Margaret Price and Chris Rust

  • Engaging students with feedback

    Margaret Price, Chris Rust, Berry O'Donovan, Oxford Brookes University

    Research seminar

    Themes addressed: assessment

    Teachers spend a considerable amount of time providing written feedback on students work, yet are we sure this is a good use of time and effective in promoting student learning? Evidence suggests that students rarely use feedback effectively for several reasons including issues of timing, specificity, comprehensibility and the dominance of 'the mark' as a sufficient indicator of performance in the eyes of students.

    This seminar will focus on an initiative in the Business School at Oxford Brookes University involving students in active engagement with their assessment feedback on a marked coursework assignment.

    The action research is based on a constructivist approach to learning, and the hypothesis that active engagement with their feedback will lead students to producing better work in future assignments. Students are invited to translate tutor feedback into their own words, to critique the feedback they have received and compare their work with an example of an 'A' grade assignment in order to make the feedback more meaningful to them. The intervention culminates in the identification of development action points which aim to inspire students to improve the quality subsequent work.

    In the seminar student and staff response to the initiative will be analysed and the subsequent performance of the participating students monitored in relation to that of the non-participants. Findings from two cohorts of students will be presented and conference participants encouraged to consider other ways to facilitate active student engagement with their feedback. Discussion will also include the broader political issues for staff that arise from involving students in the feedback process and the demystification of academic marks and marking. The initiative was conceived from prior research which suggests that passive reception of marking feedback has little to no effect on future performance (Fritz, C, et al, 2000) and the difficulties associated with disabusing learners of prior misconceived 'knowledge' and fundamental misconceptions (see for instance, Brown, D., Clement, J., Minstrellas, J. et al).

    This initiative is the latest stage of an ongoing research project that has identified the significance of both explicit articulation and socialisation processes in improving students' understanding of assessment requirements. Initiatives include the explicit definition of assessment criteria (Price & Rust 1999; O'Donovan et al, 2001), and the use of pre-assessment activities involving student engagement with exemplars and marking criteria (Price et al, 2001; Rust et al, 2003). The research team propose that these initiatives combine to create a student assessment process cycle (which they have named the PRO-assessment cycle) which improves student learning and performance. This cycle will also be considered in this seminar.