Some ideas to provoke reflection on assessment and feedback

Which of the following might be used to promote students’ judgement of their work? What other strategies might be suitable in your context?

The five-minute paper

Just before the end of a session, ask students to write for five minutes on a given topic, what they have learned, or what they need to do to prepare for the next activity.

Instant response mechanisms in class

In large groups, pose questions to which students can respond either after discussion with a neighbour, or just for themselves. To display responses from the whole group, use simple technology in which students use their mobile phones to dial a number responding to the appropriate answer on the screen (there is no charge to the student and you need no additional equipment other than internet access or your own computer).

Assessment when they are ready

Students don’t need to wait for a test or exam to check their understanding. Provide regular online multi-choice quizzes with discussion of better and worse answers displayed when students have committed to an answer.

Do it again task

Not all set tasks need to differ from the previous one. Set the same writing task again and again, providing comments in between cycles so that all students can appreciate that they can produce really good work.

Don’t mark all tasks

Use peer feedback selectively. Students gain practice in giving and receiving feedback comments. Point out that the person gaining the most from the exercise is the giver, not the receiver, as they get practice in rehearsing their understanding and communicating it to others.

What counts as good work?

Use a structured class exercise prior to any substantial new task to engage students in consideration of ‘what would a really good example of this assignment look like?’ Students identify criteria for themselves and gain an appreciation of what needs to be taken into account in doing the task.

Feedback

Have tasks been identified in which feedback processes will be utilized? Have they been scheduled to have maximum impact on student learning? Have crucial points on which feedback is needed been identified? Has the nature of the information provided to students been identified? Who will provide it (tutor, peers, others, etc.)? Have feedback loops been drawn and suitably spaced to ensure students can utilize information provided?

Student involvement

How will students be involved in appreciating standards and criteria for judgement with respect to the assessment tasks? Will students have enough practice in discerning differences between good and not so good work? Will peer feedback processes be used to give students practice in judgement before final marks and grades are allocated? (Falchikov, 2005)

Grading

Have grade descriptors been worked out for all major tasks? Will a grading scheme be used that can be defended against criticism of spurious accuracy (for example, finer level of detail than can be justified by the nature of the outcomes being judged)?

Institutional context

Does the assessment plan meet institutional policy requirements? Have necessary assessment processes been approved by the relevant body? Have those teaching parallel courses been consulted to avoid student overload in key weeks?