Science education


Fiona BirdDr Fiona Bird

Associate Professor, College of Science, Health and Engineering

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My current research explores the nature of knowledge sharing and building in assessment communities. I have worked with my colleague Robyn Yucel on research questions around knowledge development in teaching teams and with students. 

Our goal was initially to improve marking reliability within a large team of laboratory demonstrators, but this inquiry grew into a more theoretical investigation of how knowledge and understandings of assessment criteria and standards grew and were shared in a teaching team. We introduced sample report marking and moderation discussions into the training for staff and found a measurable improvement in inter-marker reliability as a result (Bird & Yucel 2013). 

The sample report marking and moderation exercise was also included in a larger program of support for developing scientific writing skills in first year students (the Developing Understanding of Assessment for Learning (DUAL) program) and Yucel et al (2014) reported an improvement in student understanding of standards and criteria as a result of this and the peer review exercise. Bird & Yucel (2014) evaluated other components of the DUAL program and found that feedback elements and activities enabled students to effectively apply learning to the next task.

Current research explores the moderation discussion in more detail with a focus on the process, outcomes and dynamics of the discussion and the impact they have on individual understandings of assessment criteria and standards as well as confidence as markers. This research explores the idea that the community of practice created through the discussion provides a safe and supported space for junior academics (fourth-year undergraduates and postgrad students) to learn, test their ideas and grow in confidence as educators and assessors.

Prior to my transition to publishing research investigating assessment issues in higher education, I explored ecological questions in marine soft-sediment communities.