British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics

Awakened by foxes

By |September 7th, 2012|Recent news|0 Comments

As I lay awake to the sound of mating foxes and postgraduate students (please be reassured that, so far as I can discern, they are purely intra-species relations), I look back at what has happened since my blog update.

The conference season has taken me to Brighton, Sheffield and Salamanca: to the BSRLM Day Conference, CETL-MSOR Conference and SEFI MWG Seminar, respectively. At each I presented my findings on lecturers’ use of computer-aided assessment.

Since then, I have been continuing with data collection; first interviewing students and, second, interviewing lecturers that do not use CAA. In this time I have also finished a first draft of a thesis chapter, which feels like a milestone passing despite the shortcomings I see in it.

I managed to squeeze in a holiday to Rome, which was very nice. I particularly liked the Vittorio Emanuele II monument for its ostentatiousness and sheer ridiculousness. It reached a dazzling 37°C while we were there: a feat so far unmatched by the drizzling United Kingdom. We, of course, remain hopeful of a late summer surge!

BSRLM, University of Sussex

By |June 9th, 2012|2012, Presentations|0 Comments

Lecturers’ adaptations to CAA practice


BSRLM Day Conference
9 June 2012
University of Sussex, Brighton


Computer-aided assessment (CAA) has been used for ten years at a university with one of the largest engineering and mathematics student cohorts in the country. This efficient and time-saving tool for assessing students on the mathematical content in these courses allows lecturers to monitor and record the progress of hundreds of students by selecting from a bank of thousands of questions.

Although this would appear to provide a straightforward means of testing large numbers of students, lecturers have developed diverse practices when using CAA with students. For example, some lecturers invigilate students while they do the online test, while others have replaced the online test with a paper equivalent.

Such changes may be explained by the notion of contradictions proposed by Engeström (2000). For example, some lecturers believe that the questions in the online test are too prescriptive and do not test what is desired. To resolve this conflict, these lecturers may replace the online test with a paper test in order to achieve their assessment goals.
This session will examine the findings from questionnaires and interviews conducted with lecturers of first year mathematics modules at this university. By these methods, lecturers explain how and why they use CAA, the issues they have encountered and how they have adapted their practice to counter them. With activity theory providing a framework with which past changes can be explained, possible future changes in practice will also be discussed.


BSRLM Conference March 2012

By |March 3rd, 2012|Recent news|0 Comments

It was a fairly late decision to attend the BSRLM conference at The University of Manchester on 3rd March 2012, but I am glad I did.

Aside from meeting some familiar faces, I met some new ones: including some prominent researchers that are working with activity theory every day.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, by Mike Peel (

First Publication

By |August 28th, 2011|Recent news|0 Comments

Following from the BSRLM New Researchers Day presentation I made in June, I submitted informal conference proceedings that have now been published.

Accordingly, I now have a Publications page!

This paper summarises my work with two focus groups to elicit students’ thoughts and experiences of using computer-aided assessment (CAA).

Focus groups to ascertain the presence of formative feedback in CAA

Broughton, S.J. Hernandez-Martinez, P. and Robinson, C., 2011. Focus groups to ascertain the presence of formative feedback in CAA. In: Smith, C. (Ed.), Proceedings of the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics, 31(2). University of Leeds, Leeds 10-11 June 2011.


BSRLM Conference June 2011

By |June 17th, 2011|Recent news|0 Comments

My first conference was a two-day event with BSRLM at Leeds University on 10th-11th June 2011. The first day was for new researchers and I presented the work that I have completed so far.

It was interesting and pleasing to meet other people at a similar stage in their studies. They were a friendly group and the evening meal was especially enjoyable (apart from being nominated to receive money and pay the bill, which I accept as revenge for my abundance of cheese jokes!).

The following day was equally enjoyable. A completely vegetarian lunch was very compatible with my needs! The talks were thought-provoking, which allowed me to reflect on my own project still further.

We stayed at the Cliff Lawn Hotel in Headingley and we ate at La Besi.