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Institute of Education

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Q&A with Dr Mary Richardson

1  What is your role and what does it involve?
I am Programme Leader for the MA in Educational Assessment: it's a very unique programme and very popular. I also spend time on research and my areas of interest include assessment stress in schools, ethical issues relating to assessment in Higher Education and also Citizenship/Rights-based education. I'm really interested in online learning and new technologies to enhance our work, so I am also what is termed an E-learning Champion for the Department of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment.

2  How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I've been at the IOE for just under two years. Before that I was an academic in the School of Education at Froebel College, University of Roehampton.

I have a rather chequered past having left school with no particular qualifications and doing quite a lot of different jobs before landing work developing educational theatre for children. This led me back to education and studying for a degree as a (very) mature student, then research in an exam board and then a PhD. It's been a roller coaster learning experience and it's not stopped!

3  What's the most important thing you've learned from your students about the subject you teach?
We all have very different perceptions of what it means to assess someone and something - the impact of one's background, culture, beliefs and educational experience are all important ingredients in better understanding assessment. Sometimes they know more than you do and it's valuable to listen to them.

4  What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Creative Connections, funded by the EU: a project that I directed from 2010-2014. It was a three year research project connecting primary and secondary schools in six European countries to explore how children understand their European identities. It's ironic that as we concluded the project and the children showed real commitment to building bonds and focusing on similarities/shared identities, the UK then voted to leave the EU.

I'm most proud of the fact that we did unique work in getting children to 'talk' via automatically translated blogs and through creating art works that they shared and discussed within online forums. We created some rather brilliant schemes of work and a fantastic free database of resources for teachers. It has generated lots of data and now I'm writing it all up! I've also secured excellent friendships with academics in Finland, Eire, Portugal, Czech Republic and Spain.

5  Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list.
I'm currently co-directing a textbook development project in Kazakhstan. This is fascinating and unique; working in a post-Soviet country watching them build a new education system from the ground up is a privilege.

6  What would surprise people to know about you?
I'm one of just 18 women who compete across the UK in the sport of disc (frisbee) golf and this year we opened a new course where I live in Reading.

7  What other piece of research outside of your own subject area interests you?
I'm currently reading a lot of research on dementia to better understand how this disease manifests itself and why it happens to people in a seemingly random way.