Assessment will involve an engaged process that begins with clearly articulated task guidelines and criteria but should extend to active discussion that facilitates students taking ownership of criteria and standards for their assessment. Post-task feedback continues this dialogue on the page or screen but should be extended through discussion, opportunities for peer assessment and sharing and individual consultations (where needed or requested). Tasks and feedback loops must be timed to ensure sufficient opportunities are provided to put the feedback into practice.
Supportive, constructive and timely feedback, which is clearly linked to the assessment criteria, is an essential component of the learning process. It enables students to build on their positive achievements and have a clear sense of what they need to do to improve their performance when undertaking subsequent assessment tasks. Feedback is a two-way process, an on-going dialogue between students and teachers. In order for feedback to work for students, they need to engage with it. This requires the designing of assessments tasks in a way that ensures students receive feedback in sufficient time to enable them to improve their performance in areas of knowledge or skill development before attempting further, similar assessment tasks.
Student engagement with feedback is promoted by:
- raising awareness of feedback by explaining its purpose, benefit and how to use it;
- demonstrating its worth by providing consistently high quality feedback;
- providing feedback in an accessible, flexible manner;
- prioritising it as a tool for learning long term–sustainable assessment
- facilitating reflection on feedback;
- consulting with students and engaging with them;
- providing iterative feedback loops and articulating students’ responsibility to engage with that feedback
Why is this important?
Student engagement with feedback is a key to success. In order to engage with feedback, students need to recognise what it is, why it is helpful and how to make use of it. Teachers need to provide opportunities for students to reflect on and discuss their feedback as part of an on-going dialogue about learning, and appropriate signposting to academic support.
Feedback should help students to improve their future performance as well as provide comment on work already done. Feedback should affirm what is known and offer encouragement. Feedback methods may include: written, face-to-face, (both individual and collectively), peer review, online, in audio files or email. Opportunities for students to reflect on their feedback more holistically should be provided elsewhere, for example within an online blog, discussion board, journal notes or throughout their course of study within an e-portfolio.
Feedback is for learning and should:
- primarily help the student to improve their future academic performance (be formative);
- affirm ability and offer encouragement;
- build students’ confidence;
- be provided in all subjects during the teaching period through a variety of methods appropriate to discipline and class size;
- embrace peer- and self-assessment as valuable learning tools;
- provide an opportunity for reflection on subject feedback via their teachers;
- use appropriate technology to achieve these aims.
How do I achieve this?
Subject Outlines should inform students, at the beginning of session, about the types of feedback they will receive and the dates when it will be available. Students must be provided with appropriate and useful feedback on performance in all summative assessment tasks with the exception of a final examination. Students must also receive feedback on at least one formative assessment, which may or may not be graded within the first four (4) weeks of the session. There are a number of examples available on small formative task suitable for this purpose. Students now should receive feedback on at least one summative assessment task prior to the deadline for students to withdraw from a subject without academic penalty (week 9 in a standard session).
Feedback on assessment tasks, with the exception of a final examination, must be marked and made available to students within 21 days of the submission date unless otherwise specified in the Subject Outline. Although it is good practice to make this available earlier. Varying the mode of feedback can help students to stay engaged e.g peer and self assessment. Both staff and students should become familiar with the range of on-line tools available (e.g TurnItIn) at UOW which, are useful for providing formative feedback that can lead to improved future performance.
Students should be encouraged to look at their performance across all modules in a holistic manner to see where they're going and make connections between strengths and weaknesses across each subject. The Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities has a good example of this in a core first year subject LHA101. Towards the end of the subject students are required to reflect on feedback they have received from all their 1st year subjects.
Feedback is timely:
- regular opportunities for feedback should be integrated into the subject and course curriculum;
- if feedback delivery is delayed, students should be told why and given a new due date;
- Where more than one piece of work is assessed, the first piece should always be returned in time for it to impact on the second.
What is the process?
The way assessment is designed will determine whether or not there are regular opportunities for feedback. This is where Feedback Loops are invaluable if there are two pieces of assessed coursework in a subject that take a similar form (e.g. assessed essays, or submitted lab reports). A feedback loop means that feedback from the first piece should be made available prior to the submission date for the subsequent pieces of work. The policy on turnaround of feedback on summative assessed work remains, however, if a large summative assessment is divided into a number of smaller formative and summative assessments (e.g. mini tasks, peer-assessed work) as it ensures students are engaging with feedback in order to improve the next phase of the assignment. There are added benefits to designing large assessments in this way. For example, the marking workload gets moved from 'the traditional marking period' at the end of session and is instead spread across the session. Additionally, peer marking permits the students to do some or all of the formative assessment marking. This in turn also helps to reduce assessment 'bunching' which would benefit students and gives fewer incentives to cheat when high-stakes single assessment items are replaced by smaller scaffolded assessment tasks.
Below is a list of resources that can help your team design assessments that are balanced and assist to develop assessment literacy in students.
Endorsed by UEC March 2014