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					ENGAGING STUDENTS WITH ASSESSMENT FEEDBACK- WHAT WORKS?* FOUR FEEDBACK METHODS WHICH SUPPORT STUDENT ENGAGEMENT: HOW to use them and WHY

Introduction Central to the feedback methods discussed below are three main characteristics all of which have been found to support student engagement with feedback and assessment. These characteristics are as follows:    The integration of feedback into the learning process throughout a module, reducing the emphasis on giving feedback only at the end of modules and offering students the opportunity to act on their feedback; The incorporation of staff student dialogue, and dialogue between students, into the feedback process. Dialogue is seen as crucial in supporting student understanding and use of feedback. The introduction of students to the value of feedback and the nature of assessment criteria at an early stage of individual modules allowing students to develop their understanding of what staff want from them, and what the assessment criteria 'really mean'

The four feedback methods are set out below. They are:     Using Exemplars Peer Review Generic feedback and self critique CRAFTING feedback.

Each method is represented in a diagram relating to a single module with a timeline of 12 weeks, where the bottom box represent in-class activity, and the top box represent out-of-class activity. Each module has one assessment point, though this may vary in practice. The “Hows” and “Whys” of the feedback methods are also outlined. The ideas presented in each case are based on our project research findings, the experience of staff involved in the project, particularly those who ran case studies and partner initiatives and, significantly, the views of students who participated in the project.

*An HEA FDTL 5 funded project based at Oxford Brookes with project partners Bedfordshire and Bradford
Universities, and 5 cascade partners: Bournemouth London Metropolitan, Northumbria, Sunderland, and West of England Universities

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The Four Methods

1. Using exemplars.

OUT OF CLASS ACTIVITY

2. Students write and submit individual assignments

3. Tutor assesses assignments and prepares feedback

1. Tutor leads discussion of previouslymarked exemplars annotated with feedback

4. Tutor hands back assignments and leads discussion on feedback

IN-CLASS ACTIVITY
MODULE TIMELINE

Week1

Assignment point

Week12

HOW? Step 1. Tutor leads discussion on previously marked exemplars which relate to forthcoming assignments in the module. There are various ways of approaching discussions on exemplars. Students can be given an example of poor work and asked to comment on it, then an example of good work so they can see the difference. Or a range of exemplars could be given reflecting different standards of work, for students to look at. Actual feedback given on the exemplars can be included in the exercise. Giving short extracts rather than complete assignments can allow a wider range of coursework qualities to be considered, although complete assignments may support a better understanding of what a “good” finished assignment looks like. Tip: Students benefit from in-class discussion of exemplars in relation to the assessment criteria. Such discussions can provide a basis for talking about student assumptions about assessment criteria, about what feedback means and how assignments can be improved. Without discussion, students may simply copy what they think are the features which gained marks. Tip: Consider whether the exemplars given should be authentic replicas of (deidentified) student work, or constructed by the tutor. A benefit of constructed exemplars is that the tutor can ensure that any teaching points are as transparent as possible.

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Tip: Exemplars of very poor work may be hard for students to follow and discuss, shifting the focus from a valuable consideration of the application of assessment criteria and staff feedback to an unhelpful concern with simply understanding the content and structure of the piece of work. Steps 2 and 3. Students write individual assignments which tutors mark and prepare feedback. These steps reflect standard activities in assessment practice. In preparing feedback it may be helpful to refer back to exemplars. Step 4. Assignment returned and feedback discussion. In returning coursework and feedback it may be helpful to refer to the previously discussed exemplars and the criteria that they illustrated. WHY?  The introduction of a discussion on exemplars allows students to encounter and discuss assessment criteria and feedback, preparing them for the assessment process and to receive feedback. Explicit assessment criteria need to be interpreted using tacit knowledge, for example regarding what a “good analysis” actually looks like in a given context such as UG or PG teaching, or with different disciplines. While descriptions of relevant criteria in module handbooks are necessary, the use and discussion of exemplars help students by showing what a good piece of analytical work looks like. Equally feedback which refers to assessment criteria, for example, “try to be more analytical” is more comprehensible if the student has some idea of what it is to be analytical.  Discussions of exemplars provides the opportunity for a dialogue on both assessment and feedback. In our project students consistently said that opportunities to discuss their work helped them to understand and engage with feedback. Incorporating a second discussion session into class time when coursework is returned provides another opportunity for a discussion of the assignment, assessment criteria and feedback.  Some students also said that they felt reluctant to approach staff to discuss work and feedback outside class time, even where tutors had “office hours” because they felt staff were too busy to help or were difficult to approach. Using class time for discussions on exemplars and coursework addresses these concerns and ensures a greater number of students use these opportunities.

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2. Peer review.

OUT OF CLASS ACTIVITY

2. Students bring draft individual assignments for peer review

4. Students rewrite and submit individual assignments

5. Tutor assesses assignments and prepares feedback

1. Tutor leads discussion on assessment criteria and process of peer review

3. In-class discussions between student groups as they review each other’s work, monitored by tutor.

6. Tutor hands back assignments and leads discussion on feedback

Week1
Assignment point

IN-CLASS ACTIVITY

MODULE TIMELINE

Week12

HOW? Step 1. Tutor leads discussion on assessment criteria and peer review process. This session allows staff to prepare students for peer review, to set the ground rules (which is seen as important by students who can be concerned about the equity of peer review) and to introduce students to the assessment process and criteria. Tip: It may be helpful to base the discussion of assessment criteria on exemplar assignments (see discussion of use of exemplars above). Step 2. Students bring drafts for peer review. Students may be more likely to engage with this process if they are asked to bring diagrams or outlines of their assignments for discussion rather than a partial or complete draft of their work. Tip: student concerns that their ideas may be plagiarised are also likely to be reduced if they are asked to review outlines or extracts of their work. Equally extracts or outlines are easier to assimilate and comment upon. Step 3. In -class discussions monitored by staff. Students should be divided into small groups for these discussions. It helps if staff divide students into groups to avoid students working only with friends- who may find it difficult to give an opinion on each others work. Equally groups of three can work better than pairs, two opinions on individual work may be more helpful than one especially where students have very different capacities. It can be useful to provide students with a feedback proforma to complete as part of the discussion, this will help to focus the discussion and provide a record of the feedback given. Tip: Although this is peer review not peer assessment it may be helpful to encourage students to allocate a notional mark as part of the review process. Notional marks can provide an additional focus for the discussion

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Sanctions for students who have not prepared sufficiently for peer review should be considered- or alternatively the peer review discussions should be made voluntary. Finally a plenary discussion at the end of the group discussions can provide a chance to clarify ideas and suggestions. Steps 4 and 5. Students write and submit assignments, tutor marks assignment and prepares feedback. These steps reflect standard activities in assessment practice. Rather than redrafting work students may use the peer review feedback to develop their ideas into a finished piece of work. The project case study asked students to submit the peer review feedback they had received along with their assignment. This allowed tutors to see the standard of feedback given and how far students had taken it on board. Tip: It may also be helpful to ask students to submit a reflective commentary identifying how (if) they used the peer feedback. Step 6. Tutor hands back coursework and leads discussion on feedback. As with the exemplar method above this post assignment discussion provides students with an opportunity to discuss their work and feedback. WHY?  Preparation for peer review and the peer review process itself allows students to encounter and discuss assessment criteria and feedback, preparing them for the assessment process and to receive feedback. Assessment criteria reflecting tacit knowledge can be made more explicit by students having to think about them and apply them to a peer’s work. Equally feedback which refers to assessment criteria, for example, is more comprehensible if the student has some idea of what the criteria mean. Timing a peer review seminar to take place in week 6 or 7 of a 12 week module encourages early engagement with module assignments. Students value feedback from their peers which may be more comprehensible to them than staff feedback. Equally students can experience a peer review discussion as a safe place to experiment with ideas. Feedback from peers on drafts or assignment outlines gives students the opportunity to reflect on their work. It can provide reassurance and boost confidence that students are going in the right direction, or give students a chance to rethink their work.

  

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3. Generic feedback and self critique.

1. Students draft and submit individual assignments

2. Tutor marks sample of assignments and prepares generic feedback

4. Students rewrite and submit individual assignments with reflective commentary on how they have incorporated the generic feedback

OUT OF CLASS ACTIVITY

5. Tutor assesses assignments

3. In-class discussion of generic cohort feedback based on coursework sample

6. Tutor hands back assignments with minimal formative feedback

IN-CLASS ACTIVITY
MODULE TIMELINE

Week1
Assignment point

Week12

HOW? Step 1. Students draft and submit individual assignments. Tip: It may be helpful to have an in-class discussion before students prepare their draft assignments focussing on the meaning of assessment criteria and standards, possibly using exemplars (see use of exemplars above). This will help students both in preparing their drafts and in understanding the generic feedback given. Tip: Making the submission of drafts for generic feedback a module requirement may secure better student engagement with the process. Equally, where weaker students may be concerned about the quality of their work it may be helpful to keep draft submission anonymous. Step 2. Tutor marks sample of assignments and prepares generic feedback. In this method the generic feedback will be the only written feedback prepared by staff. Prior to in-class discussion of the generic feedback it may be helpful to publish the feedback on discussion boards or WebCT. Tip: Generic feedback should be given at a point in the module which allows students sufficient time to apply it to their work. Tip: Consider whether to give generic feedback based on all the drafts submitted or based on a sample of the drafts. Tip: In giving generic feedback, where possible, suggest questions which need to be considered; for example, 'some drafts stated the chosen method of sampling without explaining the reasoning behind that choice. To begin with, think about whether you need to make statistical generalisations from your sample as that decision will guide your choice of sampling method'.

Step 3. In- class discussion of cohort generic feedback. Feedback on a range of assignments will help to address the needs of the whole cohort- including for example “good” students who can find that generic feedback does not support them in developing their work.

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Step 4. Students re-write and submit individual assignments together with a reflective commentary. Steps 5 and 6. Staff grade and return assignments with grade only. WHY?  Generic feedback can help students understand how their work compares with peers. As formative feedback it gives students the chance to consider their work and gives them an opportunity to re-think it, or the confidence to develop it further.  In- class generic feedback discussions allows dialogue between staff and students on coursework and feedback which will contribute to student understanding of what is expected of them and how they can use feedback to develop their work.  Combining formative generic feedback with reflective commentaries increases the chance that students will use the feedback to reflect on and improve their work.  Limiting written assessment feedback to generic feedback reduces the amount of staff time devoted to preparing written feedback.

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4. CRAFTing feedback. The tutor who used this feedback method in the FDTL project referred to it by the acronym CRAFT: the collection of work and feedback; reflection on work and feedback; the application of feedback which supports transfer of skills.

S S A L C F O T U O

Y T I V I T C A

1. Students submit individual assignments

2. Tutor marks assignments and prepares generic and iindividual feedback

4. Students rewrite and re-submit assignments for individual extra 5%

S S A L C N I

Y T I V I T C A

.3.Generic feedback returned to cohort. Individual F2F discussions student-tutor

5. Individual F2F discussions to confirm application of feedback and grade

MODULE TIMELINE

Week 1

Week 8
Assignment point Re-view point

Week12

HOW? Step 1. Students submit individual assignments. The assignments that students submit at this stage are completed pieces of work which are then graded (unlike method 3 above). If students participate in face to face discussions and re-write part of their assignments (see steps 3, 4 and 5 below) they can be awarded additional marks which reward engagement and the effective application of their feedback. Tip: It may be helpful to have an in-class discussion before students prepare their assignments focussing on the meaning of assessment criteria and standards, possibly using exemplars (see use of exemplars above). This will help students both in preparing their work and in understanding any generic feedback given. Step 2. Tutor grades individual assignments and prepare both generic and individual feedback on the assignments. Tip: Where time is a constraint consider giving partial individual feedback which focuses on an aspect of the assignment which has the greatest potential for improvement. Alternatively, on submission, ask each student to identify a specific area on which they will want feedback and prepare limited individual feedback on this basis. Step 3. In-class discussion of generic feedback and subsequent individual face to face discussions. The individual discussions can be timed to use class time but be organised to take place in a range of formal or informal settings where there can be some privacy- it may be helpful to ask students which setting they would prefer. The face to face discussions can be time limited (around 5 minutes each) and structured, focussing on asking the student: what mark were you expecting; what

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went well; what could you improve; and what specific area of the assignment should be re-written and re-submitted. (If only partial feedback has been given on a specific area of the assignment the focus of the discussion will be on that area of the assignment only.) Step 4. Students are given a limited period of time (for example 1 week) to re-write the specific area of coursework identified in the face to face discussions. Step 5. Students bring the re-written section of coursework to individual face to face discussions with tutors to confirm that the work has been done and that an additional mark (up to an extra 5%) should be awarded.

WHY?  Students are given the opportunity to read and reflect on their feedback both in connection with generic feedback and in the context of individual discussions with staff.  Students are given the chance to have a dialogue about their feedback when the generic feedback is given out and also individually with tutors at a time when staff are specifically available to them for this purpose. This is likely to encourage students who feel that staff are too busy or unapproachable to come to the discussions. For some students an informal setting is more comfortable than staff offices.  Students are given the opportunity to use their feedback immediately - a chance they are likely to take with the incentive of additional marks.  Using their feedback immediately is likely to reinforce a student’s understanding of it, and support the transfer of feedback and understanding to other areas of work.  While this method may be more resource intensive than method 3 above, it does provide students with the chance to discuss their work individually with staff and to have improvements based on the use of feedback confirmed, articulated and specifically rewarded.

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