstitution level. Read each of the principles, and decide which of theboxes best describes where you think your institution is. Once you’vemapped out your current level, you may wish to choose a couple ofpriority areas to work towards achieving the next level. The tool is agood starting point for discussions between staff and students abouthow you can work together to improve feedback and assessment.

    You could also share practice with other willing unions, perhaps on aregional basis or by mission group. You can learn from unions that placetheir institutions higher than yours: what good practice could youborrow and adapt? If they’ve recently made changes, what were thechallenges they faced?

    Things to bear in mind • Each of the “outstanding” practices involve staff and students

    working in partnership. This partnership needs to be meaningful inorder to work, which means that both groups must listen and bewilling to compromise. Some of the principles may be mutuallyincompatible in some institutions: for example, it may not be possibleto achieve “outstanding” in both feedback timeliness and feedbackquality if the institution cannot afford more staff time for marking.Have honest conversations with institutional staff about what is andisn’t possible.

    • You may not be able to achieve “outstanding” in everything at once.Decide where best to target your resources: do you want to work hardto get one particular area to “outstanding”, or do you want to spendthat time getting three or four areas up one level from their currentposition? Are there specific departments you want to work with, or isa central minimum standard what is required?

    • It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the people who markcoursework and exams are postgraduate students: you may wish todiscuss the benchmarking tool with your postgraduate reps to makesure that your campaign is inclusive of all your members. This maymean ensuring that any additional work is incorporated into markers’work plans, or campaigning for better pay and conditions for graduateteaching assistants alongside your feedback campaign.

    • Your union may disagree with some of the levels in the benchmarkingtool – and that’s OK! The tool was created collaboratively by studentofficers, based on principles put together from research into whatstudents value from feedback. This doesn’t mean it will work at everyinstitution. Feel free to tweak it or build on it to make it more relevantto the context of your institution. You could use it to start aconversation with institutional staff – what can you take from the tool and use to enhance the quality of feedback and assessment atyour institution?

    Assessment and feedbackbenchmarking tool

    Diverse forms of assessment at a variety of appropriate timesThere should be a range of assessment mechanisms thatare linked to learning outcomes and test competenciesthat graduates will need. Students should be involved indesigning or choosing these assessment mechanisms.

    Assessment criteriaAssessment criteria should be clear, linked to learningoutcomes and easily accessible to students. Studentsshould be supported to understand them and tounderstand what constitutes academic misconduct.

    Submission processesSubmission processes should be simple for the studentand electronic where possible. Processes should beappropriate to the assessment and accessible to allstudents.

    Workload distributionStudents should have their workload fairly distributedthroughout the year, rather than clustering deadlinestogether.

    Anonymity and externalityApproaches to anonymity should be decided inpartnership between staff and students, with theassumption that, unless decided otherwise, all summativeassessments should be anonymous (as far as is possible).Appropriate external input is sought during assessment toensure fairness and comparability.

    Marking consistency and distributionMarks should be consistent across programmes, and thefull range of marks should be used across the institution.

    Feedback timelinessFeedback should be given in time for students to act on itin their next piece of work.

    Feedback qualityFeedback should be constructive, helpful and detailed, toenable a student to understand why they received themark they got and what to do to improve for next time.

    Formative assessment and feedbackThere should be opportunities for feedback on work thatdoesn’t contribute to the overall degree mark, in order tofacilitate learning.

    Self-reflection and peer learningOpportunities for peer learning and self-reflectiveexercises should be embedded in the curriculum.

    10 Principles of EffectiveFeedback and Assessment











    If you have any questions, please contact: [email protected]

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