Thesis submitted in compliance with the requirements for the Doctoral Degree
                                    in the
            Faculty of Communication and Educational Studies
                                    at the
                          Port Elizabeth Technikon

                          Promoter : Dr H Boshoff

                        Co-Promoter : Prof CA Kapp

                             22 January 2002
pp 24 - 27

As the follow-up procedure known as feedback is closely linked to assessment, it is
important to clarify some issues on feedback.


2.3.1 What is feedback?

Merriam-Webster (1979: 417) describes feedback as “... the return to the input of a
part of the output of a machine, system, or process (as for producing changes in an
electronic circuit that improve performance or in an automatic control device that
provides self-corrective action); a : the partial reversion of the effects of a process to its
source or to a preceding stage b: the return to a point of origin of evaluative or
corrective information about an action or process”. Oxford (Cowie,1989: 445) defines
feedback as “... information about a product, that a user gives back to its supplier,
maker, etc. .... return of part of the output of a system to its source, especially so as to
modify the output”. Both the Merriam-Webster (1979: 417) and Oxford‟s (Cowie, 1989:
445) definitions refer to feedback in an electronic circuit context and not in an
assessment context. Words like „improved performance‟, „self-correction action‟, „return
to the point of origin of evaluation‟, „corrective information‟ and „so as to modify the
output‟ used in the definitions however are concepts which are used to describe
feedback in the assessment procedure when feedback is seen as providing information
to the learner about the state and level of learning progress in order to use the
information to improve learning and enhance learning progress.

Similarly the University of Queensland web pages (1999 (1) and (2)) focus on the
information supplied to the learner about his/her learning and the ways to influence and
improve future learning namely: “Feedback on assessed work is information for
students about their attempts at that work”. Feedback generally will include at least
three aspects: the strengths of the attempt(s); the weaknesses of the attempt(s); how
the weaknesses might be strengthened or remedied without compromising the
strengths. It is like applying the outcome of an action to influence further actions.

After a lengthy discussion, Draper (1999: Conclusion) also states: “By „feedback‟ I mean
here formative information given to learners”. The fact that „formative information‟ is
supplied means that feedback is supplied to inform learners about their learning
progress and how the learning progress can be enhanced and is linked to formative

In her discussion of feedback in education, Doig (1999: 3 of 10) supports the previous
views and concluded that “... social systems often defy the application and rigid
definitions and the setting of exact limits” as is the case with scientific systems.
Scientific definitions of feedback cannot be replicated in educational contexts. She
points out that the term feedback has a recent history (the 1930s) and was mainly used
to describe a function of process-control systems. See the previously cited definitions by

Webster and Oxford. She further points out that an educational definition of feedback
will be „multi-layered‟ and should include all the variables in the educational situation.
She cites Butler and Winne (1995) as distinguishing between internal and external
feedback. In the cited article the authors suggest that feedback can only be
incorporated into the student‟s learning if the student can relate it to individual learning
goals and objectives. Feedback thus needs to be individually tailored. The role of
feedback in mastery learning to provide corrective instruction and associated with
predetermined objectives and outcomes (Doig, 1999) links up with Ramaprasad‟s
(1983: 4) definition of the role of feedback in assessment: “... information about the gap
between the actual and reference level .... which is used to alter the gap in some way”.
This view is supported by Sadler-Smith (1989).

The following authors broaden the concept „feedback‟ previously used only in a
process-control systems function context to one used in an educational context.

Black and William (1998: 47) state that formative assessment and feedback overlap
very strongly. They further state that “... because of its (feedback‟s) centrality in
formative assessment, it is important to explore and clarify the concept”. The authors
also refer to Ramaprasad‟s above definition. In referring to Kluger and DeNisi (1996),
Black and William (1998: 49) mentioned the distinction between three levels of linked
processes involved in the regulation of task performance. These levels, namely meta-
task processes involving the self; task-motivation processes involving the focal task;
and task-learning processes are extremely relevant to the role of assessment and
feedback in the learning process. Tunstall and Gipps (cited by Black and William, 1998:
49) in a typology of teacher feedback, ranged the types from those that direct attention
to the task and learning methods to those directing attention to the self. The effects on
learning were not studied by these authors. Siero and Van Oudenhoven (cited in Black
and William, 1998: 49) also found that feedback directing attention to the self rather
than the task had a negative effect on performance. Black and William (1998: 51) cite
several researchers who found that feedback intervention linked to the meta-task
processes are more successful than those directing attention to the self. Elawar and
Corno (1985) cited by Black and William (1998: 51) studied 18 primary schoolteachers
and found that giving specific comments on errors and suggesting strategies were more
of a motivation than merely giving marks. Providing constructive feedback not only
motivates but also enhances learning.

As far as the task learning processes are concerned Black and William (1998: 51 - 52)
cite different researchers who found the following:
      Feedback in heavily cued situations are less successful than in higher-order thinking situations (Bangert-
                 Drowns, 1991b) or concept mapping (Bernard and Naidu, 1992).
      Students given a scaffolded response performed better than those given a complete solution as soon as they
                 got stuck (Day and Cordon, 1993).
      Repeated explanations of techniques that previously led to failure are less successful than using alternative
                 strategies (Fuchs et al., 1991).
      Feedback related to progress is more successful than feedback on absolute levels of performance (Schunk
                 and Rice, 1991).
      The meta-analysis by Fuchs and Fuchs (1986) reiterated that effectiveness depends strongly on the
                 systematic analysis and use of feedback by teachers.

From the above it is clear that the way feedback is handled and applied is very
important. It is about providing alternative strategies in a scaffolded way to enhance
learning progress.

Ellington, Percival and Race (1995: 135) support the views on feedback but state that
“... all assessment results are some sort of feedback. However, it is often the absolute
minimum of feedback - for example a mere score - ...”. They (1995: 145) follow this by
saying that there is usually no real feedback and the chances to learn from this are slim
and that limited feedback is the norm. This supports the view that feedback is supplied
in a limited way and mostly in a score form as the data discussed in chapter four (par will corroborate.

In support of the Ellington, et al. (1995) view, Guskey (1988: 23) mentions that all of the
teachers interviewed, rated providing students with regular and specific feedback on
their learning progress as very important. He also states that mastery learning adds a
fourth component to learning, namely feedback and corrective procedures to the
generally perceived three components: learning objectives, instruction and competence
(Guskey, 1988: 62).

To add to the previous argument Race (1996a) names feedback as one of the most
useful benefits of assessment. He points out that an important part of the learning
process for students is to be able to learn from their mistakes as well as their triumphs.
Larger class-sizes and increasing workloads contributed to staff having less time to give
students detailed feedback on their work. Alternative forms of assessment (student
peer-assessment in particular) are worth considering to increase the amount of
feedback which students can derive from assessed work.

Feedback can thus be seen as the criterion-referenced indication of the difference
between a learner‟s attained level of outcome and the set outcome level (re
Ramaprasad‟s (1983: 4) gap which needs altering) to provide information on how to
improve learning and the application of knowledge, skills, attitude and value
competencies (re University of Queensland, 1999 (1), (2) and Race, 1996a). The
principles and methods for feedback will be discussed in chapter six.

Pp 108 – 113


The following two authors provide information on the role of assessment in the
interdependence of learning, teaching, assessment and feedback.

In a paper delivered at a conference on assessment, Race (1996a and 1995: 62)
indicated four factors leading to successful learning:
      wanting to learn (motivation, commitment);
      learning-by-doing (practice, learning from mistakes, trial and error);
      learning through feedback (other people's comments);
      making sense of ('digesting') what is being learned.

These factors indicate the interdependence of learning, teaching, assessment and
feedback. Learning by doing will comprise learning, teaching, assessment and
feedback. Feedback is specifically mentioned, and feedback is also a prerequisite for
making sense of what is being learned. The concerns about the learning-assessment
gap and the recommendations of the delegates at the conference, reiterated the
interdependence of learning, teaching, assessment and feedback.

Kulieke, Bakker, Collins, Fennimore, Fine, Herman, Jones, Raack, and Tinzmann,
(1990) call for a new vision of assessment in education and describe the proposals
given for this new vision. The common threads which all these proposals share, are:
     alternative assessments ask students to perform, create, produce or do something that requires them to use
              higher-level, problem solving skills;
     the assessment tasks themselves represent meaningful instructional activities;
     the tasks themselves are also relevant to real-life tasks or represent those that are common to a particular
This relates very strongly to an integration and interdependence of learning, teaching,
assessment and feedback.

The following principles should be adhered to during the assessment process:
Assessment should be
      based on real world utility-value;
      providing improvement information;
      indicating how performance differs from required performance.


The interdependence of learning, teaching, assessment and feedback is best illustrated
by a continuous-learning-teaching-assessment-feedback (CLTAF) cycle. The cycle
indicates that in learning, teaching and assessment, the one cannot be successful
without the other. Another component that plays an important role in this cycle is
feedback. The cycle can be illustrated by Figure 4.1.

    Figure 4.1: The continuous-learning-teaching-assessment-feedback cycle

The learning-teaching component involves the learner (social, cultural, development
background and learning preferences), the lecture (own abilities, non-abilities, subject
and subject didactic background, and preference in teaching style(s)), the learning
content (which can be knowledge, skills, competencies, attitudes and values), learning-
teaching experiences (which include learning and teaching strategies, methods,
techniques, experiences in problem-solving, higher-order thinking skills, job application

                                                                                   Final demo of outcom
                                                                                   competency as access
                               Course Curriculum Outcomes                          next unit
                               Course Unit Outcomes
                               Unit Phase outcomes

                                                                                   Final demo of outcom
                                                                                   competency reported
                                                                                   % weight credit towa
                                                                                   final mark for passing
                                                                                   course curriculum

                                                                                   Final demo of outcom
                                                                                   competency reported
                                                                                   % weight credit towa
                                                                                   class mark for admitt
                                                                                   to a final demo of cou
                                                                                   curriculum outcomes

and demonstration of knowledge, skills, competencies, values, as well asFinal demo of course curricu
                                                                         outcomes as a
based, real world, job preparation learning experiences with utility value), different % weight towa
                                                                         final mark for passing the cou
learning modes (learning styles) and teaching modes (teaching styles).   curriculum

The assessment component involves the assessment of learning on an ongoing basis
at different phases of the learning experience in a flexible, progressive, criterion-
referenced and outcomes-based way in order to provide feedback on how learning can
be improved and the ways in which the performance differs from the required
performance.    This can involve different assessment strategies, methods and
techniques which can make assessment a learning experience.

As assessment is used to guide learning and teaching, feedback to assist the learner
and the lecturer, is of the utmost importance. Feedback is the criterion-referenced
indication of the attained level of outcome mastery which can be used to improve
learning and final outcome attainment. The purpose of feedback is to indicate
differences between the attained level and the set outcomes to provide information on
how to improve learning and the learning experience.

The principles of feedback are that feedback should be:


                                                         C ou r se C ur r ic ulu m O u tc om e s
                                                         C ou r se U nit O u tc om e s
                                                         U n it Ph ase O u tc om e s

                                                                                                             L ea rn e r
        WHAT IS ...
         Criterion-referenced                                                                                T ea ch e r/L e ctu rer
         Indication of attained level
            of outcome attainment                                                                            L ea rn i n g C on ten t
         Use d to improve learning
         Used to improve outcome attainment                                                                  T ea ch i n g -L ea rn i n g E x p er ien c es
        PRINCIPLES OF ...                                C L T AF
          Purpose-oriented                                                                                         Strategies
          Objective                                                                                                                           Outcomes-based
          Set in clear language                                                                                     Methods                   real world
          Explanatory                                                                                                                         utility-value
          Positively inclined                                                                                                                 preparation for jo
          To the point                                              Ongoing                                        Techniques
          Indicate difference between attained level                flexible                                               INCLUDE:
             and set outcome                                                                                               * problem solving
          Supply guidelines for improvement                         progressive                                            * higher-order thinking skills
                                                                                                                           * job application
        PURPOSE OF ...                                              criterion-referenced
                                                                                                                           * demonstration of compe tencie
          Indicate difference between attained                                                                                  (knowledge, skills, values)
             level and set outcome                                  outcomes-based
          Supply info on improving learning                                                                   Teaching Mode
          Getting info to improve learning experiences              supply improvement info
                                                                                                              Learning Mode
         METHODS OF ...                                             indicates how perfor mance differ from
            Non-verbal                                              required performance
      set inWrittenlanguage;
            Rubrics and grids
      explanatory; notes
      positively inclined;
            Record cards
      to theTutorials
      indicative of the difference between attained level of outcome achievement and the set outcomes;
      guidelines for improvement.

Feedback can be supplied in different ways, for example non-verbal, verbal, written, by
means of rubrics and assessment grids, through peer-marks and review, record cards
and tutorials. As for assessment, feedback can also become a learning experience.

Figure 4.2 on the next page provides an illustration of the above discussion of the
continuous-learning-teaching-assessment-feedback cycle.

               Figure 4.2: Learning-teaching-assessment-feedback-cycle

The learning-teaching-assessment-feedback-cycle should carry on until the learner has
mastered the set outcomes in a satisfactory way, but within a set framework or time
limit. This cycle leads to a set final assessment of the level of attainment of knowledge,
skills and values as indicated by the set outcomes.


The nature of learning and teaching culminates as an integrated, interdependent
experience in the learning-teaching-assessment-feedback cycle.

In this way assessment and feedback will provide the learner with knowledge, skills and
competencies to be able to improve on previous learning experiences. It will also
provide the lecturer with knowledge to transfer skills and competencies to the learner to
improve on previous learning and own teaching strategies, methods and techniques. It
is clear that once this cycle has been followed the lecturer will adapt future learning-
teaching experiences to overcome previously identified problems and will, by doing so,
improve learning and teaching and decrease notional learning time. Assessment forms
a pivotal function in the continuous-learning-teaching-assessment-feedback-cycle.

The following chapter will use the continuous-learning-teaching-assessment-feedback
cycle in conjunction with the frameworks compared in this chapter to formulate a
theoretical framework as a basis to provide a checklist of criteria for utilizing
assessment on a continuous basis to enhance learning and teaching approaches.


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