When less is more: students’ experiences of assessment feedback

  • When less is more: students’ experiences of assessment feedback

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    Dr Karen Handley, School of Business

    The topic of the paper

    Student engagement with assessment feedback, and how engagement can be strengthened using non-traditional assessment methods.

    Why it is of concern

    For various reasons, some students do not collect - let alone reflect on – marked coursework containing feedback written by academic staff. In the 2006 survey, 49% of respondents said that feedback was slow and unhelpful, prompting a response from the Higher Education Minister, Bill Rammell, that he hoped institutions would ‘look long and hard at assessment and feedback’ (Shepherd, THES, 2006). This dissatisfaction is all the more disturbing given the prominence of feedback in pedagogic theory: as Laurillard (1993, p. 61) has said, 'action without feedback is completely unproductive for a learner'. Yet, if students do not engage with feedback they are given, the potential of feedback to enhance student learning is limited.

    What was done (methods)

    This paper reports on an ongoing FDTL5 study of student engagement with assessment feedback. An important element of the research is the investigation of different methods for giving feedback through eight case studies across three institutions. Methods include peer review, giving verbal feedback on draft assignments before allowing students to re-submit, giving feedback before or after students’ grade, and facilitating students in writing self-assessments. The effectiveness of these methods in engaging students with feedback has been evaluated using qualitative and quantitative approaches including questionnaires and interviews.

    What are the main outcomes

    Initial findings indicate a number of influences on student engagement. These include elapsed time as well as the 'space' (physical and social) on students' willingness to engage with staff and discuss feedback.

    One implication from the research is that a smaller quantity of – but better targeted – feedback may be more effective in engaging students and encouraging them to reflect on the feedback and implications for future work. Several alternative assessment/feedback methods are discussed. These including shifting the emphasis and timing of feedback towards draft assignments rather than final submissions, and providing opportunities for supervised peer review.