Keynote Speakers

The following distinguished speakers presented keynote addresses to the 2011 ATN Assessment Conference.

Professor David Nicol

Professor David Nicol

Keynote Address: Assessment and feedback in higher education: in the hands of the learner

Abstract: In higher education, students are more dissatisfied with the feedback they receive than with any other aspect of their courses. Surveys show that they believe that feedback is not sufficiently detailed or timely and that suggestions for improvement are often not clearly explained. Institutions have been taking measures to address these issues. This keynote will discuss both the problems posed by feedback and the measures taken to address these problems. It will be argued that there is too much focus on enhancing teacher assessment and the quality of 'feedback delivery' rather than on enhancing learner judgment and the quality of 'feedback interactions'. The keynote presentation will draw on the findings of the Re-engineering Assessment Practices (REAP) project, funded by the Scottish Funding Council under its e-Learning Transformation initiative ( and on the JISC-funded PEER project ( The goal of REAP was to redesign assessment processes in ways that would enable students become independent and self-regulated learners. PEER builds on REAP and suggests ways of enhancing learner judgement through student peer review processes.

David Nicol is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Strathclyde. He was previously Deputy Director for the Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement and Director of the Re-Engineering Assessment Practices Project (, a £1m project exploring how new technologies might support improved assessment practices across three Scottish Universities.

At the University of Strathclyde, since 1990, David has been involved in supporting innovation in assessment and feedback practices across all areas of the institution This includes collaborating with departments and faculties on educational improvement projects; formulating the university's assessment and feedback policy; leading a campaign to involve students more actively as responsible partners in assessment processes (e.g. the 'Feedback as Dialogue' initiative); delivering accredited programmes for academic staff and graduate teachng assistants on teaching, learning and assessment; and revising course and progamme approval processes so that they provide better information about the alignment of course provision including assessment with educational strategy.

David is currently employed by the QAA Scotland as a facilitator for Assessment and Feedback developments across the Scottish HE sector. He is also jointly leading a project at Strathclyde on PEER processes in learning ( funded by the Joint Inforrmation Systems Committee (UK). He is also a consultant to the University of Strathclyde in relation to the Principles in Patterns Project ( ) which received funding from JISC. David was previously a co-director for this project.

David's research and publications are in the areas of assessment and feedback in higher education, on e-learning and on change management in higher education.

Professor Beverley Oliver

Professor Beverley Oliver

Keynote Address: The challenge of assuring learning standards

Abstract: Standards in education are a key issue within and beyond Australia. In fact, it could be argued that most differences of opinion about the effectiveness of education systems are fundamentally mismatches of expectations about standards: we rarely reach consensus about what an educational system should deliver, and development of broad capabilities which are more appropriately the remit of other aspects of society. The problem is particularly complex when one considers learning standards in higher education. What should graduates of Bachelor degrees be able to do? Who decides? How can curriculum leaders be sure that those standards have been achieved? Many have a stake in this debate: students, graduates and their families; business, industry and the wider community; higher education providers and government agencies.
This presentation addresses issues associated with learning standards in international contexts and particularly in Australian higher education. It includes a broad policy view (the Australian Qualifications Framework and the emerging role of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency), the impact of national projects (such as the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Academic Standards Projects), and trends in Australian universities' stated aims in graduate outcomes. The presentation then seeks to address the challenges from the perspective of higher education curriculum leaders and an exploration of tools and processes for meeting these challenges.

Beverley Oliver is Director of Teaching and Learning at Curtin University. She is an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Fellow (Benchmarking partnerships for graduate employability) and Project Leader for an ALTC Competitive Grant (Building Course Team Capacity for Graduate Employability).

She lead the creation and implementation of Curtin's eVALUate (the University's online student feedback system) and Curriculum 2010 (a university-wide curriculum reform initiative which focused on graduate employability, curriculum mapping, ePortfolios and evaluation of curriculum effectiveness). Her leadership has been recognised with two ALTC Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2007 and 2010).

Beverley publishes in a range of teaching and learning areas, including graduate attributes and employability; student, graduate and employer evaluation; curriculum renewal; ePortfolios and student ownership and use of emerging devices and Web 2.0 applications.

She is currently working on issues related to all aspects of Assuring Graduate Capabilities within and beyond the curriculum, including using portfolios to evidence student and graduate attainment of standards. Beverley welcomes colleagues to join her network at

Professor Geoffery Crisp

Professor Geoffrey Crisp

Keynote Address: Engaging students in learning through online assessment

Abstract: Setting meaningful learning activities for students is a difficult business because it requires reflective practice, imagination and time on the part of teachers. Approaches to learning, teaching and assessment are closely aligned so for teachers their approach to one is normally manifested clearly in the other two. If assessment is regarded as simply a means to test whether a student has understood a concept or mastered a particular skill then we are designing the associated tasks as assessment of learning. The learning and assessment are separated by time and space and will not be synergistic in their impact on each other. If assessment is used to provide feedback to students as to whether they have understood a concept or mastered a particular skill then we are designing the associated tasks as assessment for learning. The primary purpose of the task is to enable students to receive feedback that will influence their learning and provide further opportunities for improvement. The learning and assessment are less separated by time and space if the feedback is timely and students are provided with new opportunities to test their revised learning; the learning and assessment activities can have a synergistic impact on each other. If assessment is used to develop the learning strategies students use to understand a concept or master a particular skill then we are designing the associated tasks as assessment as learning. The primary purpose of the task is to enable students to analyse their strategies for learning and the quality of their decision making. The learning and assessment are not separated by time and space; the learning and assessment activities do have a synergistic impact on each other. We will examine how the online environment has the potential to facilitate assessment as learning through the use of student-centric tools and game design principles.

Geoff Crisp is Dean of Learning and Teaching at RMIT University in Melbourne, Victoria. He was previously Director for the Centre for Learning and Professional Development at the University of Adelaide.

Geoff began his academic career in chemistry, initially at the University of Melbourne and then at the University of Adelaide. Geoff developed his passion for learning and teaching during his time in chemistry by seeking innovative approaches to enhancing the student learning experience in his discipline. Geoff broadened his perspectives on science education during his time as Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching for the Faculty of Science. Geoff has had a keen interest in using technology to enhance learning and coordinated the introduction of the University of Adelaide's online education system as Director of the Online Learning and Teaching Unit. Geoff made the permanent move to educational and staff development and online learning when he was appointed the Director of the Centre for Learning and Professional Development in 2002. Geoff has received several awards for learning and teaching and is an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Fellow (Associate 2006 and National 2009).

Geoff's research and publications are in the areas of online assessment, academic development and peer review of teaching. Geoff's recent work on e-assessment is available from