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Professor David Nicol, Deputy-Director,

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1 Feedback, efficiency and learning pay-off: new designs for formative assessment
Professor David Nicol, Deputy-Director, Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement (CAPLE) Director, REAP project ( University of Strathclyde Queens University Belfast, 15th February 2008

2 Plan Describe background Introduce research
Case studies of practice from REAP Discussion Thinking about your practice Developments and Guidelines Sources of information and advice

3 Background Projects Student Enhanced Learning through Effective Feedback (SENLEF) project funded by HE Academy Literature review: model of formative assessment and feedback: 7 principles in relation to development of learner self-regulation The Reengineering Assessment Practices (REAP) project funded by SFC £1m) QAA Scotland – first year experience and formative assessment

4 Re-engineering Assessment Practices project
3 HEIs (Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian Business School, Glasgow University) Large 1st year classes ( students) A range of disciplines (19 modules ~6000 students) Many technologies: online tests, simulations, discussion boards, e-portfolios, e-voting, peer/feedback software, VLE, online-offline Goals: learning quality and teaching efficiencies Outputs: case studies, advice for strategic change Assessment for learner self-regulation

5 Why take assessment and feedback seriously?
A key driver of student learning Major cost in higher education Widely reported that students don’t read feedback provided Drop-out and retention linked to academic experience QAA reports – main area of criticism in England

6 Nationally only 55% of students think feedback is prompt and had helped to clarify things they did not understand [Scotland: 48%] Nationally only 63% of students agree that have received detailed comments on their work [Scotland: 49%]

7 A key research paper Black and Wiliam (1998) 250 studies Real classroom situations – tutor, peer and self-assessment and feedback Positive benefits for learning and achievement across all content areas/skills and sectors …. the lowest effect size would move a student from the average into the top third in a class test… Big impact in schools but what about HE?

8 First Year: The academic experience
What is important? Coping with transition Understanding what is required Engagement with academic programmes Support and feedback Experiences of success Agents in own learning Belief in self (ability) and motivation Social dynamics of learning (belonging) Based on research by Yorke (UK) and Tinto (US)

9 Background (1) Gibbs, G. & Simpson, C (2004) Conditions under which assessment supports students learning, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1, 3-31. See: Formative Assessment in Science Teaching (FAST) project at:

10 Gibbs and Simpson (2004) Assessment tasks [Conditions 1-4]
Capture enough study time (in and out of class) Are spread out evenly across timeline of study Lead to productive activity (deep vs surface) Communicate clear and high expectations i.e concern here is with ‘steers’ about how much work to do

11 Background (1) Literature Review
Nicol, D. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, 34 (1), Nicol, D & Milligan, C. (2006), Rethinking technology-supported assessment practices in relation to the seven principles of good feedback practice. In C. Bryan & K. Clegg, Innovative assessment in higher education, Routledge. Background Student Enhanced Learning through Effective Feedback [SENLEF] project funded by HE Academy REAP project:

12 Current thinking Students are always engaged in self-assessment/self-regulation of their own learning (Winne, 2005: Black & Wiliam, 2005). Logically entailed by constructivist thinking The act of using teacher feedback implies that self-assessment must be present Feedback in HE is being reduced so how are students still learning The question is: how can we scaffold students’ learning so they become better at self-regulation (Lajoie, 2005)

13 Ideas in Practice Consider self and peers as much as the teacher as sources of Assessment and Feedback Tap into different qualities than teacher can provide Saves time Provides considerable learning benefits (LLL) Don’t focus just on written feedback but every step of the cycle: Understanding the task criteria (Sadler, 1983) Applying what was learned in action

14 Scaffolding self regulation: 7 principles of good feedback (assessment design)
Clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, standards). Facilitate the development of reflection and self-assessment in learning Deliver high quality feedback to students: that enables them to self-correct Encourage peer and student-teacher and peer dialogue around learning Encourage positive motivational beliefs & self esteem through assessment Provide opportunities to act on feedback Provide information to teachers that can be used to help shape their teaching Source: Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006)

15 Two super principles Super-principle 1: time on task and effort (engagement) i.e. steers on how much work to do and when – Gibbs and Simpson 4 conditions Super-principle 2: developing learner self-regulation (empowerment/self-regulation) i.e steers to encourage ownership of learning – the seven principles discussed above. Case examples from REAP – applying these conditions/ principles

16 REAP: Example 1: Mechanical Engineering (personal response systems)

17 Passive learning in classroom due to larger numbers
Problems identified Conceptual misunderstandings even after graduation (e.g. concept of force) Passive learning in classroom due to larger numbers Evidence of low levels of student motivation –attendance Difficult to develop a sense of community amongst learners Retention issues (20%) Conceptual misunderstandings

18 Course Redesign Looked worldwide for the best solution Focus on teaching core concepts Carefully constructed student workgroups Introduced personal response systems in lecture sessions (to facilitate peer discussion) as promoted by Mazur at Harvard Later linked this to online testing And to online homework system

19 Personal Response System (PRS)
PRS was developed by Professor Nelson Cue at Hong Kong University of Technology and has now been adopted by hundreds of educators worldwide

20 Benefits PRS promotes reflection on and peer discussion of reasoning behind difficult concepts Self, peer and tutor feedback in a single classroom session Improved understanding in standardised engineering tests (e.g. force concept inventory) Culture of collaborative learning established Students report enhanced satisfaction (fun!) compared to traditional lecture classes. High levels of ‘time on task’ in class Dropout reduced from 20% to 3%

21 Some results Survey Statement Students agree Students disagree Using the PRS helps me to develop a better understanding of the subject matter compared to traditional lectures 74% 4% Using the PRS helps me to understand the concepts behind the problems 75% 6% I am more actively involved during PRS classes than in traditional lectures 95% 1% I have to think more in PRS classes than in traditional lecture classes 91% 0% I study less outside of PRS classes than for traditional classes 24% I remember less after a PRS class than after other classes 12% 63%

22 The student experience
Some student comments: “…in this class everybody’s involved, you have to think about what’s being said…” “…you are learning from people around you… it’s a language you can understand…” “…you feel you are keeping pace with the class and that everyone is learning together…”

23 Relation to Gibbs & Simpson’s four assessment conditions
Web-based assessment tasks (MCQs and problem solving exercises) keep students engaged in out-of-class activities and EVS encourages engagement in class (condition 1) Activities are distributed across topics and weeks (condition 2) EVS tasks are designed to deepen learning as conceptual understanding increases (condition 3) EVS activities clearly communicate requirements and there is a progressive increase in challenge (communicates clear and high expectations, condition 4)

24 Relationship to seven principles
Learning goals clarified through iterative cycles of tutor presentation, tests and retests using MCQs in class (Principle 1) Reflection/self-assessment triggered through bar-chart presentation and by online tests (Principle 2) Teachers provide feedback at end of EVS concept-test sequence (Principle 3) Both teacher-student and peer dialogue occur in EVS interactive sessions (Principle 4) The focus on learning goals rather than performance goals in class and the staged difficulty of concept tests encourage motivational (Principle 5) The continuous cycle of tests, retests and feedback ensures that students can use the feedback immediately (Principle 6) Online MCQ tests and student performance in EVS lectures provide a range of feedback information that tutors can use adjust teaching to student needs (Principle 7)

25 Other uses of PRS Diagnostic testing at beginning of year
Community building – induction activities and sharing data about student cohort Revision of lecture materials in class Formal examinations using multiple choice questions Evaluation data – reactions to course Experiments where human responses being tested (voting in politics, visual illusions, questionnaires) Been used across a range of disciplines worldwide See resources section of website and D. Banks ‘Audience Response Systems in Higher Education: Applications and Cases’, Information  Science Publishing, Hershey 2006

26 Psychology 560 first year students Mixture of psychology majors (130) and those taking psychology only for one year (430) 6 topic areas, 48 lectures, 4 tutorials, 12 practicals Assessment; 2 x MCQs (25%), tutorial attendance (4%), taking part in experiment (5%), essay exam (66%)

27 Problems identified No practice in writing skills but required in the exam More detail provided in lectures than mentioned in exams (not enough independent reading) No feedback except on MCQs (percent correct) Didn’t want to increase staff workload Wanted to improve overall exam marks And standard of entrant to second year

28 Discussion point What would you do to improve the student experience in first year psychology? You can use any technology (or combination of technologies) but you must consider costs and staff time constraints…

29 Psychology Redesign Discussion board in WebCT Students in 85 discussion groups of 7-8, same groups throughout year Series of online tasks Lecture on Monday, Friday lecture abolished Students to discover for themselves in collaboration with their group what would have been the topic of the Friday lecture

30 Structure of group tasks
6 cycles of 3 weeks (one cycle x major course topic) First week: ‘light’ written task (e.g. define terms) = 7 short answers (all answer) Second week = guided reading Week three: ‘heavy’ written task: students answer guided questions and then collaborate in writing a word essay. Within each week: The Monday lecture – introducing material Immediately after lecture, task posted online – for delivery the following Monday Model answers (selected from students) posted for previous week’s task

31 The teaching role Participation in the discussions was compulsory but not marked (this year there is 2% mark for participation) The course leader provided general feedback to the whole class – often motivational He encouraged students to give each other feedback And he selected the model answers The group discussions were not moderated Around 8 teaching assistants monitored the discussions and reported non-participation to the teacher

32 Online Project 1 – Classical Conditioning Phenomena.
Online Project 1 – Classical Conditioning Phenomena.  Each Group Member should read the Passer chapter from the beginning to at least as far the section which begins ‘Applications of Classical Conditioning’. Satisfy yourself that you can answer EACH of the questions below. Then agree as a group who will answer what.  Project 1 is to answer these questions as fully as you can: 1) What type of response is susceptible to Classical Conditioning? 2) Why does Extinction occur? 3) What is Spontaneous Recovery? 4) What does the phenomenon of Spontaneous Recovery tell us about the nature of Extinction in Classical Conditioning? 5) What is Generalisation? 6) What is Discrimination? 7) What is Higher Order Conditioning?

33 Project 9: An example of ‘heavy’ task
The Task – 800 word essay: Assess the strengths and weaknesses of Freud’s and Eysenck’s theories of personality. Are the theories incompatible? readings suggested questions provided – all should try and advice on how to divide task given

34 Benefits Written responses of an exceedingly high standard (sometimes surpassing 3rd year) Spontaneous online discussions about learning and leaner responsibility High levels of motivation, atmosphere in class improved Some students burdened by workload – easily detected Some requested to move groups (5 groups) Online interactions showed powerful ‘scaffolding’ Interaction and feedback possible with 560 students Easy for tutors to monitor participation Peer feedback and self feedback (model answers) harnessed Improved mean exam performance (up from 51-57%)

35 Has it worked?




39 Online postings/interaction
24,362 messages posted by groups Average number of postings per student 44.3 Most messages posted by single student 324 1067 postings to general open discussion forum Accumulated time students spent in psychology site was 1 year 37days 11 hours 56 mins Students set up online study groups for other subjects Structured tasks online triggered important social-cognitive processes

40 Relation to the Gibbs & Simpson’s four assessment conditions
Tasks require significant study out of class (capture sufficient study time, condition 1) They are distributed across topics and weeks (are spread out evenly, condition 2) They move students progressively to deeper levels of understanding (productive/ deep learning, condition 3) There are explicit goals and progressive increase in challenge (communicates clear and high expectations, condition 4)

41 Relation to 7 feedback principles
Standard format and model answers provide progressive clarification of expectations (clear goals, principle 1) Students encouraged to self-assess against model answer (self-assessment, principle 2) Course leader provides motivational and meta-level feedback and selects model answers (teacher feedback, principle 3) Online peer discussion aimed at reaching consensus about response (dialogue, principle 4) Staged complexity, focus on learning not just marks, use of students model answers (motivation, principle 5) Repeated cycle of topics and tasks (closing gap, principle 6) VLE captures all interactions allowing course leader to monitor progress and adapt teaching (shaping teaching, principle 7)

42 What can we learn from these case studies?
Use of simple technologies (PRS, quiz/survey tool, discussion board) Considerable thought gone into the learning design [which is transferable] The drivers were learning improvements rather than technology (context of use) Key finding across studies was need to balance structure and learner control Also important is the way that the social and the academic processes are shown to be mutually supportive

43 Discussion point Consider your own classes/modules/programmes:
Identify one or two ideas that you might use from today’s presentation in the redesign of your teaching. Identify any questions raised in your discussion groups Plenary report back: Be prepared to share an idea with others in the plenary and/or A ‘question worth asking’ that might illuminate some important issue

44 QAA Scotland Project: Assessment and the First Year Experience
Use assessment and feedback as lever for transformation of the student experience Develop in students the ability to monitor, evaluate and regulate their own learning (engagement-empowerment) Foster learning groups and communities in the first year and beyond (academic-social integration)

45 The Concepts Balancing engagement (time & effort on task) and empowerment (opportunities to take control and manage own learning) Academic and social integration into the university: use the academic to support the social and vice versa

46 EMPOWERMENT/ SELF-REGULATION ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE ENGAGEMENT Figure 1: Assessment and feedback practices: dimensions of implementation

47 Good formative assessment and feedback practices should:
Help clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, standards) Encourage ‘time an effort’ on challenging learning tasks Deliver high quality feedback information that helps learners self-correct Provide opportunities to act on feedback Ensure that summative assessment supports formative learning processes Encourage interaction and dialogue around learning (peer, teacher-student) Facilitate the development of self-assessment and reflection in learning Give choice in the topic, method, criteria, weighting or timing of assessments. Involve students in decision-making about assessment policy and practice Support the development of learning groups and communities Encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem Provide information to teachers that can be used to help shape their teaching

48 Guidelines for Implementation (1)
Implement the principles A single principle or many Active involvement of students Tight-loose – maintain fidelity to the principles (tight) but encourage disciplines develop their own techniques of implementation (loose) Interest in FA Summative A can undermine the value of fa e.g.

49 Students create criteria Students add own criteria
EMPOWERMENT/ SELF-REGULATION Students create criteria Students add own criteria Students identify criteria from samples of work Exemplars of different performance levels provided Students rephrase criteria in own words Provide document with criteria ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE ENGAGEMENT Figure 2: Assessment and feedback practices: dimensions of implementation

50 + 2. Encourage time & effort on challenging learning tasks
EMPOWERMENT/ SELF-REGULATION ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE 2. Encourage time & effort on challenging learning tasks 6.Encourage interaction and dialogue around learning (peer and teacher-student) + ENGAGEMENT

51 + Students create MCQs and feedback for wrong and right answers
EMPOWERMENT/ SELF-REGULATION Students create MCQs and feedback for wrong and right answers 6.Encourage interaction and dialogue around learning (peer and teacher-student) Students self-assess using MCQ and provide confidence ratings ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE + SOCIAL EXPERIENCE Students self-assess own performance using MCQs ENGAGEMENT

52 Guidelines for Implementation (2)
Determine where ICT can add value Clarify students’ responsibilities Align responses to National Student Survey to the assessment principles Alternate solo and group work Evaluate change (PIs) Consider programme coherence Use principles as quality enhancement tool Share your learning and designs Quality enhancement Interest in FA Summative A can undermine the value of fa e.g.

53 Transforming Assessment A ‘blueprint’ for change in the first year
TABLE OF CONTENTS Recommendations: how to implement at module, course and institutional level A literature review: how assessment and feedback can support empowerment and integration 12 principles of assessment and feedback practice (+ questions to enhance quality) 100+ examples and case studies illustrating implementation across the disciplines (see also

54 Some publications Nicol, D (2008), Transforming assessment and feedback: Enhancing integration and empowerment in the first year, to be published by Quality Assurance Agency, Scotland (June) Nicol, D (in press), Assessment for learner self-regulation: Enhancing achievement in the first year using learning technologies, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, Nicol, D (2007), Laying the foundation for lifelong learning: cases studies of technology supported assessment processes in large first year classes, British Journal of Educational Technology, 38(4), Nicol, D (2007) E-assessment by design: using multiple-choice tests to good effect, Journal of Further and Higher Education.31(1), Nicol, D. & Milligan, C. (2006), Rethinking technology-supported assessment in relation to the seven principles of good feedback practice. In C. Bryan and K. Clegg, Innovations in Assessment, Routledge. Nicol, D, J. & Macfarlane-Dick (2006), Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice, Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), Boyle, J.T. and Nicol, D.J. (2003) Using classroom communication systems to support interaction and discussion in large class settings, Association for Learning Technology Journal, 11(3), 43-57 Nicol, D.J. and Boyle, J.T. (2003), Peer interaction and class-wide discussion: a comparison of two interaction methods in the wired classroom, Studies in Higher Education, 28(4), See also

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