Peer assessment in teaching

This year I implemented a bunch of new things in my “Introduction to Research and Ethics” module, including peer assessment. I hadn’t done it before so was a little nervous about it, but it worked out really well. There’s a great write-up that my faculty’s CELT officer wrote with me about the process available here.

I was particularly chuffed at being mentioned in the minutes from the assessment board – it’s not often that particular lecturers get mentioned and commended by name by the external examiner!

I plan to put together a portfolio for an internal teacher fellowship application this year – so wish me luck!

If you’re one of my incoming second years – you have this to look forward to! If you went through it last year, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve learned a lot from your experience and appreciate your patience!

Learning history through Dungeons & Dragons

So I’ve been DMing a game of Dungeons and Dragons regularly for a few weeks now. It’s not my first game, but it’s certainly my most complex. It’s the first where I’ve built the world up fully myself and set up the encounters and so on throughout the game.

The setting is, basically, “ancient Yorubaland” (the quotes implying that it is in no way historically accurate), where people from Oyo and surrounds have been suddenly threatened by strange enemies that appear from nowhere and take captives away (or kill them if they resist). Fairly standard stuff. In this game there are desert elves, jungle elves, “high” elves, humans, and old, wise warthogs. My group had been wanting to ditch the European medieval fantasy tropes so it was a good opportunity to learn a bit about ancient Nigeria, and let me tell you, the Yoruba freakin’ kicked arse. At basically everything, but especially cavalry warfare. They also have pretty awesome gods (orisha), which is always important in a D&D setting. You can read quite a lot on the Oyo empire here:

The enemies, however, come from far away, via the Ethereal plane through portals. They are yuan-ti that hail from, basically, Tenochtitlan, which have been fighting the elvish city-states to the north (Cholula, Huejotzingo, Tlaxcala) in a highly ritualised forever-war aimed at providing the yuan-ti with sacrifices for their god.

This war is basically [SPOILERS TO MY D&D GROUP – DON’T READ THIS LINK] the Flower War which I had never heard of before and which is pretty amazing. It’s also happening at the eve of Iberian dwarves arriving to, uh, well, trade or something with the local people. It’ll be interesting to see what happens there… 😉

So basically I have been learning a boatload about historical areas I never knew much about, for a D&D game in which I mispronounce just about everyone’s and everything’s name. So my lesson for you is: go play D&D and learn about cool historical stuff!


Image is of the Great Pyramid at Cholula: “Teocalli vid Cholula, Nordisk familjebok bd 4” by Nordisk familjebok, Vol 4. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –,_Nordisk_familjebok_bd_4.png#mediaviewer/File:Teocalli_vid_Cholula,_Nordisk_familjebok_bd_4.png

Future Research Leaders

I was lucky to be chosen this year for the DMU Future Research Leaders scheme as one of 12 from a pool of 40 candidates. Today was the first session where the programme was outlined and we all introduced ourselves. I think this will be really good for me for a few reasons:

  1. I’m at a stage in my career where I have a permanent job so I need to strategise and work out where I want to be and what I want to do with myself.
  2. I’m not very good at the above as I’ve always really done other people’s research (apart from my PhD). So I need to work out how to pitch myself and carve out a niche.
  3. I need to learn how to deal with my career around potential career breaks, and how to juggle things once I’m back.
  4. I really really love interdisciplinary stuff and want to keep doing it, but also want to be REF-able in order to keep the higher ups happy with giving me research time. This’ll help me work out where to pitch what I do better.
  5. I probably want to be a prof one day, so it’d be nice to work out how to do that.

There’s an external guy who’s an ex-PVC and who’s run a department for a while and research groups and who’s seen it all running the programme and we basically chat once a month and get some one-on-one time 3 times a year, and to top it all off I get £2000 to go and do some awesome research with some awesome people.

The best bit is that unlike many of these things where I’m often the only woman at them, 11 out of the 12 people on this programme are women. How awesome is that?! Apparently it was completely not engineered; these were just the best candidates. And by the sounds of things they are all very interesting and dedicated people, many of whom have dealt with or are dealing with some of the issues I listed above. So yeah, I’m super excited about the whole thing!

As part of the exercises for the programme we will need to write up little responses to the monthly prompts. I will share some of them here because I think it’s useful to be able to reflect on them later and also to get some other input from people who are also interested in these issues.

Picture by Robert Donovan

ANZAC biscuits

Straight from my mum’s recipe folder – this is an oldie but a goodie (and 1 day too late for Australia Day…) If you don’t have golden syrup, you could try maple syrup or honey.

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
¾ cup desiccated coconut
125g butter (salted)
2 tablespoon golden syrup
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon boiling water

Combine oats, sifted flour, sugar and coconut.
Combine butter and golden syrup, stir over gentle heat until melted.
Mix soda with boiling water and add to melted butter mixture, stir into the dry ingredients. The mixture should not be too moist, but if you need more moisture, add a little more water.

Place tablespoons of mixture on lightly greased oven trays; allow room for spreading. Flatten a little with your fingers.

Cook in a slow 160 deg C oven for 20 mins. Loosen while warm then cool on tray. revision circa 2014

It’s almost 15 years since I first bought the domain name I started out with the site full of terrible poetry and homages to Nick Cave. It then went on to host my first ever blog, which I wrote in terribly insecure PHP3 and a MySQL database with an empty root password. The internet was a lot more naive back then. I recall being impressed with sites that had image link maps or whatever they were called and had one of those for a bit. I ran an early version of WordPress for a while, but that was terribly buggy and insecure. It’s still probably terribly buggy and insecure but at least it’s being cared for a lot better than it was back then. I had several rounds of custom written photo gallery applications before I realised that I just didn’t have the stamina to keep up with regular updates. I failed miserably at blogging once I had a real job and real responsibilities.

So here we are again. Round … well I’ve lost count now. 6? 7? 10? Probably not as many revisions as waferbaby but then I don’t have that sort of fanbase either. I strongly suspect only my mum and dad will read this. And probably random students who’ve come here via the SoDIS helper or Peermark systems I also run on this server. Hi! You’re pretty smart. Do well in my classes, ok?

Who knows what I’ll use this for, but we’ll see. I have vague plans of at least collecting all my non-paper academic writing in one place, so here’s as good a place as any to do so. See you all some time!