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Feedback for learning: a workshop for Edinburgh Napier University 22 September 2011 Professor Sally Brown Emeritus Professor, Leeds Metropolitan University,

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Presentation on theme: "Feedback for learning: a workshop for Edinburgh Napier University 22 September 2011 Professor Sally Brown Emeritus Professor, Leeds Metropolitan University,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Feedback for learning: a workshop for Edinburgh Napier University 22 September 2011 Professor Sally Brown Emeritus Professor, Leeds Metropolitan University, Adjunct professor, University of the Sunshine Coast, and James Cook University, Queensland, Visiting Professor University of Plymouth.

2 By the end of this workshop, you will have had opportunities to: Discuss the impact feedback can have on students learning and success; Consider what some international experts have to say about what comprises effective feedback; Explore how feedback and feed-forward can link to effective learning; Review a range of means by which feedback can be delivered effectively and efficiently. 2

3 What do your 2011 NSS scores tell you? You have made some improvements on the 2010 scores across the board; Some subject areas (e.g. English studies, Finance, Law, Nursing, Sociology, Sports Science) do better than others; Further work is needed to improve satisfaction with promptness, detail and clarifying understanding; Feedback and assessment still continue to be lower rated nationally than other areas.

4 To reiterate: NSS scores are an unreliable indicator as they can be skewed by all kinds of extraneous factors, but do give us some hints on what we should be doing; Attempts to massage NSS scores usually fail; It is much more sensible and worthwhile to concentrate on improving the student experience of assessment and feedback, since these are so central to enhancing the student experience.

5 5 Why does assessment matter so much? Assessment methods and requirements probably have a greater influence on how and what students learn than any other single factor. This influence may well be of greater importance than the impact of teaching materials (Boud 1988)

6 6 To improve assessment we should realign it by: Exploring ways in which assessment can be made integral to learning. Constructively aligning (Biggs 2003) assignments with planned learning outcomes and the curriculum taught: Providing realistic tasks: students are likely to put more energy into assignments they see as authentic and worth bothering with; Providing faster, more effective and more detailed feedback.

7 Good feedback practice 1. Helps clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, expected standards); 2. Facilitates the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning; 3. Delivers high quality information to students about their learning; 4. Encourages teacher and peer dialogue around learning; 5. Encourages positive motivational beliefs and self- esteem; 6. Provides opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance; 7. Provides information to teachers that can be used to help shape the teaching. (Nicol and Macfarlane Dick) 7

8 8 Assessment for learning 1. Tasks should be challenging, demanding higher order learning and integration of knowledge learned in both the university and other contexts; 2. Learning and assessment should be integrated, assessment should not come at the end of learning but should be part of the learning process; 3. Students are involved in self assessment and reflection on their learning, they are involved in judging performance; 4. Assessment should encourage metacognition, promoting thinking about the learning process not just the learning outcomes; 5. Assessment should have a formative function, providing feedforward for future learning which can be acted upon. There is opportunity and a safe context for students to expose problems with their study and get help; there should be an opportunity for dialogue about students work;

9 9 Assesment for learning 2 6. Assessment expectations should be made visible to students as far as possible; 7. Tasks should involve the active engagement of students developing the capacity to find things out for themselves and learn independently; 8. Tasks should be authentic; worthwhile, relevant and offering students some level of control over their work; 9. Tasks are fit for purpose and align with important learning outcomes 10. Assessment should be used to evaluate teaching as well as student learning (Sue Bloxham, unpublished paper for HEA)

10 10 Formative and summative assessment Formative assessment is primarily concerned with feedback aimed at prompting improvement, is often continuous and usually involves words. Summative assessment is concerned with making evaluative judgments, is often end point and involves numbers.

11 Providing faster, more effective and more detailed feedback is hard But numerous studies (and the NSS, plus other measures of student satisfaction) tell us that student really want to see improvements in this area above all others; There are clear links between good feedback and effective learning; Post-92 universities in tough times need a competitive edge: supporting learning through good feedback makes good business sense. 11

12 Some ways in which we can give feedback faster Use exploded model answers; Give whole cohort feedback in the form of an oral or written report in the classroom; Harness statement banks; Use assignment return sheets; Involve students in their own and each others assessment (inter & intra peer group plus self assessment); Make better use of computer-aided assessment. 12

13 13 Assessment matters Effective assessment significantly and positively impacts on student learning, (Boud, Mentkowski, Knight and Yorke and many others). Assessment shapes student behaviour (marks as money) and poor assessment encourages strategic behaviour (Kneale). Clever course developers utilise this tendency and design assessment tools that foster the behaviours we would wish to see (for example, logical sequencing, fluent writing, effective referencing and good time management). Feed-forward (Gibbs et al) shapes student behaviour by focussing information and advice for students on future performance in assignments, not just correciones.

14 14 Setting good patterns Students rarely respond positively to exhortation or vague threats of poor marks: we need to change the assessment practices so that they make routine these behaviours very early on in a their HE career. Yorke (1999) encourages us to believe that the first six weeks of the first semester of the first year are crucial and that how we assess within that period can make a difference to student success or failure. Avoidance of assessment in Semester One doesnt solve the problem. Designing a really coherent first six weeks for students, which includes assessment opportunities can be very helpful.

15 15 Diverse and innovative assessment helps Traditional assessment methods tend to reinforce rather limited approaches to learning by students, by encouraging memorisation, unproductive rote learning and attitude to knowledge acquisition that are reminiscent of the language of eating disorders (stuffing in and regurgitation of facts). We need to utilise a wide range of assessment methods and approaches. Innovative assessment approaches can foster a spirit of enquiry, encourage curiosity and promote autonomy where they encourage students to become closely involved with evaluating their own and each others learning. (Falchikov, Pickford and Brown, 2006).

16 16 Sound and frequent assessment Students need regular feedback so they can improve performance at a time when this can make a difference; Students need to see examples of good work so they can evaluate their own work effectively; Good assessment is valid, reliable, practical, developmental, manageable, cost-effective, fit for purpose, relevant, authentic, inclusive, closely linked to learning outcomes and fair; We should explore whether it is possible also to make it enjoyable for staff and students; Incremental assessment has more value in promoting student learning than end-point sudden death approaches.

17 17 Helping students understand and use feedback Frequent, formative feedback impacts positively on student learning and we need to re-engineer practices to make this possible; The UK Open University inter alia is keen to promote feed- forward as well as feedback, prompting students to use advice from one assignment to inform their actions prior to the next one. Students need convincing that assignments are not just make work or punishing tasks. We need to win their hearts and minds to recognise that assessment is integral to their learning and is a crucial part of it.

18 18 Students giving feedback to peers Can be hugely beneficial if managed effectively (but there are no quick fixes!); Students will need training or refreshing in purposes and practices of peer feedback; Work on language use is crucial since students can be very harsh on one another: training may be necessary to help them build a repertoire of formative feedback responses; Building students expertise in giving peer feedback helps them get more from the feedback they receive.

19 19 Learning from Royce Sadler Assessment is a high stakes activity for students, and has a major impact on how they approach learning. Regardless of innovations in assessment techniques, developments in interpretive frameworks and increased adaptability made possible by new and forthcoming technologies, the core activities that cover the design and production of appropriate assessment tasks, the emphasis on higher order cognitive outcomes, the criteria for appraisal, the assignment and interpretation of marks and grades, and the overall maintenance of academic standards clearly remain ongoing responsibilities for the higher education enterprise as whole.

20 20 Learning from Graham Gibbs Assessment has more impact on how students go about studying – on the quantity and quality of effort, and on performance – than does teaching. It is sometimes relatively easy (and often cheap or free) to change student learning by changing assessment, provided the conditions are met effectively. Whole universities have implicit conventions about what is acceptable in terms of assessment practice, and formal rules that determine patterns of assessment. Some of these conventions and rules are ill-informed and damaging … and are built in to QA systems. Assessment systems seem to work partly through social processes, rather than through documentation.

21 21 Advice from Gibbs Have pass/fail modules that lead, in a subsequent semester, into a summatively assessed module that assesses a number of previous pass/fail modules. Use capstone modules that assess higher level learning outcomes, and do this with large, complex, demanding assignments or examinations. Increase the use of course requirements that capture and distribute student effort, without student work being marked. Sample these requirements for marking purposes, increasing the risk to students of not taking all of them seriously. Use frequent quick and dirty feedback mechanisms with rapid turn-round and discuss feedback and student work in class.

22 22 More advice Increase the size and length of modules so that there is scope for sequences of assignments that support progression, and fewer occasions when summative assessment is necessary. Use student marking exercises and exemplars to communicate standards and criteria, not ever more detailed specifications. Reduce the variety of types of assessment so that students have some chance to come to understand, through practice and feedback, how to tackle each at a reasonably sophisticated level.

23 23 Conclusions The changes we make to improve the student experience are important in their own right, not just in response to poor NSS scores; It is possible to make significant improvements, but it needs a strategic approach, ideally at institutional level; Strategic approaches arent worth a fig if individual markers dont embrace the need to work hard to improve feedback; Doing the same things we have always done in the same way we have always done them is doomed to failure.

24 24 References (1) Assessment Reform Group (1999) Assessment for Learning : Beyond the black box Cambridge UK, University of Cambridge School of Education Biggs J And Tang C (2007) Teaching for Quality Learning at University Open University Press Bloxham, S, and Boyd, P.(2007) Developing assessment in Higher education: a practical guide. Open University press Buckingham Bloxham, S. Assessment for Learning, Unpublished paper for HEA Boud, D. (1995) Enhancing learning through self-assessment London: Routledge. Brown, G. with Bull, J. and Pendlebury, M. (1997) Assessing Student Learning in Higher Education London: Routledge. Brown, S. and Glasner, A. (ed.) (1999) Assessment Matters in Higher Education, Choosing and Using Diverse Approaches, Maidenhead: Open University Press. Brown, S. and Knight, P. (1994) Assessing Learners in Higher Education, London: Kogan Page. Brown, S. (2011) Bringing about positive change in the higher education student experience: a case study, Quality Assurance in Education, Volume 19 No 3 forthcoming Brown, S. Rust, C. & Gibbs, G. (1994) Strategies for Diversifying Assessment Oxford Centre for Staff Development.

25 25 References (2) Crooks T. (1988) Assessing student performance HERDSA Green Guide No 8 HERDSA (reprinted 1994) Falchikov, N. (2004) Improving Assessment through Student Involvement: Practical Solutions for Aiding Learning in Higher and Further Education, London: Routledge. Gibbs, G. (1999) Using assessment strategically to change the way students learn, In Brown S. & Glasner, A. (eds.), Assessment Matters in Higher Education: Choosing and Using Diverse Approaches Maidenhead: SRHE/Open University Press. Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C. (2004) Conditions under which assessment supports students' learning Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1(1), 3-31 Available at A516.pdf (accessed 24 May 2007) Kneale, P. E. (1997) The rise of the "strategic student": how can we adapt to cope? in Armstrong, S., Thompson, G. and Brown, S. (eds) Facing up to Radical Changes in Universities and Colleges, London: Kogan Page. Knight, P. and Yorke, M. (2003) Assessment, learning and employability Maidenhead, UK: SRHE/Open University Press.

26 26 References (3) Mentkowski, M. and associates (2000) p.82 Learning that lasts: integrating learning development and performance in college and beyond San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Nicol, D J and Macfarlane-Dick: Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education (2006), Vol 31(2), Pickford, R. and Brown, S. (2006) Assessing skills and practice London: Routledge. Race, P. (2001) A Briefing on Self, Peer & Group Assessment in LTSN Generic Centre Assessment Series No 9 LTSN York. Race P. (2006) The lecturers toolkit (3rd edition) London: Routledge. Rust, C., Price, M. and ODonovan, B. (2003) Improving students learning by developing their understanding of assessment criteria and processes Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 28 (2), Sadler, R. (2008) Assessment of Higher Education in International Encyclopaedia of Education Yorke, M. (1999) Leaving Early: Undergraduate Non-completion in Higher Education, London: Routledge.

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