Case Study

University of Limerick deploys pioneering technology to develop critical skills among trainee teachers

July, 2015

University of Limerick

University of Limerick


University of Limerick in Ireland was named University of the Year 2015 by the Sunday Times Good University Guide. Digital Assess was tasked with helping tutors improve trainee teachers’ ability to assess soft skills and thus improve their teaching skills, which ultimately led to improving feedback mechanisms and enhanced critical thinking skills. Here’s how we helped this forward-thinking University to reach its goals with our user-friendly technology, with some illuminating results.

The challenge University of Limerick faced

The University’s Department of Design & Manufacturing Technology wanted to enable trainee teachers to develop a shared understanding of what constitutes good work – in other words, to better understand their students’ capability once they became qualified, practising teachers.

The Department needed a simple, digital mechanism to enable students to more easily reflect on assignments, and a place to collate these thoughts, tasks and discussions with peers.

How we helped University of Limerick overcome the challenge

In partnership with the University’s teaching faculty, we deployed Digital Assess technology to provide a framework for the assignment of tasks and to capture evidence of progress. At the end of the module, Digital Assess’ tools would help the department to assess first-year student portfolios and determine whether they had attained their learning goals.

Students were given an open-ended assignment to devise a Design and Technology project they could use with a class. They used two key Digital Assess tools to improve their whole learning process: the Manage feature  and our Compare feature that utilises the Adaptive Comparative Judgement approach.


Over several weeks, student teachers created journal entries in Digital Assess about how their project was progressing. Posts began as mind maps of initial ideas, images of early inspiration and general reflections.

As projects took shape, students continued to upload evidence with rich media evidence, such as photos of projects mid-development, videos of the manufacture process or audio recordings reflecting on their progress.

Files automatically generated a ‘diary entry’ that could be tagged against the assessed activity, automatically creating a storyboard-style portfolio to depict the entire learning process. At the end of the course, it was easy to check if learning objectives had been achieved.

Compare – powered by Adaptive Comparative Judgement

All portfolios were uploaded to Digital Assess’s special compare feature. Once projects were complete, the technology presented successive pairs of work to students from which they selected which they considered to be the best.

As they made their judgements, this determined which pair of portfolios were next presented to each of the judges. The Adaptive Comparative Judgement approach refines the pairs that are displayed, constantly improving a scaled rank order that is produce by an algorithm ‘behind the scenes’. We’ve proven this scaling to have a reliability of up to 98%.

The compare feature was also used by tutors and by the national accreditation body to assess trainee teachers’ work.

The difference we made

Not only did exposure to co-students’ work helped the group to improve their own performance but also, the use of our unique Adaptive Comparative Judgement methodology proved clearly that there was a shared understanding of capability.

This understanding could be easily demonstrated as on-screen data showing the correlation between trainee teacher judgements and those made by their tutors and the external accreditation body’s assessment.

And even students who failed the assignment benefited from the comparison tool by grasping what constituted ‘good work’ and why it was considered so when judging the work of their peers.
During projects, Digital Assess gave students real convenience – vital for hands-on, creative projects – by enabling them to grab proof of their work live, via their smartphone or tablet.
Minimal time was spent on IT support, for example, uploading special software or updates, because Digital Assess is hosted in the cloud and accessed via a browser.

The Digital Assess legacy

The University of Limerick captured evidence of the whole creative process during the teacher training course via a single, user-friendly system and exposed students to a deeper level of knowledge by letting them become the judge themselves. Digital Assess has provided students with long-lasting confidence in making their own effective judgements, a skill that is paramount for newly-qualified teachers.